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21 Small-Talk Topics to Exhaust Before Discussing Pilates

Photo: Richard Bord/Getty Images

Amid the flurry of gossip surrounding the most hyped nuptials of our new century — the Kimye Wedding — I noted a disturbing parenthetical written by André Leon Tally regarding the rehearsal dinner:

(Conversation between Valentino, Kris, and Kim was all about Pilates. Valentino shared he does it every day with trainers in New York, London, and Paris, while Kris was questioning and seeking advice on where to put her new Pilates equipment at home. Kim discovered Pilates during her pregnancy with daughter North.)

The joke is on me for experiencing a wave of disappointment that Kim Kardashian was discussing athletic stretching routines on the eve of a monumental commitment. It was not the instance of small talk that rankled me, but rather the type: Why is it always fitness classes now?

There’s a scene in When Harry Met Sally where Harry’s friend proudly posits that their generation talks about restaurants the same way a previous generation felt about theater. It seems that our own generation might be speaking about gym stuff in the same manner. From art to food to regulated bodily maintenance. Between the two metabolic functions, at least food is filled with sensory delights. But barre classes?

So why is chatting about boot camp for fancy people more boring than say, chatting about train delays?

At best it seems to invite competitive comparison, at worst it begs for a gold star. (The trendiness of certain fitness classes only adds a bougie factor.) Exercise is self-care. It has inherent rewards by virtue of its completion. It’s something for your health that you should be doing regularly. It’s like mentioning flossing as a suitable conversation starter.

And small talk can be so fun and diverting! There are many good options aside from spin class. For example:

1. Weather

Climate is the supreme small-talk subject for our weather-anxious age. Each weather event carries inherent drama in a time of climate change. What’s more, small talk primarily occurs in person, so the thing you have the most in common is your location and the weather in it. The Weather Channel has provided us with dramatic vocabulary, like “polar vortex.” What a thing to have lived through together! Let’s discuss.

2. Humidity

A weather subtopic, humidity is perhaps the thing hated by the most people. Discovering shared hatred is a bonding experience.

3. Can you believe it’s already/only ____ (current day of the week)

There is something so tautologically hilarious about this thing we say to each other. It’s also unlikely that anyone will disagree with you if you say this, even though it should be more likely than not that a Tuesday feels like a Tuesday.

4. Commuting

It’s your daily odyssey.

5. Commentary on the appearance of your small-talk partner

Compliments are nice to give, nice to receive. Extra credit for discussion of new additions to someone’s physical appearance, like a tattoo, a haircut, or glasses.

6. Price of things!

Stuff is expensive. It keeps getting more expensive. Rent! Almonds! It’s consumption in America and we will never get used to it.

7. The price of gas specifically

This is a tricky exception. People reveal political proclivities on this issue, so it could unintentionally land you in debate with strangers. A suggestion: Steer the discussion into a conversation about superior gas stations. Have you ever been to a Sheetz? Oh, they’re great, aren’t they?

8. Celebrity gossip

Unlike regular gossip (which is not small talk, just shit talk), the lives of celebrities exist in this commedia dell’arte terrarium ripe for unwarranted and insightful opinions.

9. Whatever holiday is closest

Nearly everyone uses a calendar.

10. Meals

Just as similarly as everyone experiences the passing of days, so we experience the passing of hours, which are most commonly punctuated by meals.

11. Air-conditioning at your office 

It’s too cold.

12. The intersection of parents and technology

This is a topic about which nearly everyone has an adorable anecdote.

13. Awards show (particularly the Oscars)

Like lists, awards shows reduce complex subjects into an easily debatable rubric.

14. Your immediate need for coffee

This lets you communicate that you aren’t much in the mood for small talk, while still filling the air with comfortable chatter.

15. iPhone games 

Your addiction to Words With Friends is such an acceptable human flaw.

16. Landlords or roommates

It’s an avenue for light and often humorous complaining.

17. The upcoming weekend

Here’s the thing: Plans for future weekends are usually dull in a sunny, vague way. And if the activities of a past weekend were actually interesting, they would have to be truncated for small-talk purposes.

18. Traffic

Similar to humidity, this is something that no one likes at all, although sometimes it wasn’t so bad.

19. Housekeeping

Share your tips for removing BIBO.

20. Travel

Tread lightly and avoid crowing, you tanned and seasoned adventurer.

21. Minor ailments

Allergies, winter colds, etc. Everyone has them, so it’s easy to reach common ground, but also obnoxious to hijack small talk for easy sympathy.

22. Exercise classes

This is the worst one.

Small-Talk Topics: Decisively Ranked