I don’t know why we ask these things. We can’t seem to help ourselves.
Let me set the scene. You’re seventeen. It’s May. You’re graduating in less than a month. What do people ask you?
Right! What are your plans after school. Aunt Agnes asks. Grandpa asks. That person who knows your Mom, but you don’t know them, and they meet you and your mom in the grocery store–they ask too. You cringe and you stammer a well-rehearsed answer. Face it, it’s as much a part of grad as the mortar board.
If you say, “I’m going to University,” the asker will nod and smile like you’ve answered correctly. You may wonder why they are so keen on putting yourself in tens of thousands of dollars of debt. Or you’ll be like me and say, “I’m looking for a job,” and you’ll imagine that they’re thinking “Can’t get into college, eh? Poor soul. Destined to slave in a menial job for the rest of her life.”
They aren’t thinking that. To them it’s just a question. But to us, it is something that pokes at our deepest insecurities, or some of the biggest decisions we’ll ever have to make. Why do they ask it so casually?
What about this one?
Are you seeing anyone?
This is the one your aunts and uncles and older family friends will ask, perhaps with greater and greater frequency as you get older. They’re just curious, of course, but if you haven’t the faintest hope of a date, you may hear “So, no one’s taken you yet? Don’t worry. I’ll put out an ad.”
And if you are seeing someone:
So… When are you getting married?
“But, we’ve like, been on two dates.”
“So? Chop chop.”
And then, once you are married:
So… When are you having kids?
A professor of mine had a good answer for this one. He’d say, “Thursday–after supper.” It was quite effective. I mean, they didn’t really want to know.
Actually, maybe this would be a good approach to all the questions.
“Are you seeing anyone?”
“Oh yeah, I have five or six guys on rotation.”
“What are your plans for after school?”
“I was thinking about joining a monastery.”
What gives us the right to ask these things? Do we ever think about how insecure the ‘questionee’ might be about the answer? What if they’d like to go to college but they failed one class and now they can’t? What if they’re convinced they’ll never get a boyfriend because they’re ‘fat’ or ‘ugly’? What if they can’t have kids because of infertility?
Oh, twist the knife in the wound, will you?
I guess I’m touchy about this right now because people keep asking “so, how are your book sales?”
Do you want me to tell you how much I weigh and my yearly income as well? They think it’s a simple question. It’s not. It’s just my biggest dream, my greatest battle and the culmination of years of work. It is going exactly as it should at the very beginning: slowly and with great effort. Momentum isn’t working in my favour–yet.
This is a great, big, hairy word in the world of dreams and success. Yet.
George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones series, said that writing requires “being ready to accept rejection. You can work on a book for two years and get it published, and it’s like you may as well have thrown it down a well. It’s not all champagne and doing interviews with The New York Times.”
From what I’ve read, success in anything can be like that. But the word is ‘yet’. I’m not there ‘yet.’
Martin said, “I’ve been very lucky. There were times when I was afraid I would never sell another book, but I never doubted I’d write another book.” Yes, even George R. R. Martin, who’s been more successful than most authors would dare to hope, feared he’d never sell another book.
So right now I get to suck down my ire, smile, and give my well-rehearsed answer. I hope we can consider this when we’re tempted to blurt out these stupid questions. There is so much backstory behind the answer, and so much ‘yet’. Do you really want to know?
And yes. I did go nutty with my meme-maker for this one. Call it stress relief. 🙂