Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why do we continue to ask rhetorical questions?

I work in an office building that contains roughly 1,300 people who work for the same company. If I had to make a rough guess, I'd say I know approximately 200 of them by name. On any given day, I have the following conversation at least twice a day as I'm passing someone in the hallway:

Them: Hi, there. How are you?
Me: I'm good. And you?
Them: Oh, I'm good.

Or, because I'm always in such a hurry and am walking so freakin' fast, it often goes really more like this:

Me: (offering a dismissing wave because I know I'm about to blow by them in a flurry)
Them: Hi, how are you?
Me: Good...(followed by a pang of guilt because I realize that I haven't asked them the same in return)

Then again, should I really feel sorry about this? I mean, are these conversations really valuable to anyone involved? Does it benefit anyone to volley the same rhetorical questions back and forth when neither party really (honestly) cares about the answer? I'm not sure people even listen to the question sometimes, much less care about the answer they give/receive.

My favorite is always the dialogue that ensues as I'm leaving a grocery store check-out line (and not thoroughly listening to what the cashier is saying to me):

Me (gathering my bags): Thank you!
Cashier: Thank you, ma'am. You come back to see us.
Me: You too! (then to myself) Dang it! She said 'come back'! I was totally expecting 'have a nice evening'! OMG, I'm so stupid...of COURSE she's coming back...she WORKS HERE!

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I don't care about people. It's not at all uncommon for me to strike up a conversation with someone in a 1.) waiting room, 2.) elevator, 3.) checkout line. I LOVE talking to people, asking them questions, learning about people, etc. I'm just not much for the fake-friendly encounters every time I run into someone. I mean, what if I'm in a bad mood, and am making a desperate run for coffee before the cafeteria closes at 10:00 a.m.? What if I'm headed out of the office for a week's vacation and can't. get. outta. here. fast. enough?!?!?!

I often find myself wondering if the people I pass in the hallway at work ever 1.) notice that I cut my conversations with them short, or 2.) even care. It's not that I don't have friends at work or WANT to have friends at work. I DO! It's just that I don't enjoy FAKING these relationships.

There should probably be some ground rules/expectations for office interaction. How about this...? If I've never seen you before (entirely possible with such a large company), you get the half-smile and then look-away. If I know who you are, but am not sure you know who I am, you get a smile/wave. If I know you by name, you get a "Hi, so-and-so." That's it. If I know you fairly well, but don't see you often, you get a "Hey, so-and-so. What's been going on?" At this level, I will slow down to get an update on anything that you're willing to share with me about any recent developments in your life. If I know you better, you'll probably get a "So, how's ___(fill in the blank with any non-work related activity we've discussed before or some work-related situation I know you're dealing with)___ going for you?" If we're good friends, I'll probably stop and carry on a conversation for a while. Are these criteria too unreasonable?!?! I dont' think so!!!!

That being said, I'm still not sure if I can pass someone I know in the hall, say 'hello', and not immediately follow it up with a 'how are you?'. It may be innately impossible for me. I am, after all, 1.) Southern, 2.) my mother's daughter, and 3.) a struggling, borderline extrovert. However, I shall try.

In the situations where I really don't have anything to discuss with unknown passers by, or the cases where I'm literally just walking so fast that, by the time I could get around to returning the favor and asking how someone's doing, I would be having to literally walk backwards and talk to their rear end...I think I'll just maintain my forward motion, offer a smile, maybe a wave, and at the very least a nod. If they ask how I am, I'll proably just say "good." I hope no one takes it personally. It's not a lack of concern or care or consideration. It's just my refusal to be fake and continue in the rhetorical nonsense.

On the same token, don't be surprised if I stop you and ask how your kids/new job/favorite team/etc. are these days. I promise I do care.

Q: Why do we continue to ask rhetorical questions?

A: Fine. How are you?

Monday, July 12, 2010

What makes someone a good wife?

I would like to begin by emphasizing the fact that I am FAR from being an expert on this topic. Most days I feel like a complete and total failure as a wife. Then again, sometimes I'll finally start to think that maybe I've gotten it right...only to come crashing back down to reality when I go to fold a pair of David's khakis only to realize that they're still missing the button that he asked me to sew back on YEARS AGO!

So what exactly are the criteria?

My first source would of course be the Bible. Ephesians Chapter 5 tells us to respect our husbands and to submit to them, as to the Lord. Proverbs 31 give us another outline. In regards to the literal comparison, I have yet to consider a field and buy it, to plant a vineyard, to clothe my chidren in scarlet and myself in fine linen and purple, and what on EARTH is a distaff?! By analogy, I get that a good wife is hard-working, diligent, prudent, virtuous, selfless, etc.

But what does that mean in today's terms?! THIS is what I'm constantly trying to figure out.

Just for context...David and I have been working like crazy the past few weeks, getting our rental property ready for new tenants. We've been leaving our real jobs every day only to go straight to our townhouse to work several MORE hours, just to come home in time for bed...or sometimes even go upstairs at the townhouse and crash on an air mattress!

Tonight I came home early to wash, not only the pile of dirty clothes we'd accumulated at the townhouse, but also the mounds of laundry we have at our own house! While doing my tidying up, I went to unload the dishwasher. What I found there disturbed me to my core. I began putting away drinking glasses, a few salad bowls, some cookie sheets and a baking pan (where I cooked some treats to take to Mississippi for our July 4th weekend with his family), two pans where I cooked myself a meal while he was out of town for work. That's when it occurred to me...

I have not cooked dinner for my husband THIS ENTIRE MONTH!!!!!!!!!

Granted, I HAVE painted, installed tile, used power tools, and done lots of other things that a lot of wives probably wouldn't do...but still...what's most important?!

Is it keeping your mouth shut and just smiling and nodding at everything your spouse does or says?

Is it working hard at your career and contributing to the family finances?

Is it staying home to care for your children and your household?

Is it waiting on your husband hand and foot and dropping everything whenever he calls, in order to entertain his every whim?

Is it working alongside him to meet a common goal, even if that means neglecting other duties that might typically be considered your wifely duties?

Or is it something else entirely?

Well, my husband just called. He's on his way home. I still feel guilty for skipping out on the project early tonight. But I've washed several loads of clothes (something he often does), folded several more, unloaded the dishwasher, straightened up the house, all while catching up on my reality TV (just being honest!). The good news is that I'll be ready to focus on him when he arrives.

Q: What makes someone a good wife?
A: When my husband gets home, I'll ask him.