Last night B had a group of her women friends over from work for a potluck Christmas dinner. This morning, she was recapitulating some of the conversations that went on over the cheese noodle pudding, the broccoli quiche and the spinach salad.
There's one woman in particular who annoyed her. "All she does is talk about herself," B complained.
Apparently, whenever anyone at the table brought up a subject, this woman just had to present her own experience with the subject at hand -- and if she didn't have any experience herself, she'd go on at length about her husband, her children or some other relative. All without the slightest regard for whether anyone else at the table was interested, without any empathy or connection to other people's experiences.
Someone in the group mentioned that she'd had a knee operation. "Oh, well, let me tell you about my husband and his knee operation," she insisted. "He had his knee replaced. It was awful!" And on and on and on.
Later, the woman was telling a story to B, while the two of them were standing in the kitchen. Another guest wandered into the room. The woman stopped, turned to the other guest, and started the story all over again, from the beginning, while B politely nodded and inwardly groaned.
It reminded me of how an old colleague of mine used to make fun of people who were too self-absorbed, too caught up in themselves. "Okay, enough about me," my colleague would say loudly, imitating the person and mocking them at the same time. "Let's talk about you now. So ... what do you think about me?"
B's experience last night, and recalling my old friend joking about self-involved people, made me think of my blogging. Our blogging. I've seen comments here and there in the media -- usually the mainstream Internet media -- making fun of bloggers, referring to them -- us -- as a narcissistic bunch of people who insist on posting to the Internet every detail of our lives, and how wonderful our kids are, and how cute our pets are, without any consideration whether or not anyone else in the world was interested in our lives, or our children or our pets.
It made me wonder: Is this what we retired bloggers are doing -- we Baby Boomers, who are incessantly accused of being interested in ourselves, and only in ourselves and what we are doing and how we impact American life?
I am not criticizing anyone (least of all myself -- eeegads!). And I am not fishing for reassurance or compliments about my own blog. (Who me? Fishing for compliments? Never!) But there's nothing wrong with a little self-examination every once in a while. And it makes we wonder: How do we talk about the issues in our lives, our day-to-day concerns as well as our more fundamental issues, without falling into the quicksand of self-indulgence? How do we include other people in our conversations? How do we keep ourselves relevant as we talk about our families, our ailments, our travels, our finances, our politics?
The bloggers I know hardly ever talk about their kids. We do hear about people's travels -- but I like reading about all those trips to Hawaii and elsewhere (although they do make me envious). I actually don't think the important thing is the subject matter itself, but the way it's handled. Can other people relate to the experience, or are we just bragging about what we've done?
What about nostalgia? Can I delve into the morass of nostalgia, or am I being a self-indulgent Baby Boomer if I do that? I dunno. I like the occasional trip down memory lane. Don't you enjoy listening to Sinatra or the Beatles or Jim Morrison every once in a while?
Anyhooo ... B told me I didn't have to leave the house when her friends came over last night. "These women are not as raucous as my book group," she assured me. Nevertheless, I didn't want to be holed up in the bedroom while all these women were downstairs talking and laughing and eating and having a good time. So I went out to a movie. I saw The Descendants, with George Clooney, at my local arthouse movie theater.
But I'm not going to tell you if I liked it. I don't want to be self-indulgent.