Review 2006

Ian asks:
What one question, if asked, would you be most inclined to answer with a lie - and why?

I think it's probably the lie we all tell on a daily basis.

'I'm ok.'

This isn't to imply that anything is particularly wrong. Alright I'm not in work at the moment, but I've just graduated with a merit from the one course I've almost always wanted to do. I'm not with anyone at the moment but I'm not particularly lonely for some reason. I'm not rich but the money is there if I need it. If I glance at the all important Maslow's Hierarchy I'm pretty high up on that pyramid. Still feels like a lie though if I do say that I'm 'OK'.

But in general terms, for some reason, no matter how shitty life actually is - someone's died, you've lost your job, you have no money, you are lonely, you're more inclined to say that you're ok when asked how you are. It's politeness -- the understanding that the person is asking after your well being but doesn't actually want to be burdened with the nature of your well being. That they're possibly just asking you because they want the question returned so that you can both feel important in the eyes of the other person. And let's be honest, how many people do you know that you like not pity that will actually tell you their problems up front?

It's what dear Douglas Adams was satirizing in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy with Marvin The Paranoid Android. When Arthur and Ford first meet him, he's more inclined to describe all of his woes than take them to were they want to go. It's all about the 'pain in all the diodes on my left side'. We've all met a Marvin somewhere along the line and they're no fun and there's always the fear that you could become that person.

Perhaps even more strangely people are inclined to say that they're ok, they're fine when in fact they're ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC YEAH! BRILLIANT HOORAY, and have lots of positive news in case their friend's cat has died and they don't want them to feel bad. I've had that conversation (or a version of it) and it can be a real downer.

Conversation is like a verbal game of scissors-paper-stone, and which one of you will be first in with the negative/positive news and set the tone for the rest of your time together. I suspect the reason that gossip is popular is because it means you have something to talk about related to someone who isn't there and no matter how good or bad their life is going you're both divorced from it and it can't really effect your own emotional tenor.

Gossip or talking about someone else is something you can both agree on. If they've died you can share sympathy. If they've won the lottery you can agree that they're a lucky bastard (and if you're in a Hitchcock film and one of you is an heir, decide upon the perfect murder). Sometimes this can artificially create the possibility of introducing something personal, slipping it in as a way of leavening things.

Some might say, under all these circumstances, with all that pressure, that the best conversations are the shortest.

"Hello, you ok?"
"Yeah fine. You?"

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