“How are you?”

Here’s a question….

When you ask someone “How are you?” or “How are things going?”, do you expect someone to answer truthfully? Or are you just asking out of  form?

Are you taken aback when they answer “Things have not been so good…” or “I’ve been sick all summer”… or “I have cancer…”

I had the experience this weekend of being asked repeatedly “How was your summer?” and “How’s it going?” and then a glassy stare, and an uncomfortable “Oh dear… Well, gotta run.” when I answered truthfully…

In one case, I received a quizzical look and “Welll… Um… thanks for your honesty.” and then they looked for a quick exit. Now, I am not telling them that I have been abducted by aliens or that I have decided to become a sex-worker to support my crack-habit… I am simply explaining how things have been with my Mom sick and how Mom’s memory is. And these people were all members of our congregation, who I have known for years and, more importantly, have known Mom for years.

The “thanks for your honesty” one was from our minister.

Now, it isn’t as though I am going around unloading on everyone I meet… I’m talking about the people who supposedly “care”.

I sometimes feel like I am from some other planet. When I ask someone how are you? I certainly hope that they are going to say fine because they are. But when they tell me they haven’t “been fine” or that things have gone terribly wrong in their lives, I don’t take this as a personal affront. I stop and listen and offer my sincere wishes for improvement… Even offer to help, if I can.

On the very rare occasion when I encounter someone who I know just complains for the sake of complaining, I probably won’t ask “How are you?” because I know the answer. But why bother asking, especially someone you know well and supposedly care about if all you want to hear is “Great!”?

How about actually caring how someone is? How about that, for a change?

how are you

Or maybe I should just hand out a card that allows them to check off the answer they want to hear….

___   Absolutely peachy-keen

___   My life is complete, now that you asked me

___   If I was any happier, my head would fall off

___   Short of shitting bricks of gold, I couldn’t be happier

___   These are tears of pure, unadulterated, fucking joy….

And, while we are at it… Why the fuck is no one using their damn turn signals this week? Did I miss the memo?


  1. VioletSky said,

    September 19, 2009 at 9:30 pm

    I have stopped asking “how are you?”, opting instead for a more specific “how is your morning going?”, or “how has your day been?”. You can tell if they are actually listening to you if they are a little taken aback by the slightly different question. In your situation, I would have expected people to have some idea and to be genuinely concernced or interested, even a little, in your answer. I may need to borrow some of your pithy answers!

  2. September 17, 2009 at 2:23 am

    Sometimes I tell people, sometimes I don’t. It depends on who’s asking. In the case you describe, I would have told the people the truth fully expecting to get a response that was compassionate and caring.

    In my work I ask people how they are every time I see them. I ask them in detail, I’ll ask “How is your body today?” “Are there any places that are complaining rather loudly right now?” During the course of a massage I generally hear what is going on in their lives too, they use me as a way to vent. You would not believe the sorts of things that are going on in people’s lives on a regular basis.

    I care. I care a lot, and I think my clients and friends know it.

    By the way, I love that t shirt, I wish I had one, and I don’t know why people don’t use their turn signals. It drives me nuts. It is almost like they are on a secret mission or they are trying to lose a tail and so they don’t dare give a hint of what they are planning to do in advance, otherwise the bad guys could follow them. Or have I been reading too many mysteries and suspense novels lately?

    • mudhooks said,

      September 17, 2009 at 2:29 am

      That day I had so many people turn without signalling that I thought it must be something in the weather… One woman pulled off to the right side of the street as though she was parking and just as I was about to pass her, suddenly swung right across the road and into a driveway on the left. I had to slam on my brakes. I got out and suggested she might want to use her signals. She swore up and down she had and her daughter and husband came out and started yelling at me. He wasn;’t anywhere to be seen until the daughter started yelling at me but when he came out, he was swearing up and down that I was “following to close”.

      I should have let her hit me because she wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on. However, she’d have hit my Mom’s side of the car and Mom might have been hurt.

  3. azahar said,

    September 15, 2009 at 3:24 am

    I think I’m going to start using “If I were any happier my head would fall off”. 🙂

    • mudhooks said,

      September 15, 2009 at 5:55 am

      My friend, Robert, suggested…: “Living on the edge” to which I added… “Living on the edge… of a 50 story building.”

  4. September 14, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    You are an exception. Most people are just making time. My siblings trained me not to complain, and so I had to relearn when my boyfriend was asking me how I was, he actually wanted every detail. But I agree, we should care about the others in our lives. Makes you wonder how some folks can call themselves Christian. From what I remember of the Bible, he was a kindly gent.

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