That TV Show You Love So Much Doesn’t Make You Interesting
At a recent (socially-distanced outdoor) gathering, I was seated near a woman in her 70s, who, my hostess had told me, ran a successful business, was involved in both her church and in local politics, and had enjoyed a long and happy marriage.
I was looking forward to hearing about her life, perhaps even receiving some accumulated wisdom. I’m in my 60s, and I figured I need all the help I can get to navigate the next decade. Plus, as a writer, I’m fascinated by life stories.
But all she wanted to talk about was “Bridgerton.”
“Bridgerton” in case you’ve been living under a rock, is a Netflix TV series about a wealthy family in a fantasy version of Regency London. The focus of the first season is on the courtship between Daphne Bridgerton and the (very hot, very sexy) Duke of Hastings.
Apparently, Julie Andrews is also involved, although there’s no singing or floating around with flying umbrellas.
The Duke of Hastings is a fictional character, but my dinner companion spoke of him, with enthusiasm and at great length, as if he were real. She seemed intent on telling me, in detail, about everything that had happened on the show so far.
“I don’t care about the Duke of Hastings,’” I wanted to tell her. “And if I did, I could watch his show myself. Can’t we talk about something else?”
I’m guessing that she had stories to tell about herself that were just as interesting as whatever was happening to the Duke of Hastings — which, from what she was telling me, seemed to involve some kind of a love triangle involving Daphne and a Prussian prince.
I’d rather hear about her own love triangles! Or, if she didn’t have any, the secret of her enduring marriage.
“How do you pull that off?” I wanted to ask. “Was it all smooth sailing? How do the two of you deal with conflict? Did you ever want to leave?”
I tried. But she had no interest in talking about herself. Or in me. Every time I changed the topic, she managed to bring it right back to “Bridgerton.”
“So after his mother dies giving birth to Simon, the future Lord of Hastings his cruel father casts him aside because he stutters, so his mother’s best friend, Lady Danbury, ends up raising him, and…”
She’s not the first person I’ve met whose idea of conversation is telling you what just happened on their favorite TV show. I’ve never understood how this is supposed to be interesting.
I’m not saying that television can’t inspire good conversation. I’m a “Doctor Who” fan. I can talk forever about the show with a fellow Whovian. I once spent an hour on a train absorbed in conversation with a total stranger who’d spotted the “Doctor Who” t-shirt I was wearing and told me that she, too, was a fan.
We had a blast trading opinions about the Doctor, his companions, reversing the polarity, and traveling in time and space. Talking with another person about a show you both love can be great fun. It’s also a good way to get to know them.
But that’s different from someone telling you every last detail of the the plot of a TV show you’ve never watched.
The art of conversation, I fear, is kaput.
Between people who think it’s perfectly okay to tippity-tap away on their phone as you talk to them, and folks who think meaningful discourse consists of yammering on about whatever TV show they happen to be binge-watching, it’s a wonder that anybody bothers.
Forget “Bridgerton.” If you’re ever seated next to me at a dinner party, instead of telling me about the latest episode of your favorite TV show?
Think of the juiciest, most fascinating tale you’ve got to tell about your own life — then share that with me instead.
( Writing Coach and Medium Sherpa Roz Warren writes for everyone from the Funny Times to the New York Times, has been in 13 Chicken Soup for the Soul collections, and is the author of Our Bodies, Our Shelves: Library Humor . Drop her a line at roSwarren@gmail.com.)