DAILY PROMPT: Plead the Fifth

What question do you hate to be asked? Why?

72-Sunrise-Early March_22

“How are you,” they say, smiling with their lips. Their eyes are unhappy. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to hear. It’s a ritual. They ask, I answer. We both hate the exchange, but for some reason, they feel it’s obligatory. Civility? Manners? They need to ask, but they don’t have to care. I give them the answer they want, because anything else would be unbearable.

I curve my mouth into a big, bright smile. With as much enthusiasm as I can muster, I say “I’m fine, thank you for asking. Just fine!”

If I’m lucky, they go away after that. Because they are just fine too. We are all just fine.

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44 replies

  1. When I get asked how I’m doing, I always give an honest answer. You are correct that it’s not what they wanted to hear, but I’m not much of a white liar… you asked, I told. Next time, just nod to greet people like I do….


  2. sometimes people say this things for politeness sake. without being sincere. Sincerity is too expensive nowadays..eheh..just sharing…great blog!i like the robot!and the disclaimer:this is an award free zone.

    ❤ from philippines


  3. ‘Nice to see you again,’ is a much more positive comment. 🙂


  4. Just beautiful! I have taken lots of dusky pink horizons in my moms woods too. It’s about all the color we get lately!


  5. I noticed in my short one week stay in New york City that I would meet complete strangers, perhaps in the hotel or otherwise and they always said “Hello how are you” which I was not used to. I tend more to say instead of “Wie geht’s” (how are you – german), “Was macht’s” (what are you doing) which gives more scope on the answer. Anybow it’s nice to have Mr. Swiss to listen to his complaints and he listens to mine, that is real concern.


    • From a friend, it means something. From a stranger, it’s just mouth noise. Garry and I listen to each other because, hey, if we don’t listen, who will? But I don’t ask people how they are as a matter of course. I say hello and “Nice to meet you.” Because I’m being polite, but I don’t want or need details … and I’m pretty sure they don’t want to give them to me. Then, there are those “party minutes” when you meet someone and they give you their entire life story and all you want to do is run for the hills!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. The problem with asking how someone is is that frequently they tell you–at great length–details you Do in no way want to know.


    • Unless you want the answer, don’t ask the question. I always go with “Good to see you again, you look GREAT.” Even when they don’t. Because at least no one objects to that particular lie.


      • I shall try to emulate you in the future. “How are you,” is such an easy out. In Mexico, the proper greeting in passing is, “Adios” How truthful is that? You are really telling them good bye and merely acknowledging their passing.


        • Why not? If you intent is merely to greet and acknowledge, why not just greet and acknowledge? Especially when dealing with people who really ARE suffering from an illness or recovering from a serious surgery, if you don’t want to know, don’t ask. Most people are delighted to NOT tell you.


          • Living in a community where there are lots of retirees, albeit adventurous ones, since we’ve all moved to Mexico, I sometimes declare a moratorium of 5 minutes on discussions of health issues. Unfortunately, most people find their own health issues fascinating –to be told to the nth degree. Since at one time or another someone in the crowd (or one of their relatives) is bound to be ill or infirm, this could mean never talking about anything else. Thus, I am the timekeeper. After five minutes, we switch topics to discuss art, writing, humor, local affairs or world affairs. Ill health and the weather will be always be with us no matter what we choose to say about them and so do not deserve to pervade our conversation as well.


  7. I always says “fine” too. One day I’ll tell them everything about how I am. That’ll teach ’em.


    • There are a few people in this world who actually want to know, sometimes because they have similar issues and are actually interested. Most people just say stuff without thinking and are horrified if you give them a real answer. If I got rolling, they would run for the door!


  8. I suffer with bipolar disorder and have been sitting in a psych ward many times when people ask me how I am doing. Duh! How do they think? http://lilypupslife.wordpress.com/


  9. I usually say, “I’m tired.” and they say, “You look tired.” and we go our separate ways. That way no one is lying.


    • But why do they ask since they don’t want an answer?


      • They’ve been taught to ask. It’s ingrained. Like shaking hands with people you’ve just met. Do we really want to shake hands with a perfect stranger? Probably not. But we do, because it’s polite and proper and shows our good intentions.

        So we ask, we ask how other people are because it’s expected of us. It’s a greeting and nothing more. Just like, “How’s it going?” and “What’s up?” They’re not trying to make conversation, they’re just acknowledging that you’re there and they see you. And they want you to do the same.


        • I’m in favor of “Nice to meet you” or its variation, “Nice to see you again.” No baggage with those.


          • The thing is, we’re not taught to say that. Even in other cultures people are taught to say, “How are you?” or “How is it going with you?” Take French and Spanish, “Commet allez-vous?” and ¿Cómo está? both say “how are you? or how are things going with you? It’s the same. I know it’s annoying, but honestly, people cannot help what they’re taught from birth.


            • Actually, “Enchante, madam,” or just “Bonjour” … in Hebrew, typically (for example), “Na-im may-ode” (very glad to meet you/see you/greet you). We are NOT taught to automatically ask about someone’s health. We are taught to politely greet people, but it doesn’t have to be an inquiry. That’s habit, not culture. Most French people do not use “Comment allez-vous?” as a standard greeting. Is the idea of not treating everyone exactly the same way too complicated? If you are greeting someone elderly and/or recently out of the hospital, asking them “How are you, how are you doing?” is a real question. Commonsense ought to make it obvious. Unless, of course, you aren’t giving any thought to what you are saying or to whom you are saying it. “Nice to see you” is perfectly polite — and baggage free.


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