I've known Rotrude since she was, oh, 8 or 10 years old. She's definitely her mother's daughter, especially in body type. And she's being having some odd conversations where people remark on her slenderness (though she calls it "skinny" which sounds more pejorative). I've noticed this stuff before.
It's actually a formal pattern of female-to-female conversation. I call it Social Grease. Because I have no social radar to pick up these things organically, I had to learn this "mainstream communication pattern" by rote--and it's quite fascinating.
This doesn't work all that well with Geeky/Nerdy Women. But many of them get soaked in the same pattern solution as the Mainstream Women that the shadow of the dance is cast on them, too. I've found it's especially effective with female newcomers to the SCA, especially mundane visitors who aren't Geeks themselves.
Social meeting of Two or More Women
After the initial "hello"s are over, there's the Casual Conversation Mode. This is where most conversation is Rote or Canned, in prefabricated decision trees. People have a few Mainstream Options:
1) She's carrying a baby. If there's a baby, all other conversation starters are secondary. Ask about the baby. Let her talk as much as she wants about the baby. Then talk about baby weight, if she brings it up or wants to go on about it.
1b) Unless she's carrying a pet. If there's a pet, then ask about the pet. Let her talk as much as she wants about the baby.
1c) If she definitely wants to talk about something NotBaby (some women have talked about Baby enough today, thank you), revert to 2. Let her lead to a topic.
2) She's carrying a book or shopping bag. "What'd you get at __________(name of store, if seen)?" There will be some dismissive talk where she frequently undermines her own enthusiasm for her purchase. This is a request for Opinion Bolstering "Oh, I totally see why you picked that up. It's adorable/really brings out your eyes/totally matches your nails/etc."
Ask about the book (or Kindle). If it's one you've read, discussion follows. If not, it's question and answer time: What d'you like about it, etc.
3) Physical commentary--Comments about weight, hair, clothing, jewelry, etc. This is where women frequently coo over each other's shoes. It doesn't mean anything--they may or may not be enchanted by the shoes. It's just part of the pattern. There's also "love your hair," or "you look great" (implying weight loss, if they haven't see each other for a while).
This one can be tricky, but people think it's easy. I don't recommend that guys use it at all, even if he's gay. It's safest to comment on shoes, bags and other accessories. This also offers Shopping Discussion and Opinion Bolstering, in case you have to stay engaged in talk for a while.
4) Conversations can dwindle off here or--if there's a true exchange, they can flourish. You can end the conversation by commenting that you've gotta run (or she might do the same). Frequently, that's true. It can end with an exchange of emails/phone numbers if the convo is picking up but you genuinely don't have time for them.
It sounds so horrible, doesn't it? But it *works* for me, 98% of the time, while having a female-to-female convo in mainstream society. I've sat at enough tables alone, watching women greet their friends, and seen the dance over and over. I've tried these things out on my coworkers, especially the ones from other departments where I don't work with them all the time, and it's functional with people you're not spending a lot of time with.
The key to all of this, for me, was to believe what I was saying while I was saying it. Some people can be more facile, and sound sincere while they're not, but I've never been able to master that. :P
Lest the gentlemen snicker up their sleeves, let me say Mainstream Guys have similar conversations. Only, rather than cooing, there's chestpuffing. When guys haven't seen each other for a while, they engage in similar Social Grease. I'm not capable of having a male-to-male conversation (my gender and social sex is too obvious), but I've navigated the very Male World of SCA heavy fighting. This is what I've observed.
After the Strength Test handshake, Manly Backpounding or Chin Thrust of Acknowledgement...
1) There's the status jockeying via Prowess. This is usually physical, but physical can also include (among geeky types) video gaming like World of Warcraft. This measures where each one is on the totem pole between/among the group of guys. The highest status guy controls the conversation. He is free to interrupt everyone else and be heard.
Often the Highest Status Guy is acknowledged by the other guys at this point. So is the Lowest Status Guy. If Lowest Status Guy is the comedic type, he is also free to interrupt conversations...in order to make jokes, often at his own expense.
2) If none are invested in Prowess, the conversation can turn to (or be turned by someone with Low Prowess) to Status. A guy can display his own Status (vice president of marketing), or if he's affiliated with a High Status (have you met Duke Guy, my Knight?), he'll raise his own by affiliation. This can change the totem pole positions among the second to second-last guys.
2a) If he's affiliated or follows a team, he will likely turn the conversation to sports in order to converse about the latest game and the success of his team. Especially if he's wearing a jersey or team cap. This can be fascinating if one guy follows football and the other baseball. Watching them talk past each other is like a slo-mo train wreck.
3) Wife-and-kids. (As a female, I've always tapped this topic first. It helped cut down on flirting, which I wasn't comfortable with, but was also a socially safe topic.) This lets guys showcase their families' accomplishments. This can reflect well on the guy, increasing his Respect rate.
4) Conversations can dwindle off here or--if there's a true exchange, they can flourish. The guys can end the conversation by blaming the Little Lady "Hey, my wife wants to get home" or by doing the "I gotta split, seeya later man" and there's a fist bump and a parting. These things can even be true. Guys will more often say "I'm on Facebook, look me up" rather than exchanging addresses.
I'm sure there's more nuance in the male-to-male communication that I'm just not privy to. This is what I've observed. This is the Primer I made for myself in order to ease through the mundane mainstream world. It doesn't always work. But it frequently works.