The most insincere question is “How are you?” Most people don’t want to hear anything other than “fine.” The only reason most people ask the questions is somewhere in polite society we were brainwashed that a conversation or letter is supposed to begin with “Hi, how are you?” Most people back away from people who constantly exaggerate and/or dwell on doom and gloom news, especially in Seniorville where almost everyone deals with something.
Years ago I learned not to ask certain of my relatives who are in fairly good health how they are feeling. Their answers can make the listener think the kvetch is within hours of impending doom. Some of these complainers will even give you a drip-by-drip report of their body fluids. Perhaps these folks feel the only way they will get and hold center stage is to have everyone think they are near death. I’ve discovered, truly ill people rarely complain. When I call people whom I know are fixated on finding something wrong with their daily health or making their problems sound worse than they are, I make it a point not to ask how they feel.
The other day friends and I were in the café in our clubhouse having lunch before our Bridge game. One of my friends smiled at an acquaintance of hers and politely asked that dangerous infamous question—the one that the only one who wants to know the real answer is your doctor—“How are you?”
Well, the lady—who looked fit enough to be on the cover of a Senior Glamour magazine— spent a full ten minutes giving what I call a “daily medical briefing”—you know like doctors do at news conferences in hospitals when an important person is sick. Yes, the women has physical problems, but far from fatal. Her husband has real problems, but somehow I feel he would probably be mortified if he knew how much his wife divulged about his bowl problems.
By the time my group headed for our bridge table to begin our afternoon of leisure we had all agreed that at our age many of us have serious, albeit not fatal problems we must deal with daily. However, we have to focus on the positive in our lives and not dwell or even talk about each ache and pain as if doom was waiting around the corner. We all also agreed that an update if one of our near and dear has real concerns is expected and accepted. Then without a word being said, one player dealt the cards—after putting her back brace on her chair—two other players put prescription drops in their eyes, and I took off my shoe so I could put my swollen foot, which was injected with cortisone that morning, on an ice pack.
The complainer, who was sitting at another table, stared at us. Never once did she come to our table to ask, “What’s the matter with you?” Sadly, life has taught me that the biggest complainers have no real interest in how others are feeling. They don’t like to share the spotlight, and if they find out what your ailment is, they rush to the nearest doctor to see if they have it also—or they already have it and spend half an hour telling you theirs is worse. I wonder if anyone ever read them The Boy Who Cried Wolf?