Sunday, July 25, 2010

Don't ask, don't tell

I realized the other day that I don't ask people a lot of questions. It's not that I'm not curious - the questions exist inside me - but rather, that I do not want to intrude.

Or maybe, that I am too shy to assume that my interest would be welcome. I mean, is there anything worse then someone you don't really care for, and would like to avoid, asking you a bunch of probing questions? (Any girl who has been to a bar can answer that.)

And that maybe, just maybe, I don't want to know the answers. I won't know what to do with the information. How to respond. Perhaps I am content with the not knowing, because my imagination serves me just fine, or because the truth hurts........I'm not sure. What I do know is that sometimes people ask questions and are complete unprepared for the response. And I don't want to be that guy.

Is it the respondants responsiblity to cushion the blow when providing an answer that might make people uncomfortable? To make the questioner feel less awkward? To try to make light of a situation that is clearly.................not? When I am asked a question, and I know the answer is not at all what is expected, I always hesitate. Consider glossing over the details. Coming up with something clever to deflect the question, and hope it doesn't come around again.

Because some of my answers are doozies. I'm not gonna lie to you. I can make you regret that you EVER ASKED.

Even the most innocent, innocuous questions can open up a whole well of emotion - sometimes good, sometimes awful. From "Where did you get that shirt?" to "How did you get that scar?" the answers range from soft sweet memories to harrowing tales of injury and heartbreak. (And surprisingly, in my personal experience, the tales of injury and heartbreak are connected to the t-shirt. The scar is kind of a funny story.)

When I was younger, and first tending bar, I wanted to know everything about everyone. I would sit on the back bar, with my cowboy boots propped on the beer cooler, smoking a cigarette (so clearly, it was a million years ago when people could still smoke in bars) and getting as good as I got. You had a question? I was gonna answer it, and then ask a few of my own. I was innocent. Didn't realize that the answers can be harder to accept than not knowing. Than being left to wonder.

Because if you ask, and get the answer, you now have information. You are responsible for it. You carry it with you. Forever.

And I just don't need any more baggage, I guess. But I still wear my boots behind the bar sometimes. To help me remember the days when I was innocent, and worries were few.


Liz C. said...

Ahh, a New Englander still. I knew you couldn't escape it.

becca said...

i don't ask questions either. I don't like to intrude.