The other day I ran into someone who is somewhere between a friend and an acquaintance. It was a random thing, a chance to say hello. When she asked how I was doing, I responded with my usual response: Truth. I told her how my back hurt, I was deprived of sleep, and I was frustrated with my students. I could tell after the first 15 seconds of my response, she regretted asking. Her eyes glazed over...her brow knitted...confusion washed over her face. She didn't really mean to ask that, I'm guessing.
Thing is, I'm not really a negative person. Matter of fact, I'll be your best damn cheerleader if you give me half a chance. Granted, I'm sarcastic and a touch cynical at times, but overall I'm a fairly glass-is-half-full kinda gal. Of course, now that I think about it, I always think I'm dying or am going to die in some random situation, but that's normal, right? Besides, it only applies to me: Everyone else is going to live a healthy and long life.
There are times when I deliberately skirt around a question. I won't outright tell you your new boyfriend is akin to a llama, but I'll drop some hints to tell ya there are better fish in the sea. For some reason, asking me how I am is not one of those. I will tell you everything. Every. Last. Detail. Why? Because you asked, idiot. That's what the question means.
I know when I ask the same question to others, I expect a truthful response. If you have a problem, maybe I can help. If nothing else, I love to offer unsolicited advice based upon any statement you make that I can identify with in any microscopic way. Because I really want to know how you are. Really. And I want you to be happier than a pig in mud.
Alright, I know it's the courteous thing to say and blah, blah, blah. But, really, why waste the time and air to ask a question you don't really want to hear the answer to? You could just as easily say, "So, how 'bout Pluto becoming a dwarf planet? That's some stuff, huh?" Or maybe, "Read any good Chaucer lately?" I promise to be so dumbfounded that you could run away before I wiped the stunned look off my face and unloaded upon you.
I suppose I just hate the fake interest when you don't even really have to fake it. A simple hello would've been fine. Truthfully (cause I'm all about some truth these days), you can just smile and I'll be happy. Don't even have to push the air out of your lungs. And I promise, in return, if I ask how you are doing...I mean it. You can even talk about your gout or your ear wax or your annoying neighbor's dog barking or your crappy boss or your daughter who just won a full scholarship to an Ivy league school or your order at McDonald's that got screwed up or your heat bill that was entirely too high or your car that is about to up and die on you or your bra that just lost its underwire or your underwear that rides up your crack or your whatever...I will listen because I meant it. Promise.