I go to lunch with many fascinating 50+ friends only to realize that the reason I am severely depressed after lunch is because 80 percent of our conversational time was spent discussing ailments. Each of us took turns discussing a hurt back, an injured knee, or, God forbid, a falling uterus or bladder.
I think we need to tap into our experience and stories and amp up our lunch topics.
Yesterday, I ate in a booth beside four men in their late fifties and early sixties, who talked about their illnesses throughout the entire lunch. One man had a bum knee, and another had recently hurt his hip. The really fun guy talked about his prostate and how he couldn’t pee. Really? I pushed my fresh lemonade away.
The booth behind me consisted of three women who were also about my age and also dealing with illness. One woman had tendonitis in her elbow, which would hurt every time she drank a sip of her tea and therefore set off a series of complaints. I wanted to turn around and say, “For God’s sake, use a straw and keep the glass on the table!” But I didn’t.
I knew I was in trouble when her next story started with, “I can eat more today because I just got over the stomach flu.”
Lucky me. I pushed my bowl of chili away and scoured the area as I looked for another table.
After that lunch, I decided that I am going to create a device that yells out, “Help! Our conversation has fallen and it can’t get up!”
I know that many of us have legitimate health issues. But I also think, as baby boomers, we should be held responsible for topics that will help our conversations find their intellectual legs again, much like those conversations we used to have in school when learning was our business.
I remember the days when I was an English Major in college, and we talked about things like Dante’s Inferno instead of our own heartburn.
Or maybe we discussed Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, where the topic of gas applied only to the Wife of Bath rather than to everybody at the table.
But nowadays, I’ve found my own conversational topics moving into the ailment arena. When I had a bulging disk in my back, I spent WAY too much time discussing it, and the conversation only made the discomfort more significant. Well, that and the searing hot pain. But how much better would my back have felt if I had shared a funny story? At least, for one moment, I would have been more focused on laughter than illness.
If your lunch table is going down the path to Dante’s conversational hell, I challenge baby boomers to come up with new topics. Ask people what their favorite movie is. If they say “I haven’t been to a movie for a while because of my back,” try telling a story that makes you laugh out loud. If it’s funny to you, it will be funny to your lunch companions.
I would tell the story about my best friend and I when we were with our boyfriends in Charlottesville, Virginia. We were on a double date and entered a little pet store to pass the time. As we went toward the back of the pet shop, we noticed a big empty bird cage. I noticed a live mouse on the bottom of it. Unfortunately, my friend, who was terrified of mice, saw it at the same time.
She let out a short scream, grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the room. We both had on flip-flops, but we made pretty good time until we hit the fish display. There was water on the floor from the aquariums, and we hydroplaned. Our feet flew up in the air, and we both went up and then DOWN. We landed back-to-back, and my friend’s arm was in a fish tank. We leaned on each other and laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe.
That’s a fun story to tell, and it beats fallen bladders and diarrhea every time.
So, please, become the conversation captain of your table. Throw a yellow flag and penalize the conversation when illness becomes the main topic. Demand that each person comes up with something more interesting or they’ll be thrown out of the lunch establishment for bringing everybody down.
The woman eating chili and drinking lemonade will thank you.