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The Art of Acquaintanceship

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It’s hard work, being an acquaintance. You must have an excellent sense of timing in order to hold your tongue when you ought to speak up and to let loose when it’s least appropriate. You must be a patient listener, but your advice cannot be too profound. You may crack the occasional dirty joke, but you cannot contribute too much to the conversation, lest your opinion become too valued. At the lunch table, you may speak only when spoken to.

You need to know that, in order to build a successful half-baked relationship, you must meet the other party halfway. When they reach out to you, the appropriate course of action is to take a sudden interest in the wallpaper and give a generic response. As they walk away, you should follow them like a lost yellow lab puppy, in spite of your poor attempts to connect with them earlier. By doing this, you can secure for yourself a nice, clean, commitment-free spot on the fringe of their social life.

It’s vital that you maintain these sub-friendships, or else you might drift too far from the group and be forced to seek new, potentially meaningful alliances. In the event of a party or similar social gathering, do not leave the protective shadow of your peers. If any outgoing outsiders attempt to engage you, offer nothing but bland, one-word responses until they shrug and move on. If the unthinkable happens, and you are thrust into a social situation in which you see no familiar faces, there are certain tricks that never fail. Crying, sulking, or simply hiding in the ladies’ room until the night is done will all but guarantee that no lasting relationships will be forged. Never, under any circumstances, should you simply suck it up and put yourself out there.

To master the art of acquaintanceship, you must find and occupy the sweet spot between dull and engaging. You must trip over yourself often enough to be unappealing while cultivating a mildly pleasant assortment of quirks that convince the pack not to turn on and devour you. You must not, for any reason whatsoever, claim the spotlight. You must completely run out of things to say no more than three minutes into any given conversation. You must be behind on every TV drama. You must make old, irrelevant references. You must appear in exactly 50% of group pictures. You must be a supporting role, a bowl of store-brand cereal, a partly cloudy day. It’s hard work, being an acquaintance, but someone has to do it.



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