Reasons to talk about the weather.

“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” — Oscar Wilde

Illustration by Mouni Feddag

A few years ago I remember reading a guide in a women’s magazine on how-to be the ‘brightest star’ at a party. It was a how-to column with snippets on being the most interesting and socially equipped person in the room, how to bowl people over with your wit and flirty repartee. I don’t remember much about the article, but one thing was burnt into my brain:

DON’T TALK ABOUT THE WEATHER!

I shuddered, suddenly realising that I talk about the weather quite often, to anyone who’ll listen.

Apparently talking about something as mundane as the weather is a ‘faux pas’, tedious, boring, unimaginative.

If you can’t think of anything else to discuss you should abort speaking to anyone ever and go hide under a duvet for the next 6 months, You’ll have enough time to incubate something interesting to say and maybe you’ll grow a personality within that time. Idiot.

No, it didn’t sit right with me.

Imagine thinking you’re so fantastic, that you’re MORE fantastic than the weather!?

The weather is the perfect thing to discuss with people you don’t know very well. It is a universally shared element of our lives that doesn’t discriminate. It equalises us. Poor people experience the weather, the Queen experiences the weather, your parents and your bus driver and your sexual partners ALL experience the same weather as you do, and even better, someone might have been on holiday recently and experienced an alternative weather to you, imagine!

The weather both delights and victimises us on a daily basis, and we discuss it like an old friend with a volatile personality disorder. We feel blessed by sunny afternoons and temperate breezes and become outraged at a particularly bad spat of rain. We can walk past strangers and declare ‘This weather is crazy!’, and walk on having had a fleeting moment where both our bodies have experienced exactly the same sensation, at the same time.

To say ‘I hate small talk’, is a way to elevate yourself from the doldrums and let the universe know you are deep, you want more, you have thoughts and ideas that are philosophical, you crave a meaningful conversation. There is nothing wrong with that, but there is a time and place for small talk, and it deserves its rightful accolades.

I was on a train recently and watched on as a young boy plodded towards a couple of old ladies, to show them a video he had recorded on his phone. He had heard them discussing the wild hail storm of the previous evening and decided to show them proudly what he had captured. A man with a dog joined them, and then the boy’s mother. They ooooh’ed and aahhhhh’ed and listened to the tinny beating of the hail stones and all said they couldn’t remember the last time we had weather like that in Melbourne. Stubbornly, I decide that if it weren’t for the weather, they would have never spoken.

Yes, there are better things to talk about admittedly but weather is neutral, and safe and comforting. We live in a time where everyone has a polarising opinion, we spend hours battling each other over politics and social issues and who eats meat and who doesn’t. Bringing up the heatwave we had last week is like having a conversational Kit Kat. Just relax and enjoy it, my dudes.

Not only is talking about the weather lovely and normal and boring, but it has been scientifically proven that speaking with strangers lengthens your life expectancy, lowers your chances of a heart attack, helps the elderly break out of devastating periods of isolation and loneliness AND is the perfect way to segue into a different conversation entirely, if the old weather chat goes well of course.

Maybe it is part of my cultural make up as a bumbling Brit to discuss the weather in all its glory, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be shouting “demasiado calor” in Spain and ‘J’ai froid’ in France. By the way, it’s terribly overcast today, isn’t it?