How are you?

cat how are youWhen the nurse is taking me back to the cubicle where I will be imprisoned until the doctor drops by, he or she always asks. “How are you today?”  That question always stumps me.  My first thought is to scream, “I’m at the doctor’s office.  How do you think I feel?”  However, I do possess a thin veneer of courtesy and say, “Fine, thank you.  How are you?”

Then I sit in the little room and ponder that question.    Finally I decide the nurse is not really  asking for a health report. “How are you?” is a  polite social convention which really doesn’t demand an honest answer, only recognition that the rules have been applied and accepted.   Yes, I may be throwing up on the nurse’s feet, but I answer, “Fine.”  I may be doubled over in pain or spouting blood from every orifice, but that’s not what the nurse is asking.   The nurse is simply recognizing that I’m there and my answer merely says, “Thank you.”

But the question came up again six months ago  and again I had to work out what others were saying,  Only minutes after George died, one of our ministers asked, “How are you doing?”  My mouth dropped open.  I wanted to shout, “How do you think I feel?  They joy of my life is gone.”  I didn’t of course but had no good answer.  People asked that over and over in the months after George’s death and, every time, I thought, “You have to know how I feel.”  But I didn’t say that.  “As well as can be expected,” I’d say and that was the truth.  But why did they ask?  comforting friendsDidn’t they know?

Again I realized that, yes they all knew I hurt.  That question meant, “I care about you but I don’t know what to say.”  It meant, “He was my friend and I hurt.  How are you doing?”  It meant so many things my friends and George’s didn’t know how to ask, what words to use.  And thanks to all those friends and ministers and family members, I’m doing fine, sort of.  Thank you for asking.






4 thoughts on “How are you?

  1. I am a yoga nut and the front-desk folks always ask me that question, “How are you?” At first, I thought they were just practicing the social niceties. But, what they’re asking me (and other folks) is “Is there anything we should know about before we ask you to contort your body to resemble a pretzel?” – I use to say, “Fine” all the time because that’s what I always say, but now that I have interpreted what they really want to know, I can give them the answer they need to know.
    I know you’ve lived all over Jane, but do you think there are some regional differences to “How are you?” I say this because when I lived in Michigan, I thought the majority of mid-westerners were kinda rude. There are just social customs that we (or maybe just I) grew up with in the south and were socialized to practice and when someone isn’t doing the same things that I do , it makes me pause.
    So, to those folks at the yoga studio, my left hip is still tender. Thank you for asking. 😎

  2. So your yoga studio is not idly asking–glad you translated that. I do agree with you about the differences between N and South. I grew up in Kansas City, MO, and was never brought up to say, “Ma’am” and “Sir” but I know in the South, it is disrespectful not to. I think it’s a difference, your not hearing what you’re used to, not rudeness. Hope you’re left hip is okay. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. LOL! Funny you were not raised with “Ma’am” and “Sir”, because that was drummed into me as a wee one. It is the default form of addressing someone with respect when you don’t know how to address them (that’s what I was taught) – I know a lot of folks use to address their elders. I would call someone Mister or Mrs if I knew their last name, BUT if I don’t your name…you will be a ma’am or sir. When I was working with middle school kids and didn’t know their name (because I’m horrible at names), I would call them ma’am or sir.

    My left hip is still a bit wonky, but not as tender as it was before. Thank you for asking! 😎

  4. No, ma’am and sir are southern things. I think they are nice. I also enjoy being called Miss Jane although it makes me feel ancient. Hope your hip is better.

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