Her IM status was a bit desperate. She needed things to talk about on a date.
“What you’re doing, what he’s doing. Why. Where you went to school. If you’ve been to Israel, what you did there. If you’re going back and why. Summer plans,” I rattled off.
“We covered all that,” she complained.
“I thought you said he hardly said a word?”
“That too. He answers in monosyllables.”
“Dump him,” I suggested.
“Because he’s shy?” she was scandalized. “He seems nice and he matches up on paper but I can’t get to know him because he won’t talk!”
She was a tad distraught. I understood. Dating a non-talker is one of the more stressful tasks in life. I’d rate it slightly above being asked to entertain the Premier of Turkmenistan. At least the Premier doesn’t expect you to speak… whatever language they speak there. But with a selective mute you’re saddled with someone you should ostensibly be able to speak to, but can’t. Nothing on the planet seems to get them talking. They seem to have no interests that get them enthusiastic, no hobbies they can say more than a word or two about. And nothing you say seems to intrigue them at all.
“…So, what do you do for fun?”
“Really? What do you learn?”
“Which one are you learning now?”
“Really now… … … well, for fun I cook up kitchen explosives.”
“Yup. Last week I got some muriatic acid from a pool store. It reacts with aluminum foil. I built a time bomb in a plastic jug. The timer hands would drop the foil into the acid, setting off the reaction.”
“I left it next to the garage, because I didn’t want to store it indoors, and the neighbor’s dog tunneled under the fence at night, picked it up, and went to play in traffic. Maybe you heard about it on the news?”
“I guess you don’t listen to much news?”
“Well. My neighbor is really upset about his dog. They couldn’t find enough of it to fill a Ziploc.”
“About four cars were damaged, too. I hope they don’t trace it back to me.”
From the few times I find myself responseless I can guess about why a guy doesn’t have an answer. It’s like when a guy tells me “I play basketball.” I really don’t know what to answer to that. Should I ask about his preferred position? I don’t know the difference between them, or if yeshiva guys play positions on pickup games. I could make a comment about exercise, but that’s totally wrong. I could ask who he plays with and where, but that’s just prolonging the dead end by one exchange. And then, by the time I settle on some response that builds on “I play basketball” there’s been an awkward pause for a good few minutes and any follow-up sounds even more awkward.
So sometimes the other person just doesn’t know how to respond. Maybe they’re tongue-tied with the effort of making a good impression. But if you find that you can’t respond to each other on a large variety of subjects, it’s likely a sign that you’re on different wavelengths. Give up. Go home. There is no hope.
I’ve only dated one non-talker, thank goodness. I really don’t know how I’d handle multiple dates with a non-talker.
So, open forum: how do you draw out a quiet date? What do you talk about to stimulate conversation? How do you fill awkward silences? What’s the sign that it’s just not meant to be?