Paul Parillo So, What Have You Been Up To These Days?*

Going back to your hometown can be a taxing activity. Almost immediately you’re bombarded by childhood friends and acquaintances that for no other reason than time and proximity, you have forgotten. In most cases they haven’t yet left the nest and, like any depraved animal, are overly excited about your return, and consequently, won’t leave your side until every detail of your life has been discussed. Surely they mean well, but sometimes it’s too difficult to be eager in reciprocity.

The same litany of questions is forced upon you like a character from a Stieg Larsson novel: “Hey, how’ve you been?”; “Where you workin’ these days?”; “What are you doin’ in town?”; “Hey, do you know anything about that murder?”- well maybe not that last one (although, the last time I went home, there was a forensic team down the street who were looking into the disappearance of some girl). These general and seemingly innocuous questions are in fact difficult and riddled with endless rabbit holes aimed at keeping you within their conversational stronghold for an uncomfortable amount of time.

The questions have been laid out – now it’s time to answer them. I suppose you could ignore the person entirely, but that could end up more cripplingly awkward than Christopher Reeve farting. Responding to an interrogation such as this is a balancing act. On one hand you have the painful desire to leave the situation, while on the other hand you feel obligated to answer properly (and with room for contrived questions of your own). What usually happens is a conversation landing somewhere in the middle; an awkward pause after you’ve poorly answered a question with a floundering attempt at redemption by asking virtually the same exact question to them.

It’s obvious that you aren’t interested in what that person has been up to since you last saw them, and at least you’re being honest by trying to avoid the uncomfortable encounter. If at all possible, try your best to just tilt the brim of your hat down, put on some sunglasses and have your phone by your ear. Simply creating an aura of conversational deterrent might be enough to avoid the unwanted banter. Otherwise, bite the bullet and try your best to care – at least you’ll have practice for next time.  

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