Mike Nuckols: Social Liability

It was Parent Social Night this weekend. It means that each grade (K-5) hosts a party at a host house. You go from house to house and hang out with each grade. It’s a bitch of a night to get a baby sitter.

I struggle with this and basically all social events in my town. It aggravates Shani, who is an excellent mingler and genuinely enjoys it. She calls me a “social liability”, and each time we head out, I promise her to try and engage. And I genuinely try each and every time.

I’ll start with this: I find the small talk maddening. Talking about nothing drives me out of my mind. I resent every minute of it. The idea of spending 15 minutes talking to someone and then walking away knowing nothing whatsoever about them is mindboggling to me.

We arrived at the first party and instantly my heart sank. The house had a beautiful wrap-around porch. To the right, all the ladies had gathered. Off to the left, the guys were clumped around the beer.

The guy-girl split baffles me. I guess when you’re married and the girl thing is locked up, there’s no longer a need to talk to women. I guess we’re all relieved we don’t have to do that anymore.

I wandered over to the guys. They were all talking about the house that Chip Kelly (Eagles head coach) had just moved into. As I introduced myself, instead of saying my name, I mumbled:


Then I stood and nodded along with the Chip Kelly discussion for the next 5 minutes.

After a while, I went and pretended to take a dump and played on my phone for 10 minutes. Then I wandered over towards Shani. She gave me the: “Don’t monopolize me” look. She was right. So I went to the food table and got into a conversation with a woman there. Her daughter and Alex are both divers. We talked about that. Then she said:

Nice woman: My daughter is in 6th grade and tonight is her first time at Rec Hall. [Note: Rec Hall is a junior high dance held at the school once a month.] I had 12 girls at my house beforehand.

Me: Oh yeah? Does your house smell like perfume?

Nice woman: No. Why?

Me: When they boys have a party before Rec Hall they create this horrible cloud of Axe body spray.

Nice woman: Really? Is that really an issue with boys? Body odor?

Me: Oh dear God, yes.

Nice woman: I know in health class they separate all the girls and boys for the puberty talk. I know what they talk about with the girls, but I wasn’t sure if they talked about body odor with boys.

Me: They should – my son smells terrible.

Ooooo-kay. So here I am. I’m in a conversation, right? I promised Shani I’d try and I was trying. And at this point I could stay on the surface – or – I could really go for it. So damn it – I went for it. If we’re gonna have a conversation, then I’m gonna have a real conversation. I went for it.

Me: The body odor is bad, but I’m not looking forward to what comes next?

Nice woman: Oh? What do you mean?

Me: Masturbating.

Nice woman: Oh. Ohh. Uh. Oh.

Me: Yeah, it’s funny. I was talking about that with some friends from high school. I was saying how terrified I used to be of getting busted by my mom. Then I realized…busting me was the last thing on earth she wanted to happen.

Nice woman: Oh. Yeah. Oh.

Me: [Pretending I’m my mom and stomping as I walk.] I’m coming [STOMP] up the [STOMP] stairs now!

Shani was in absolute hysterics as I told her about the conversation on the way home.

So if you’re wondering, here’s a guide to party conversation:

Do Don’t

Tell sports anecdotes about how you are guiding your kid through struggles and teaching them the value of sportsmanship and the larger life lesson.   (bonus if you use the phrase “teaching moment”)


Talk about your job. (I think this is because it somehow gets too close to touching on how much money you make and no one wants to admit they’re rich.)

Tell funny stories making fun of what a bad parent you are. (example: “I just put on the Disney channel, plunked them down in front of the TV, and opened a bottle of wine HAHAHAHAH!”)


Say anything nice about your wife. (For some reason you’re not supposed to like hanging out with your wife – thus you get away from each other as quickly as possible.)

And I now I know that I can add “talk about masturbating” to the don’t column.

However, with all that said, I have over the years found myself in some terrific conversations with people that to this day I love seeing and catching up with.

So if you see me at a party and you:

  • Want to sit down
  • Want to talk about something other than nothing

I’m in. So let me know. It’ll keep me in Shani’s good graces.

5 thoughts on “Mike Nuckols: Social Liability

  1. Excellent story. You’re a great writer. Funny and very open minded. Wish we were still car pooling to Princeton. I like listening to your stories. Keep it up.

  2. Just did a coffee spit-take all over my shirt. You are a riot! And I’m sending you my dry cleaning bill …

  3. I love this – it made me laugh out loud! And I love that you have a wife that laughed about this too. You’re awesome.

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