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Why I Decided to Change the Topic

The Etiquette of Small Talk Over 50

I had lunch this week with an old friend who I’ve known for more than 40 years. We are both in our early 60’s and our body parts are starting to fail. We both still look pretty youthful but those eyeglasses are now bifocals and our designer shoes may contain insoles.

As we ate our oysters, my friend started to talk about how his sleep apnea had finally been properly diagnosed. And then, I lapsed into the story of my cracked tooth root and possibility of an implant.

Then we both burst out laughing, realizing we had turned into “those old people,” swapping stories of deteriorating parts rather than talking about happy and forward-looking things.

Swapping health ailments is a common problem among people of a certain age. And, like scabies and the flu, is highly contagious. If you talk about your knee replacement I’ll be tempted to talk about my hip pains. Similarly, we may start making lists of people we know who died.

Although these types of conversations can make us feel less alone, they can also make us feel old, tired, and in pain.

When my daughters were little, I took them to the American Girl Doll Factory for tea with their dolls. On every table sat a pile of “conversation starters.” They were prompts for fun and interesting topics that were age-appropriate and thought-provoking.

Perhaps we need a deck of conversation-starter cards for those of us over 50. Topics like:

· What’s the next terrific trip you’re planning?

· Seen any great movies or live music lately?

· Who are your favorite celebrities or industry rock stars over 50?

· What new technologies are you experimenting with?

· What have you bought from Amazon lately?

Of course, we have the old standard – like weather, sports, and news. But those can even take a dark turn. People in Arizona love to complain about the heat and New Yorkers complain about snow and cold. Sports talk can lead to bitter rivalries. And let’s not get started with the news…

So, keep your small talk about your dry private parts and blurry vision between you and someone who has MD after his or her name and limit your lunch convo to how great the chowder still is at the Oyster Bar. You’ll be feeling younger and happier after you pay the check…and you’ll probably digest your food better too.

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