28 May 2011

questions i don't know how to answer

I became aware that there are multiple ways to answer a question when I was in third grade. My teacher was sick, so a substitute filled in. Unfortunately, my teacher had been in the middle of reading a book aloud to the whole class, and had therefore left the substitute with the task of finishing it. When the sub asked for a volunteer to tell her what had happened thus far in the book to give her context for where were in the story, my hand shot up, practically propelling me out of my seat.

I should interrupt this story with an anecdote my mom loves to tell. When I was younger, she used to walk four miles a day and take me along with her. And I would talk to her the whole time. For those four miles, my mom would be subjected to my nonstop chatter about books I had read, juicy third-grade gossip, random thoughts that popped into my head. I would just talk and talk and talk. And she would listen, without telling me once to shut up. Or she would just tune me out. I know what I would have done.

So when the substitute asked me to tell her what had happened in the book, I thought she wanted me to tell her everything that was important to the plot (read: everything). Since the author had constructed such a delicate story, every detail was crucial, and therefore deserved to be told.

I must have talked for about twenty minutes (including reenacting all the dialogue) before the poor substitute teacher thanked me then asked someone else what had happened right before we left off.

I was heartbroken and humiliated, then realized that that was probably all she intended to hear, rather than my retelling of the entire novel. Since then, I have preferred to err on the side of too little than too much in conversation.

But back to the original point of this post. There are some questions that I just flat out don’t know how to answer. Questions like:

So what do you blog about? I’ve written on this subject before, but it still doesn’t get any easier to explain. I like to say “Nothing. But also everything.” except that I haven’t found a way to say that without feeling like a total douchebag. So, until I’ve figured that out, I’ll just resort to mumbling or changing the subject.

Are you having fun? If the person asked me whether or not I was having fun, wouldn’t it mean that something on my face conveyed otherwise? Although, my face looks bored a lot of the time, but the glazed-over look can be attributed more to me over-thinking any and all social interactions, and not necessarily to me wanting to leave. Also, even if I say that yes, I am having fun, I’m afraid that it sounds forced, especially when accompanied by a smile. Like I’m overcompensating for having a lazy face. Then, even when it isn’t a lie, it comes off as one. Likewise, “Are you excited about [whatever]?”

Do you care about the children/human rights/ animals? I hate this one. I’m walking down the street and a person with dreadlocks and a clipboard asks me a variation of this question. Saying no makes me out to be a heartless bitch. But saying yes means that I have to listen to this person stumble over some “ums” and explain the petition, culminating in asking me for a signature or some money. I even feel mean just writing that. Either way, I feel bad. I normally smile and say something along the lines of “Sorry, I’m in a rush!” then hurrying off. I still feel bad though.

You don’t have a boyfriend? Why not? The way I answer this question really depends on who asked. I might say something like “Because I don’t have time” or “Because I haven’t found anyone that I like” or something else noncommittal and vague, but a more accurate answer would be something like “Because I am too socially awkward to have a normal interaction with a guy, exacerbated by the fact that I go to a women’s college. Also, I consider man-repelling a sport. Do you want some old lady candy from the pocket of my grandpa cardigan?” It really depends on how uncomfortable I want to make the other person feel.


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