Sue Chapter 10: Supper with friends

This entry is part 10 of 21 in the series Sue

We sat down around the table, both couples on either side of the table and Nicole at the end opposite the food preparation area.

Normally, Annie would be the fifth wheel, sitting between two couples, but I realized soon enough that she was far from feeling awkward and as a matter of fact, the problems visibly came from right in front of me.

Sue and Annie laughed a lot, frequently told me stories from their past, explaining some inside jokes and laughing at more I didn’t even understand.

But I took my place too. Remember when I said that you had to be interested and not interesting during a date? In a dinner party, you have to balance the two. It’s not enough to want to know more about the girl you are dating and her friends, you need to show to her friends that she made a good choice with you.

That required opening up and taking the center stage once in a while with a story to impress the ladies without making the men want to up you.

It’s not easy.

Politics and Religions are typically off-limits, but there are other subjects to avoid.

I could talk about work, but not work-work, it would have to be something occurring in the workplace which isn’t work itself: perhaps a colleague you helped, because honestly, unless you are a lion trainer, an astronaut or a test pilot, no one really wants to hear about your job.

I always propose to avoid talking about high school, because it makes you sound immature and clingy to the past. You could talk about college, but only if all of the others went to college and I wasn’t sure it was the case.

Hobbies can be tricky because it depends on your hobbies and how many of you share with them. The biggest danger is sounding like an extremist. If you start talking about say, that you like video games, you will sound like a gamer who can’t get away from your computer or console. If you say that you like to play hockey, you will sound like a sports freak who spends his evenings at the arena.

So what do I talk about?

I tell funny stories which incorporate a little of everything, staying superficial, but giving hints of things I do to look profound.

I have a great story about how I once played the saxophone in the subway as a dare from a colleague who told me I couldn’t make a quarter to buy myself a coffee from the office coffee machine from tips in a single song during rush hour, that if I did, he’d pay me a coffee. I ended up making a dollar and 63 cents and paid a round of coffee for all of my colleagues with it.

Now, said like that, it sounds ridiculous and boring, but it’s the way I tell the story which makes it funny: I imitate my colleague, I mimic myself playing the saxophone and the suspense of people throwing coins. By then, I am standing up beside the table and I usually have everyone glued to my lips.

Well, this time, I had the 3 girls. Gus, the douche bag boyfriend, seemed unfazed.

Of course, the nicest part of the story, is when one of the people, in this case, Annie, ask me if I still play the saxophone. I reply humbly that I rarely practice, so I am usually asked, this time by Sue and Annie, to please, please, please play something…

And so, I fetch my saxophone, give a few false notes. Apologize, explain that this has been a while, and start with  the solo of Never Tear us apart, from INXS, which start slow, and usually gets a little recognition and then switch to Careless Whisper which everyone knows and likes, and finish with Baker Street, possibly my favorite rock saxophone solo which I can I actually play…

It’s very calculated because when you explain that you play the sax, people associate with Jazz and big band music which, let’s be honest, isn’t for everyone. By playing 3 well-known pop-rock songs, I instantly get liked…

The first secret, however, is to play less than a minute, so that you capture their interest, but don’t have time to lose it. The second, is to store your saxophone to clearly show you will not bore them with it, and MOVE ON to other subjects, like the time I helped a friend move rescue dogs with my car when the shelter he works at got flooded (stories where you help animals are always popular with the ladies).

By the end of the evening, all of the three girls were eating in my hand, with Sue snuggling to both be close to me and to clearly mark her territory, I guess, and Annie was openly flirting with me which bothered me a little, but didn’t seem to faze Sue one bit.

Even Nicole was excited to have met me, speaking more to me than her boring boyfriend who, by the way, drank way too much and mostly kept silent all evening. Well, that’s not true, he did make a rude sexist joke at some point which killed the mood until I told one of my boring funny jokes, you know the type: a joke which makes people laugh but which isn’t that great, something like “A sandwich walks into a bar, the barman says, Sorry, we don’t serve food here”.

It’s not original. It’s not hilarious. It’s just there to distracts the mood and restore the conversation.

But more importantly, it’s obvious why you told it and served as a point to show that you care about the conversation, and as a nail to drive into Gus’ coffin. I don’t think he said another word of the evening, and I had lots of fun with the three girls…

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