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Don’t ask.

May 16, 2011

There are two questions that seem so benign, but lately have become the bane of my existence.

Question One: “How are you?”  or alternative.

You know, it’s one thing when it’s coming from the people who know what’s been going on and who are truly asking for a real answer.

It’s another coming from people who don’t know, or don’t know me. As Simone Grant recently pointed out on her blog, this is often a superfluous inquiry. There is only one right answer, and, in my case, it’s usually not the honest one.

The honest answer leads to a story I don’t want to tell you and one you don’t actually want to hear. Because, more often than not when we ask this question, we don’t really mean it if the answer isn’t “fine – how are you?”

Question Two: “What happened?”

I am really starting to hate this one. Here’s the thing. Asking me what led to my sister’s brain injury is a pretty natural reaction to “[My sister] has sustained a very serious brain injury.” I get it. The problem is… the answer isn’t straightforward. More importantly, and despite my own [buriednow-but-I’ll-deal-with-it] anger directed at her, I still want to protect my sister’s privacy.

It’s amazing to me how quickly events in our lives, no matter how awful and painful and emotional, turn into gossip. Turn into something we just can’t wait to tell someone else.

Especially something like …. “… did you hear she tried to commit suicide??

9 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2011 10:05 am

    It’s important not to ask questions like that during times of tragedy and/or to say “i don’t know what to say” — I guess you’ll just have to use your stock answers.

    • May 17, 2011 9:38 am

      I am still trying to figure out what my “stock answers” are at this point, and it’s not something on the top of my priority list, you know? And I don’t exactly blame people for asking, seems natural for them to inquire on how things happened, just as it is (for whatever reason) “natural” for us to ask “how are you”…. The thing is, you don’t know how non-benign such things are until you’ve been through some shit.

  2. May 16, 2011 11:32 am

    Sometimes goodwill is more important than curiosity. I offer you mine

    • May 17, 2011 9:39 am

      OH, yes. I’d hazard a guess that goodwill is almost always more important than curiosity. Thank you for yours.

  3. May 16, 2011 12:06 pm

    I know what you mean… there are times when someone asks “How are you?” I want to answer – “Feeling shit… and you?”. Now to be honest… I do that sometimes but only with friends that I know actually give a damn and where I do not feel like I have to say “Fine”.

    It has become such a “normal” and uncommited way to greet someone that it is easy to forget what actually is asked.

    Gossip sucks. It is easy for people to make a sensation out of someone elses tragedy without stopping to think a bit.

    Guess the only thing you can do is to ignore the bullshit, as hard as it is. To avoid to go through 20 questions… just use the “OK and you”-yadiyada… many don’t want a real answer anyway, unless they know what is going on etc.

    Thinking of you honey. Big hugs!

    • May 17, 2011 9:40 am

      Yeah… it seems the only thing to do, really, is just suck it up. Things I can do nothing about, and things that aren’t other people’s fault, when you think about it. They don’t know they’re asking loaded questions…

      I’ll take the hugs though. Back at cha.

  4. May 16, 2011 3:33 pm

    It always amazes me how mindless people really are. Like, seriously. Don’t be so nosy people, she will tell you IF and WHEN she wants to. If not, leave her be. Ya know?? SO frustrated for you with these qs…especially the last one. Atrocious behavior. Thinking of you, as always. XO

    • May 17, 2011 9:42 am

      Thank you! Yeah… even though most people asking me are actually innocent, there are some that want to pry. Some people just want to know so they can tell someone else. I don’t understand that impulse – you know, the one where other people’s pain, no matter what it is, is fodder for your discussion with other people. I have another post on this I’m working on slowly…

  5. May 17, 2011 9:57 am

    Finding the right thing to say in thses circumstances is very difficult. Creating gossip out of tragedy or illness is ugly

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