Verbal vomit. They say honesty is the best policy. They are idiots.
I used to be rather reserved, private girl. A girl well versed in the do’s and don’ts of gentile southern ways. But lately, I’m a babbling buffoon of honesty.
I don’t mean to be. I wish I could revert to my private life. My former life was far less interesting, but the mysterious factor earned me some bonus points on occasion. Still, here I am. The social nincompoop who actually gives an answer to questions such as, “How are you?”
The ‘Gentile Southern Ways Rulebook’ definitively explains in chapter one that the answer to the question, “How are you?” is always the same… “Oh I’m doing just fine Ms. Emma. How are you today?” (Make sure to draw out the word ‘fine’ as you read the sentence. Inflections for the word ‘fine’ are quite important to gentile southern etiquette; although, this is an advanced chapter to be sure.)
I have an amazing job, but I do spend most of my workday alone with my computer, carpal tunnel preventives, computer-strained eyes, and of course, my super creepy office mate who hogs the window. Because of this I make frequent trips to the bathroom and kitchen hoping to run into someone, anyone. (I’m sure the man whose office is across from the women’s bathroom thinks I have a perpetual bladder infection.) So today, I stood in the communal work kitchen, starved for human interaction. Set up for failure, complete.
Enter stage left. Sudie. She immediately drops the bomb. “How are you?”
“You got this Bonnie,” I tell myself. I plaster a charming southern smile, and reply, “Oh, I’m doing just fine Ms. Sudie. How are you today?” “Rulebook chapter one. Check. I haven’t lost it yet,” I think to myself.
Sudie responds that she too is (not surprisingly) fine. Hmmmm, she must have read The Rulebook too. And then she makes a misstep. She continues and asks, “How is your dad?”
I feel it coming. Verbal vomit. More powerful than the worst case of food poisoning you’ve ever had. And for whatever silly reason I poor out, “Not good… He’s not good at all. In fact…” Blah. Blah. Blah. I rattle on. I babble on for probably 90 seconds, which I’m sure felt like 90 minutes to her. Remedial southern etiquette training, here I come.
I don’t know what prompted me to give an honest answer to a question that clearly was not asked with any interest in an actual answer. I guess I was tired after a long night spatting with my mother over the best course of care for my dad.
I know that I personally love when someone blurts an honest answer to a Rulebook question. I believe these moments are opportunities to connect with people who have value and rich experiences. I love blurting moments that happen in the grocery store when the unknown clerk pours out their entire life’s story. I love it. But, I’m not so foolish to believe that everyone else feels the same. Raw honesty in the form of blurting can be hard to swallow. It can be awkward, heart wrenching, frustrating… and few people are comfortable with these emotions, especially in the company of strangers or worse yet, acquaintances.
I also don’t know why I hold myself to such an impossible double standard– my loving to hear the blurtee, but hating to be the blurter. I guess that’s the reason I started this blog, to create some sacred blurting space. It’s also a space where you can choose to experience the blurt, or just pass by with a fleeting, “Oh I’m doing just fine Ms. Bonnie. How are you?”
So, how are you today?