It’s so easy to convince people you know things.
Well, not “know.” That’s a strong word. It’s really more pretending you’re familiar, and then taking it from there. And, from there, you can take it pretty far if you want to. It can even be a game if you’re on some proverbial serial killer shit. However far you take it though, the point of doing so is very simple: to avoid being the odd one out.
Say you’re at a bar, mingling with your friend-who-you’ve-kind-of-lost-touch-with’s new friends, and they’ve got jokes and intrinsic interests that have become fully-realized in the intervening years since you knew said friend-you’ve-lost-touch with. You’re nodding, you’re laughing harmlessly along, but you already went to get a beer so now you’re stuck trying to come up with some largely acceptable, winning statement to make.
Years removed from the genesis though it is, your friendship with the original person was almost certainly based around something. Had to be, right? Nothing’s that arbitrary and vapid in Kindergarten. And if it was basic enough (in the universal sense, not the Uggs & Pumpkin Spice pejorative Internet sense), that something has probably lingered with that person. Therefore it’s safe to assume this new bevy of friends just might like it too.
And and and guess what? They do! Sometime between your fifth and sixth smile and sip someone looks at the ceiling and goes, “What’s this playing? New Pornographers?” And you take the initiative like a fucking champ:
“Yeah, I think it’s the new one.”
The questioner nods in approval, squinting a little because he’s seriously listening now. Confetti rains down from the ceiling. Your beer turns to champagne, and it’s pouring down your face. Who said making new friends was hard? A few conversational steps later you’ve made plans to go see Dan Bejar when he’s in town next month. Who could even think making new friends was hard?
Then, like in a movie, the night takes a dramatic turn.
“You guys see the game last night?” Someone says, also like in a movie.
You didn’t see the game last night. It doesn’t matter which. You haven’t “seen the game” since you bit the bullet and watched the Red Zone Channel for like eight hours with your roommate two weeks ago. Once again you’ll be relegated to sipping and nodding, sipping and nodding, getting another drink, then more sipping and nodding.
But, hold up, skkrrrtt, plot twist: the re-relegation never comes.
Why? Because, in case you were pondering, you always keep some solid talking points in the chamber. Seconds after “…last night?” is emitted, you’re like “Oh which one?”
Shots fired in the friendliest way possible. “Clippers. Can you believe it?” the guy replies, upping the ante, still wary of your ability to relate.
“Tsh, I mean, yeah,” you say, flexing your eyebrows and exhaling a little incredulously through your nose. Without waiting for his next move, you go for it, now or never. “Dude, Blake this season though.” Because, you see, that’s a name you’ve heard.
And noncommittal-specifics? That’s the name of the game.
“Tsh, he’s gonna have a monster year,” your adversary/potential new friend believes he agrees, at once releasing the tension and providing new information on the topic at hand.
“Cheers,” you offer. Glass lips clink. You’re safe for now.
Obviously, another way to handle that situation is to continue standing back and sipping and nodding and waiting for the next time something of actual interest to you comes up. After all, why tempt fate? You’re sure to be exposed. Being caught in lie is no way to begin a friendship. God forbid they realize you’re not a fully integrated member of their group from the outset! Plus, honesty is good. Honest friendships are great. We’re not all just out here trying to relate, right? There’s no way.
Syke! We’re all just out here trying to relate.
A third option is to simply make it clear that, to use the above example, you just aren’t all that into sports. Even if you also make it clear that you’re interested in learning more, this makes the climb even steeper with a new group of people. You’ll be in constant danger of becoming “the one who always asks questions.” This designation will stick with you no matter what obscure fact you come up with next time around, and is just the goddamn worst for everyone else. I’m talking nearly pariah territory if you’re just getting to know these people. You don’t want that, your recently renewed friend doesn’t want that, and it’s so avoidable.
If you take the talking points approach, and you’re actually interested in the topic, you can, free of danger, just look everything you’ll ever need to know up online. The Internet, if you’re not familiar, is great for marginal knowledge. Just get the bare bones. Trying to relate to wine-enthusiasts? Just know what punt depth is; they probably won’t; their skepticism is assuaged; proceed less encumbered.
Once you’re in, the façade comes down, you can fall back on stuff you actually know about, and a meaningful relationship blooms from something you actually have in common. All for the initial price of a few half-truths. Easy.