Let's Get Coffee

by Chloe Kiparsky

I’m going to propose a new invention: Google Translate but for misleading social sayings. Go on, try it out. In the drop-down menu, scroll down until you can select the “Twisted Social Language” button - it will likely be between Turkmen and Ukrainian - and then in the second menu select plain English (or your language of preference). Type into that box the following: “Let’s get coffee.” 

Spoiler alert: the translation will come out as “I want to talk to you and get to know you better, and maybe even plant the seeds of an everlasting connection, but I’m too scared to tell you that, so let’s go buy seven-dollar lattes that we both know will have our knees bouncing until 3 am and sit for three hours listening to pretentious instrumental coffee shop music while a goth barista stares at us.” I mean, that’s WEIRD. There must be a malfunction in our code. Please stand by while we troubleshoot the issue.

Okay, maybe that’s a little over the top, but, seriously, what’s up with all this fearful social tiptoeing? As a society, we have so many rules and layers in our communication that our true meanings are hidden - even from ourselves. The specific observation I have been musing on lately is how we can’t just ask people to talk. We can’t even MENTION that we want to talk! In fact, until we are close with someone (that type of close where you would trade eyeballs or slide down a roof or give them the last piece of chocolate if it would make them happy), it feels like we are not even allowed to express desire for connection.

“Getting coffee” provides an opportunity for 1) a constrained amount of time - usually cut short by “gotta run!” 2) something to do with one’s hands - a sip of coffee is the perfect fail-safe for an awkward pause in conversation, and 3) a way to discount the value of the other person’s company - if there is a separate activity, then the connection is not front and center. 

This is why our self-esteem as a country is so low! Google tells me that 85% of Americans suffer from low self-esteem. It may be crazy, but if we didn’t pretend that an 8oz paper cup of lukewarm bean water is more important than actual human connection, then maybe we would feel like our existences are more needed in the world. 

All this coming from someone who orders decaf, please take it with a handful of salt, but I believe that making excuses for connection is lowering our possibilities for them. The discomfort of just being around someone else without an activity is a problem in our society, and a pretty easy one to solve. This article can’t fit my whole manifesto on what we should do, so let’s discuss it over coffee sometime.