Monday, March 23, 2009

Social Dancing

Social dancing. I'm not talking about the waltz, cha-cha or even disco. I'm referring to that "dance" you do in social settings. It's sometimes called "mingling."

Last weekend my daughter's school held its annual fund-raising auction. At this "adults only" event we're served drinks and hors d'oevers while we peruse the tables of silent auction items before the live auction starts. This year I attended it alone; my husband was bringing one daughter home from her college and couldn't make it.

As one of the older parents, I have a 7 year history with the school, teachers and families. Even though I know many of the parents, an event like this can be a bit awkward. This is not my regular social circle. Who will I talk to? What should I talk about? Small talk carries a conversation only so far. Sometimes walking into an event like this brings a rush of shyness and plummeting self-esteem.

How did I do? Pretty well, I think. To some extent, I've figured out the "dance" of conversations in these larger social settings:

Chat with someone you know about a common topic. When someone else joins the conversation, you watch to see if this newcomer includes you. No? Then mosey around to find someone else you know and start again. With some, you can start deeper or more complex subjects. With others you give a quick smile and say "Hi, how are ya?" without waiting for an answer. Can I join another two-some or would it be too awkward? I enjoy the comfort of easy conversations; I also challenge myself to meet someone new. When in doubt, I've found that asking questions and drawing others out almost always works.

At this event I spent most of my time with other parents of 5th graders. For many of us, this is one of our many "lasts" with the school. We've enjoyed one anther's company since Kindergarten and change is just around the corner. As we laughed and chatted, we danced around the topics of middle school, honor's projects, Wolf Ridge and generally getting older. I wanted to say, "I really like you ladies and want to be your friend." That would have been a mis-step.

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