Them: So what do you do?
You: I’m studying to get my PhD in Mathematics.
Them: *stunned* wow. That’s impressive.
Then the conversation quickly degenerates because “them” isn’t sure what else to ask. This small talk exchange has lead to a virtual dead end. As a result, I think socialized mathematicians get very good at talking about other things. We are forced to learn about sports and humanities and politics even if we don’t care about them. We can’t talk to our friends about how we did the Melnikov integral for the wrong Duffing equation twice before we figured out the professor made a typo. They wouldn’t understand what that meant or how cool it was. (Their eyes may glaze over before I even finish the word “Melnikov.”)
But on the other hand maybe the mathematician can understand their experience about getting into an argument with their coworker or doing mindless paperwork. Maybe I’m giving the mathematician more credit than they are due. But I think mathematicians should get a little credit for the fact that we can talk about lots of other things that aren’t math, but one seldomly finds a nonmathemtician who can hold up their end of a conversation about math.