It’s Time To Talk

A high-profile Washington, D.C., hostess once, when pressed for the secret to her great parties, advised handing guests a stiff drink the minute they step through the door.

Loose lips may sink ships, but they also limber up the cocktail banter.

I recalled her comment recently while reading that we’re more kindly disposed toward one another when we’ve got a warm beverage in hand. I’m wondering if the same holds true for gripping a frosty glass come summer.

Maybe it’s just the hospitable offering of a refreshment that makes us feel more expansive. Hosts and hostesses have good reason to prime the pump. Talk may be cheap, but truly good conversation is a rare treat.

Effortless dialogue doesn’t come along nearly as often as we’d like. Most of us yearn for a genuine connection — someone with whom we could drive cross-country and not struggle for conversational meat.

Being kindred spirits helps. So does being skilled in the art of playful repartee (think Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North By Northwest). Being a good conversational partner requires keeping an ear attuned to the prevailing breeze, listening for ideas that come floating our way, topics worth sharing.

I grew up in a household where family meals came with a lively helping of talk. Maybe because of that experience, I like to imagine that words, once spoken, remain in the wind, swirling about in one big atmospheric “talk soup.” And, if we listen closely, someone’s long-ago chat may come drifting our way.

March is the windy month, and we welcome the gusts that deliver a breath of fresh air. Here on the cusp of spring, rising temperatures drive the March hare mad — or so legend says.

March Madness does really exist — in the form of NCAA basketball. This month, we offer 10 ways to embrace the college playoff phenomenon. Why not join the frenzy; sports banter may be the easiest conversation starter of all. That, and politics, though the latter is best kept among good friends. As fodder for debate, freelancer Jack Lessenberry offers a little speculation on Gov. Granholm’s successor.

Our pages are packed with chat-worthy topics, items we hope you’ll read and share over dinner. We’ve got you covered on that, too, with our Restaurant of the Year. Check it out. And, along with the appetizers, maybe you’ll discuss our story about the merits of teaching foreign language to children.

Along with “world language” studies in school, we might also want to make sure our children are “home schooled” in the pleasures of making small talk — face to face — right here at home. As the band Badfinger sang: “Successful conversation will take you very far.”

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