You know the kinds of questions I’m talking about. They’re the things people say to you and you really have no response. Other than a mumbled “yeah,” a shrug of the shoulders, or an awkward silence. (I’m more of the awkward silence kind of girl, myself.)
I’m talking about the things people say to you that really allow for no response that leads to further conversation or the only response you could give would be rude and impolite. Let’s just get some of these questions/statements out in the open, why don’t we?
#1. Why aren’t you dating anyone?
(It also comes at you in the form of: I bet guys are beating down your door for dates, right? and You’re great! I can’t figure out why someone hasn’t snapped you up! or Why aren’t you dating him?)
I’m just going to put this out there: single people, especially girls, hate this question. So, stop ASKING it! The problem with it is that generally the person who says this to you isn’t someone you’re ready to share the barest parts of your soul with and that person is usually asking you this question in a setting that doesn’t allow for you to express everything you’d like to say. Because what can I say back when someone asks me this? I don’t know is the safest, most true answer. Others might include: I’m incredibly awkward. I fear in the deepest part of myself that no one wants me or will ever want me. I’m not pretty enough. I’ve sabatoged every chance I’ve ever had. He hasn’t asked me. Maybe the whole dating-and-getting-married-thing isn’t what God has planned for me. Can we just not talk about this?
Because honestly, when someone asks me this question, all of those responses go through my mind. And when you ask me this at church or in the elevator at work and you’re not my best friend, I really can’t say all of that and still be considered sane.
#2. Your hair is getting long (and various other fairly obvious observations that really don’t further conversation)
Someone said this to me the other day on the elevator at work and all I could muster was “yeah” with a nod of my head. We’re in the elevator, so launching into a whole story about why I chose to grow my hair out before I have to get off isn’t really an option and I’m fairly sure the person making the statement didn’t even care about that story. You know, taken on their own these kinds of question aren’t offensive or awkward, but when that statement is the only thing the speaker says and isn’t followed up with a question that furthers the conversation, it’s a kind of useless sentence. Early in my editing career, the first time I edited a teaching plan, my editor-in-chief at the time told me to never simply ask yes-no questions. They don’t invite conversation. Discussion stops after one word. When someone lobs one of these babies your way, you’re not sure how to respond. Should you just answer the obvious yes or no? Should you say yes or no, then expound further? Does this person want to know why you grew your hair out/wore those shoes/are carrying 15 bags into work? The problem with these sorts of questions is that you don’t know what direction the person is wanting to take the conversation or what he/she really wants to know. If you really want to have a conversation with someone, you don’t have to stop making obvious statements. Just follow them up with a question that guides the discussion.
#3. Questions that make you want to laugh, but you can’t or you would offend the person asking.
For me, this question most often comes in this form: Are you and your brother identical twins? There’s a part of me that always wants to answer, yes, and walk away. I get that people hear “twin” and think identical, but when I’ve just said that I have a twin BROTHER, this question really does make me want to roll my eyes. But there are a variety of things people ask or say in social situations that open the door wide for mockery, but you can’t because it would be impolite. What are your favorite questions/comments in this category? Tell me in the comments.
#4. Any question that involves references to age and the phrase “you’ve still got time.”
Once, in the middle of choir rehearsal, the elderly lady that used to sit next to me turned and asked me how old I was. I told her, since I’m really not ashamed of my age or freaked out by the fact that I’m in my 30s. (But I was younger then.) She listened to my answer, then said, “Well, you better get on the stick. You’re not getting any younger.” How to respond? Slapping one of your elders is frowned upon, especially AT church. Bursting into tears probably isn’t an option, either. Married people and older people, hear this: we like that you care about us. We like that you want us to be happy and married and taken care of. But telling us that we’re running out of time generally doesn’t help anything. It just leaves your single friends feeling hopeless and forgotten, useless because they aren’t married and according to you, quickly running out of time to find someone who’d want to be in a relationship with them. Basically, I ended up nodding my head and keeping my mouth shut when my elderly friend asked me this question. And that’s the same response you’ll get if you ever throw it my way.
#5. You look tired/awful/sick/something that is not the same as “pretty.”
In my brain: Um, thanks. I thought I was looking pretty hot today. I feel really good today and am wearing an outfit that makes me feel all sassy. And apparently, I look like a haggard, old woman. Great. Now, I want my mommy, chocolate, and a good cry. I’ll just hide in my office all day.
What are your favorite unaswerable questions or statements. Tell me!