Honesty is the best policy…most of the time. But when you get into an elevator and a coworker asks “How are you?” you know you aren’t supposed to launch into a story about your mysterious itchy rash or dysfunctional relationship. It is widely understood by almost everyone that the question, “How are you?” is not meant to be answered honestly.
Unfortunately, other questions are a little more ambiguous, so sometimes people respond with the truth. And the truth can be pretty darn creepy. Whenever I hear someone ask “Why are you so tired today? Did you have a late night?” or “Isn’t her baby just the cutest thing?” or “How is your husband doing?” I have to cringe because there is a decent chance the conversation is about to take a turn for the worse. I’m just waiting for the person to answer “I’m tired because my boyfriend and I were up late, you know, doing stuff….” or “The baby is actually kind of hideous. Poor kid looks just like the father, doesn’t it?”
Recently, I overheard a woman in an elevator ask another woman a question that should be barred from public conversation: “Why are your lips so chapped?” Would you ever really want to know why someone’s lips are chapped? Aren’t there a million reasons why someone’s lips could be chapped that fall into the “holy shit that’s weird” category?
We ask each other questions all the time without even thinking about the potential social disaster that awaits us. Most of the time, the other person gives us a mundane, typical answer without revealing much about their life. But every once in a while, we get an answer that is weirder than we bargained for. Copyright 2010 © Alison James.