纽约时报文摘 | 约会时我们究竟该聊些什么

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约会时我们究竟该聊些什么
The End of Small Talk

When my relationship unraveled nearly two years ago, I decided to suspend my career as an actuary in Boston and take a long vacation in Costa Rica, where I planned to learn how to surf and do yoga. Yes, it was the most clichéd response possible for a heartbroken 32-year-old Westerner like me.
两年前,一段感情结束后,我决定暂停自己在波士顿的精算师职业生涯,到哥斯达黎加休个长假,在那里学冲浪、练瑜伽。没错,对于像我这样的一个处在心碎之中的32岁西方人来说,这是最为俗套的一种应对方法。

After four weeks there, I was traveling by car with several friends I had met at surf school when we came upon a red-faced, middle-aged woman hitchhiking on the outskirts of a small village. Our radio was broken and we were bored, so one woman in our group, Abby, said: “We’ll offer you a ride on two conditions. First, you must sing us a song, and then you have to tell us a story. Do you accept?”
到那四周以后,在和几个冲浪学校认识的朋友乘车旅行的途中,我们偶然认识了一个脸颊绯红的中年女子,她刚徒步走到一个小村庄外。我们的收音机坏了,有点无聊,所以我们中一个叫阿比的女人说:“如果你答应两个条件,我们就载你一程。一个是给我们唱首歌,然后给我们讲个故事。你同意吗?

The hitchhiker, an American, responded with a crooked smile and a nod, freeing her hair from behind a Disney visor. “What would you like me to sing?” she asked.
这个徒步者是个美国人,她狡黠一笑,点点头,摘掉头上的迪士尼遮阳帽。“你们想让我唱什么歌?”她问。

“Anything you like,” I told her, “as long as it’s by Rod Stewart.”
“随你喜欢,”我告诉她,“只要是罗德·斯图尔特(Rod Stewart)的就行。”

One rendition of “Maggie May” later, her story began.
演绎了一首《玛吉·梅》(Maggie May)之后,她开始讲故事。

“It’s interesting you ask me to tell you a story,” she said, “because I’m living in the middle of a love story right now. I came to Costa Rica one year ago and met the man of my dreams. He was selling jewelry at a stand in the market. He’s Italian, and as soon as I spoke to him I felt something I hadn’t felt in my whole life. It overtook me. Love like in the movies, but this was real.”
“挺有意思的,你说让我讲个故事,”她说,“我现在碰巧在谈一场恋爱。一年前,我来到哥斯达黎加,遇到了我理想中的爱人。当时他正在市场里的一个摊位上卖珠宝。他是意大利人,和他说话的一刹那,我有种这辈子都没有过的感觉。这种感觉传遍全身。听起来好像是电影里的爱情,但这是真的。”

This was promising.
这让人觉得人生充满希望。

“So you’re here to see him?” one of my companions asked.
“所以你是来这里见他?”其中一位同伴问道。

“Yes, absolutely, dear. I’m heading into town now to see him for the first time in 12 months.”
“是啊,当然啦,亲爱的。我现在正要进城去看他,我已经12个月没见到他了。”

We broke into huge grins; we too were now characters in her story, deliverers of love from a dusty roadside to the man of her dreams.
我们都绽放出笑容;我们现在也是她故事中的角色了,要从一条尘土飞扬的路上把爱送到她的梦中爱人那里。

“Does he feel the same way?” Abby asked.
“他也是同样的感觉吗?”阿比问。

“Yes, he emails me every day to tell me so.”
“对,他每天都跟我发邮件这么讲。”

I turned to her. “Are you excited to see him?”
我转过身问她。“去见他你激动吗?”

“I haven’t thought about anything else for an entire year.”
“我一整年都在想这一件事。”

“So you came all this way alone to see him?” I asked.
“所以你大老远自己来看他?”我问。

“Well, I had to, didn’t I? It was breaking my heart to be away from him.” She paused for a breath. “Although my husband came too; he’s back at the house.”
“呃,我没得选,不是吗?见不到他,我的心都要碎了。”她喘了口气。“不过我丈夫也来了;他现在待在我们的住处。”

Our hands shot up with questions.
我们开始抢着问她怎么回事。

After my trip, I was eating steak at a Boston bar, still mourning that the woman I thought I would marry, Alejandra, had broken up with me. I’d met her five years earlier, and she was, in every way imaginable, an inspiration to me. She was the woman who taught me about love.
旅行结束后,有一天我在波士顿的一家酒吧吃牛排,还在怀念我原以为会跟我结婚结果跟分了手的女人亚历杭德拉(Alejandra)。那时候我们已经认识五年了,在你能想象到的各个方面,她都能给我带来启发。是她教会了我如何去爱。

Next to me at the bar was a couple on their first date. I could tell because their conversation reminded me of those awkward exchanges you have with co-workers’ spouses at Christmas parties. They opened with a discussion about their commutes to the bar. They both lived within a 10-minute bus ride, and they managed to stretch out this topic for 30 minutes.
邻桌是一对初次约会的情侣。我能看出来,是因为他们的谈话让我想起了在圣诞节派对与同事的配偶之间的那种尴尬对话。他们先说起自己如何乘车来的酒吧。尽管二人的住处离酒吧都只有10分钟的车程,但他们活活把这个话题讲了30分钟。

Next up, the weather: In Boston it rains sometimes, and they had both noticed this. An hour in, they turned to the really deep stuff. One was a teacher, and the other knew a teacher. How could they be destined for anything other than true love?
接下来就是谈天气:波士顿有时会下雨,他们之前都注意到了这点。一小时过去,他们才开始讲到真正深入的内容。他们一个是教师,另一个认识一位教师。他们这不是天生一对是什么?

O.K., so I may have been directing some of my brokenhearted anger at them, but all I could think was that I wanted no part of this game. If being single meant having to partake in this kind of conversation, I’d rather pass. How could I go from the deep connection I had with Alejandra to discussing bus schedules and weather patterns?
好吧,我可能一直在把自己的一些悲痛欲绝的愤怒转移到他们身上,但我只有一个念头,我一点也不想参与这种游戏。如果单身就意味着必须参与这种谈话,我可不要。有过和亚历杭德拉那种深入的谈话,我怎么还能在约会的时候这么谈论乘车计划和天气模式?

I thought back to a dusty roadside in Costa Rica and the woman who shared her heart with four strangers. Why couldn’t we all embrace her openness? Why did being with a stranger so often mean we couldn’t immediately talk about meaningful things?
我又想起在哥斯达黎加灰扑扑的路边认识的那位和四个陌生人分享内心感受的女人。为什么我们不能都像她那样坦诚?为什么面对陌生人我们就不能马上谈论有意义的话题?

With this in mind, I decided to approach my re-entry to dating with a no-small-talk policy. Not that I would insist we talk only about heartfelt subjects; ideally, there would also be plenty of flirtatious joking and witty banter. I simply wanted to eliminate the dull droning on about facts and figures — whether it’s snowing or raining, how cold it is, what we do for work, how long it takes to get to work, where we went to school — all those things that we think we have to talk about with someone new but that tell us little about who the person really is.
想到这里,我决定依照不寒暄的原则重新开始约会。并不是说我要坚持只谈掏心窝的话题;理想情况下,可能也会有不少调情的玩笑话和打趣的机灵话。我只是想去掉有关事实和数字的无聊的长篇大论——是下雪还是下雨,天有多冷,做什么工作,去上班要花多长时间,在哪上的学——这些都是我们觉得跟新认识的人必须谈的东西,但你从这些谈话中几乎没法知道这到底是个什么样的人。

Why can’t we replace small talk with big talk and ask each other profound questions right from the start? Replace mindless chatter about commuting times with a conversation about our weightiest beliefs and most potent fears? Questions that reveal who we are and where we want to go?
我们为什么不能舍掉这些闲扯,讲些重要的事,从一开始就问彼此一些深刻的话题?不单调无聊地谈论通勤时间,而是谈彼此最重要的信仰和最深的忧虑?谈论那些能体现出我们到底是什么样的人,以及想要往哪里去的话题?

Admittedly, there were some issues with this policy, as my friends were more than happy to point out. They argued that some are not comfortable jumping directly into big talk, reasoning that certain people find small talk relaxing.
无可否认,这项原则存在一些问题,就像我的朋友们很乐于指出的那样。他们认为,一上来就谈论大话题,有些人会不舒服,也有些人会觉得谈论那类小话题让他们比较放松。

This is undoubtedly true. But another friend countered: “If she isn’t comfortable with it, then she probably isn’t right for you anyway. Your plan is a great way to filter.”
这当然也是实情。但还有一位朋友反驳:“如果她对谈论大话题感到不舒服,那她可能就不是你要找的人。这是你过滤不合适人选的好办法。”

This friend operates his own bizarre filtering system by bringing women coconuts on first dates, claiming that any woman who doesn’t accept the coconut isn’t marriage material. Why? I have no idea. Even so, I accepted his opinion for what it was.
这位朋友有他自己比较古怪的过滤方式,就是在第一次约会的时候给女伴带椰子,如果哪个女人不接受他的椰子,就不是合适的结婚对象。为什么?我不知道。即便如此,我还是接受了他这种观点。

Another common complaint: You can’t ask big questions until you know the answers to the small ones; you need facts to know where to dig deeper. I’d argue, however, that you can elevate any question from small talk to big talk with a little tweaking.
另一种常见的抱怨是:在知道那些小问题的答案之前,你没法问大问题;你需要知道基本情况才能谈更深入的问题。但是我会说,稍微用一点技巧,任何从小话题开始的问题都能转换成大问题。

One of the common questions I find myself asking a woman on a first date is where she has traveled. The response can quickly become a list of places, and once again we’re in résumé territory. So instead I’d ask, “What place most inspired you and why?”
在第一次约会时,我最经常问对方的问题之一是,她去过些什么地方。对方很可能会开始列单子,于是我们再度进入个人简介地带。因此我改成这样问,“什么地方让你觉得最受启发,为什么?”

Rather than ask about her job, I would ask, “What work are you passionate about?”
与其问她从事什么行业,我宁可问:“你对什么样的工作会有热情?”

I wouldn’t ask about her longest relationship, as if length equals depth. Instead, I’d ask, “What’s the most in love you’ve ever felt?”
我不会去探询她所有感情关系里,历时最长的那一段,好像关系持续的时间就等同于关系的深度一样。反之,我会问:“你曾经感受过最深刻的爱情,是怎样的呢?”

My first chance to put this new strategy into practice came with a woman I met at a party a few weeks later. She laughed when I explained my theory on big talk versus small talk and agreed to be the guinea pig.
这个新策略第一次派上用场的机会,是在几周后,我在一个聚会上遇见了一个女人。当我向她解释我的“深谈与闲聊理论”的时候,她笑了,也同意作我的实验对象。

She was moving away the next week, so we both knew we’d have only this one date, but we pledged to do all we could to avoid small talk. That night, we talked big and we talked deep. I learned about her brother’s drug problem, about the ex she had left years before and about the feelings she still had for him.
由于她下周就要搬离这个地方,所以我们都知道这是彼此仅有的一次约会,不过我俩都誓言要尽可能地避免没深度的寒暄。那天晚上,我们谈话的内容既重要、又深入。我得知了她兄弟的药物滥用问题,还有她对数年前分手的男友仍怀抱着的情愫。

But we also joked about things both silly and shallow, managing to convince strangers that we had met in a fairground bumper-car accident, and recoiling in mock fright from a meal that was still wiggling on our plates. We laughed and we cried, and we learned nothing that would go on a résumé. Later, we kissed.
不过我们也拿傻气又肤浅的事情来开玩笑,让陌生人相信我们是在露天游乐场玩碰碰车发生意外而相识的。我们在看到食物还在餐盘上扭动的时候,往后一缩,假装惊声尖叫。我们欢笑、流泪,我们对彼此的了解,都是些进不了简历的东西。后来,我们接吻了。

Since then, staying away from small talk has brought me one positive experience after another. Every date has turned into a real connection, or at worst, a funny story. All it takes is a willingness to dive into conversations that may make us uncomfortable or that many believe to be inappropriate for first encounters. After a while, though, it becomes natural to skip the facts and instead seek out our deepest thoughts and feelings.
从此以后,避开闲聊带给我一次又一次正面的经验。每次约会,都成为与对方产生真切连结的时刻,再不济也会是个有趣的故事。想要得到这样的结果,只要愿意投入可能会令我们不悦的对话,或是许多人认为初次见面时不宜讨论的话题。一段时间以后,我们自然而然就会略过事实,转而寻找彼此最深刻的思想与感受。

My life moved on. I dated, traveled and started a new job. After a month of work, I went on a business trip with a new colleague. On the first night away, I found myself engaging in one of those dull work conversations people use to fill the time. My colleague was telling me the basics of his schooling, family and home.
我的生命继续向前。我约会、旅行、拾起了一份新的差事。到职一个月以后,某次我和一个新同事一起出公差。就在旅途第一天晚上,我发现自己投入了一段那种人们用来打发时间的、乏味的职场对话。我同事当时正在告诉我他的学历、家庭、住宅的种种基本资讯。

“So how long does it take you to get to the office?” I heard myself ask. Then I stopped in horror.
“所以为了去上班,你要花多久时间呢?”我听到自己这么问他。然后我在震惊中打住了。

I remembered the dusty hitchhiker in Costa Rica, the dates and the meaningful connections I’d made by escaping small talk. Even though my colleague and I weren’t on a date, we would still be spending a lot of time together in the foreseeable future, on business trips both short and long.
我回想起在哥斯达黎加,那个风尘仆仆的搭车客;那些在摆脱闲聊之后,我曾有过的约会和充满意义的连结。即便我跟同事不是在约会,在不久的将来,我们仍会为了或长或短的公差,一起度过很多时间。

I took a deep breath and asked, “Why did you fall in love with your wife?”
于是我深深吸一口气,问他:“你为什么会爱上你太太?”

He looked at me oddly, thought about it for a moment and then told me something beautiful.
他用奇怪的眼光看着我,思索了一会儿,然后对我说了一个美丽的故事。

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