We’ve all had those meals. You know, those meals, where the people in your company are trying to eat as quietly as possible amidst the clanking of silverware, and the metaphorical chirping crickets become so deafening that they start to manifest on a nearby windowsill. Those meals.
Well, starting today, the era of word-starved suppers has come to an end. Next time you find yourself among laconic interlocutors, try out these guaranteed conversation starters. They’re sure to get your partner across the table talking — or at the very least, making excuses to sit somewhere else.
1. Have you ever had lice?
This could very well elicit a story. But if they feel weirded out, which some people are wont to feel after you ask them about the health history of their scalp, you can always just follow it up with a compliment on the baseball cap they’re wearing. That way, it’ll make much more sense to them when you steal it later.
2. What's your favorite obituary?
If they claim not to have one, just talk about your own, but judge them silently. Judge them hard.
3. Do you prefer eating books?
If you say it fast enough, your interlocutor likely won’t understand the question at first, and their response will probably be something like, “As opposed to…?” From here on out, it’s up to you. You can go the safe route (“Oh, you know — articles, magazines, and the like”) or you can stay true to your original question (“Well, you carry that chem book to the dining hall often enough, I figured you might prefer the printed pages over the Basmati rice"). Either way, you’ve got them talking now.
4. Who did you vote for?
I don’t think the 2017 edition of the Revised Manual for Cordial and Courteous Conversation is in print yet, but I’m pretty sure this particular question is a no-go. Still, feel free to ask at your own risk, although this may be the one that makes them leave the table.
5. Do you ever sing in the shower?
If their answer is “No, never,” then it’s your turn to find another seat.
6. Where's the first place you go when you can't find your phone?
Answers like “the Street,” “my school email,” and “into the realm of my roommate’s personal space” are all indicative of a determined, in-your-face, grade-A college student. (Well, probably more of a grade-C, if we’re being honest.) But hey, they’re talkers.
7. How old do you think Dumbledore is?
If they say “150? Give or take a few?” then you should probably marry them on the spot. If they gently remind you that Dumbledore was assassinated in the sixth book and is no longer living, and, in fact, as a fictional character, never was living in the first place, then you should still at least get their number so you can exchange conspiracy theories together.
8. What's in your ideal basement?
This question could go any number of ways. The ones who talk about flat-screens and pool tables and even meat hooks are okay, but I’d stay away from anyone who wants Hannibal’s corpse, because at that point they’re just trying too hard. I mean, really.
9. Cheetos: Crunchy or Puffed?
If their opinion doesn’t align with yours, you’ve got at least 20 minutes of heated conversation right then and there.
10. If you were alive right now, what would—?
You can take quite a bit of artistic license with this one, although I’m not sure your partner across the table will much appreciate it. They’ll probably cut you off after the first half of the question and ask what you meant by “if,” gradually escalating into a state of anger or confusion, or perhaps some combination of the two resembling an existential crisis. I would be mindful of any airborne utensils at this point, particularly butter knives.
11. Did you like Transformers: Age of Extinction?
The single correct response, for both of you, is laughter. After that, you’ll be bonding over bad puns and embarrassing childhood memories in no time.
12. Do you still wear your retainer at night?
This is how you can tell whether someone’s responsible. Either that, or they just really care about the alignment of their pearly whites, which is admirable regardless.
13. Don’t you hate it when they do that thing in spy movies where the two people are sitting a little apart on a bench and staring straight ahead while they speak, as if no one watching them will be able to deduce that they’re talking to each other, but it’s actually super obvious that they’re communicating so it begs the question whether they should even be spies in the first place?
Ideally, your interlocutor joins in sometime in the middle and the two of you recite the rest of the question together. Realistically? They just say yes and reply with another thing they hate about spy movies.
And with that, you’ve got a friend for life — or at the very least, an interesting story to fill the silence with at next week’s dinner. Cheers.