Some snappy answers for your stockpile

Following on from Amusing Answers to Clueless Questions. For when you get sick of answering the same questions over and over.

Q: How are you?
A: Well, I was born and I continue to exist. That’s how I am. What kind of a question is that?

Q: Can I try out your assistive device?
A: Sure, if you want the disability that comes with it.

Q: If you could have just one day of not being disabled, what would you do?
A: If you could have just one day of not being incredibly rude, what would you do with all the spare time?

Q: So what do you do all day then?
A: Be amazing.

Q: How does being disabled feel?
A1: Like pudding.
A2: How does it not feel?
A3: How does being abled feel?

By 24 January, 2010.    activism  , ,  



34 Comments

  1. Mmmm…pudding.

  2. Sorry, I don’t understand why “How are you?” is a clueless question. Is there a specific circumstance you’re referring to in which that question is annoying, or something that people mean when they ask “How are you?” that is offensive?

  3. I didn’t say it was clueless, that was the last lot! I put it in for those times when you don’t feel like answering questions, especially when the actual answer is private or unpleasant to speak of and you don’t feel like lying and saying ‘fine’ again and again. 🙂

  4. *chuckles*

    “How are you?” has got to be my least favourite question, (I never know *how* I am, I just *am*), and why do people want to know?
    Anyhoo, a guy I know always answers this with “None of your business!”
    Rude, but funny…

  5. I HATE being asked “How are you?” because invariably I have to lie, especially lately. I’m NOT “okay.” I’m not “fine” or “great.” I’m barely functioning. I’m excellent at concealing the fact that I cry daily, that I have a stomachache or I can’t feel my fingers because I’m anxious about something, that I would almost always rather be in bed. I hate that “how are you?” is a question we ask, as a pleasantry; I hate that I ask it when I pass an acquaintance on the street. Sometimes it’s totally a helpful and valid question, but otherwise it’s just something we say, a question we don’t have time to hear the answer to, one of a thousand little social rituals that require us to voluntarily erase or hide parts of our identities in order to fit in, to continue passing.

    Um… end rant? I like this post, Chally. I don’t think I’m generally courageous enough to use any of these responses, but even the thought can be comforting, you know?

  6. I’m actually planning a post on ‘how are you?’. 🙂

  7. I can’t even understand the “how are you” question. Being asked, it inevitably sets my mind spinning in circles for a while (I can’t keep that from happening) and that is very annoying and distracting and I’d rather have been doing something else with that time.

    I’d really like to answer it with some sort of “intercourse 101” answer, but I have “fine” scripted because it’ll get the whole thing over with fastest.

  8. One of my favorites is this:

    Q: Why do you have that cane?
    A: It’s good for whacking annoying people.

    I often hear people around me deciding I’m blind because I use a service dog. My favorite is when they describe Hudson as a ‘blind dog’, at which point I tend to cheerfully turn and say, “Nah, he sees just fine. So do I, for that matter, as long as I’ve got my glasses.”

    The assumption drives me nuts, which makes me puckish. It’s not my fault, really!

    ~Kali
    http://www.brilliantmindbrokenbody.wordpress.com

  9. When people ask me “How are you?” and I want to keep the mood light and change the subject then I always answer “Could be worse!” with a smile. If you’ve seen the movie Young Frankenstein then you’ll get the reference but even those who have not seen the movie can understand the concept.

    Like Chally said, sometimes I get tired of saying “Fine” when I’m definitely not fine but I don’t want to talk about why. Nothing wrong with someone asking me “How are you” but there’s also nothing wrong with me not directly answering the question. 😉

    And now I’m hungry for pudding.

  10. Oh, the pudding thing was Anna’s idea, not mine, I must point out. 🙂

  11. When most people ask me how I am, I usually reply “Fine,” in that snotty, I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-my-life-with-you-thank-you-very-much voice. It’s very, very rare that I speak in a snotty tone of voice — usually I’m fairly chirpy with small talk, and minorly animated otherwise. So I trust that people who have spent more than a moment’s time in my presence will get the hint.

    On the other side: I’ve also learned, at work, never to reciprocate when a client asks me how I am. I am there to help these people — but I can’t help as many people if I spend all my time listening to everybody’s life stories. “I’m alright, what is it you were needin’?” in a sweet friendly voice. A simple redirect often helps when it comes to these sorts of invasive-but-socially-acceptable questions. Establish the boundaries of the conversation. (I realize this isn’t always possible, especially for the neuroatypical with different social rules and for people with cognitive impairments, which get bad for me at times as well.) If a person continues to violate those boundaries, they deserve the derision that is going to be thrown at them shortly.

  12. Something that’s been annoying me the last couple weeks is that every time I pay for food in the school cafeteria, the cashier asks me how I am. I’m sure it’s probably required, and they don’t care, so I just say “okay” and go off.

    But when it’s somebody I know who’s not required to say it… I think “pudding” would work just as well! Depending on my mood, I’ll either “overshare” (well you asked!) or just say you don’t want to know. Or terrible. It’s quite surprising, because we don’t expect anything but “fine” then why do we ask that question?

    If I could have one day without pain, I’d probably do the same things I do every day, except not take pain meds. WTF? Oh, people with “real” disabilities dream about doing things they can never do and spend their time miserable because they’ll never climb Mt Everest! (And neither will most people, but it’s especially tragic because of your disability!) Do people seriously ask this? Part of dealing with my pain in a healthy manner is accepting it and not dwelling on what I can’t do, and I think that’s the same for most disabilities. I *can* do this this and this, so what if I can’t do that.

  13. Is there any reason, “Like pudding,” could not also be used as an answer to, “How are you?” At least for the days when, “Bleeding like a sacrificial goat” will not do? 😉

  14. Tori – I love having friends who are used to me being weird (not because of my pain, but because I’m just “weird”), so if I were to tell somebody tomorrow that I felt “like pudding,” they would probably nod and ask what flavor.

    I once told my mother I was “confusion”. (I meant confused and was quite tired, but some blame too many subtitles. I’m owning it.)

    Colorful metaphors are fun – throw out the goat thing, I throw out the descriptions of my pain all the time. How do you feel? Like I’m in an Iron Maiden, now what did you get for number 3?

  15. Perhaps…

    What do you do?
    At the moment, I’m figuring out what to do with a stupid question.

    Most of my socialization now occurs at work, so I haven’t been asked this question in a long time. But I faced it plenty before I moved here. People can’t stand the idea of not “doing” something. Well, let me revise: Middle-to-upper-class white abled folk can’t understand how someone could not “do” something, that is, have an established, high-status, high-ambition “career.” I don’t run in to a whole lot of questioning in groups with a greater proportion of lower-income folks (in my experience) about my job; they usually know that a job is a job, and if you don’t have one then you just don’t have one, and it doesn’t make your life empty. Not that lower-class circles don’t also have a value system that includes work-worship; some lower-income folk with whom I am acquainted just can’t see “not doing something” as anything other than pure apathy/laziness/slacking/freeloading/lack of ethic. But I usually read more of a value on subsisting, whereas in higher-class circles I read more of a value on status/definition.

    And, of course, it almost always leads to “I wish I could stay in bed/sit on the couch/watch TV all day!” Disability is not your sick day. When I was stuck in the house all day, I could not stop longing to get out and do something. I desperately wanted to be working a regular job, or learning something, just doing something outside the house. But I couldn’t. And yet most people interpreted my condition as being one of laziness and youthful irresponsibility, even knowing how deeply and passionately I longed to get outside and how much trouble I had with everyday tasks — they saw those two things and still somehow came out with “slacker kid.”

    Probably because are taught to distrust our perceptions and experience (see the end of this article). It is only if you think the pain and fatigue and external barriers don’t exist that you can interpret that condition as irresponsibility/lack of motivation. Especially when confronted with an excess of motivation!

    There’s no good way to respond to it that I’ve found. All I’ve ever been able to do is either sputter or say “Trade me, please, I want so badly to be able to work!” Which, of course, they don’t seem to hear at all. Sigh.
    .-= amandaw´s last blog ..Do you REALLY trust women? =-.

  16. After all three of my surgeries I’ve found it interesting that I can tell the difference between the people who ask “How are you?” as part of the standard social interchange and those who ask because they honestly want to know how I am. It has been an interesting insight into American culture. Someday I’ll have more to say about it.
    The answer I’m most likely to adopt? In response to “What do you do all day?” “Be amazing.” I like the assumption that what we do matters. Because it does.

  17. With “How are you?” I’ve been known to answer “Shitty thanks and you?” in a fairly cheery tone. Cheery for me anyway. Not meaning to be overtly snappish. Anyway it sometimes takes people a bit to process that what I’ve actually said wasn’t the usual “fine.”

    I don’t often bother though because then they want to know about all the ways I’m not fine and they get all sad and sympathetic and I have to deal with that and it’s tiring.

    Since I’m–at the moment–still working I have an answer to what do you do? But any time I talk about not working I get asked what will I do? Often this comes with “if you aren’t working won’t you go crazy?” Not implied either; it is overt. (Never mind that my worst mental health episodes have at least started while I was working and/or in school.)

    I have no plans for what I’ll do when I’m not working. I’m not planning to go back to school I’m not planning to write more I’m not planning anything. I’m just planning to fucking be sick and maybe get some goddamn rest which I haven’t done since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia ten years ago.
    .-= kaninchenzero´s last blog ..Out of Focus =-.

  18. “I’m just planning to fucking be sick and maybe get some goddamn rest”

    Yes! “What did you do over the break/when are you going to get a job?” There’s time for that later, right now I don’t have to work and I’m tired. And sore.

    We don’t seem to value how important it can be to just *STOP* and rest, that’s “lazy”. Especially in the US, where we can’t stop without endangering important things, like our health insurance.

  19. Chally, if you do that “How are you?” post, I will love you forever. I mean, you’re awesome anyway, but that would be, like, extra super duper extreme maxi ultra awesome. Because that question? That question the way it’s used in this culture bothers the shit out of me. I always want to come back with “Don’t fucking ask me a question you don’t want an honest answer to.” Because almost nobody does want an honest answer to it. It’s a formality, a “politeness,” that could just as well be replaced with a happy grunt.

    I usually tell the truth, and then deflect with a positive nonsequitur. “I’m shitty. But hey, new Playstation game.” “I feel like two tons of crap, but I’m reading this awesome book.” “Awful, but I’m working on this neat new project.”

    I like these answers better, though. Especially the pudding.

  20. After all my autism-spectrum efforts to learn the ‘correct’ answers (socially expected probably-lies) to small-talk questions, I always end up feeling a little hurt and baffled by things like this.

  21. I am totally going to say “Be Amazing!!” when my gyno asks me next month what I’m doing with myself (since I don’t have a job) or what I do all day (ditto), as she does every. single. time, even though my general answer is the absolute truth (“working on my master’s thesis”, which I don’t know why it doesn’t cut it, but it doesn’t, because she pushes me for more…). And I have to go to her every six months.

  22. *Laughs her arse off.* This is so hilarious indeed.

    @ Kali: I don’t really like that stuff about how canes are good for whacking people, cause I actually get that remark a lot from abled people, as in: “Oh, if so-and-so is annoying just hit them with your cane!” Maybe the next time I should reply “And what should I do with my cane if YOU are annoying?”

  23. I stopped lying when asked “How are you?” a few years ago. People don’t come around here as much as they used to…

    But the ones who do come around know that I’m not going to lie or hide it if I feel shitty just to make them more comfortable. Now I know who my real friends are.

    I expect an honest answer from them too. And if the answer is that they are having a bad day, (or their kids are disappointing them, or their pain is flaring, or their cat is sick, or whatever is making them less than fine) I offer whatever comfort and support I can. Then we try to do whatever it is we planned to do, but it comfort and support is more important, screw the schedule.

    (Obviously, there are times when all we’re doing is hanging out and talking about how we are, but other times we might actually have something planned, and I like to know if the person I’m with is experiencing any limitations.)

    The “what’s it like to be disabled?” question reminds me of all those people asking “what’s it like to be a twin?” (When I grew up, twins were considerably less common, or at least both twins surviving was less common.) I would always answer “I don’t know – what’s it like to be the product of a single birth?” That shut them up every time.

  24. All in all, I wouldn’t say that these responses would really be a very good way to endear yourself to people.

  25. Q: If you could have just one day of not being disabled, what would you do?
    A: If you could have just one day of not being incredibly rude, what would you do with all the spare time?

    Win.

    Another answer that I would love to give is “Probably get up and slap you.”

  26. I’m sorry that’s the case, Grafton. I guess if it’s not useful to you, it’s not useful to you. The ‘how are you’ post has something of an autism focus and you may find that better.

    If only that were the aim, Patrick.

    Can everyone refrain from references to violence in this thread, please?

  27. @Chally: Sure thing. My apologies.

  28. I understand that it’s not, but, at the same time, is angering people the goal? I think “How are you?” is overused and under-considered, but I don’t think it’s hostile.

  29. I don’t think it’s hostile, either. Whether it angers someone or not is besides the point of, you know, all the things everyone has said in this thread.

  30. I like the pudding one.

    Patrick, I honestly don’t care whether I am endearing myself to complete strangers.

  31. I’ve found a never-fail response: it’s accurate, it sends a message to those who would hear it, and it’s short.

    How are you?
    I’m breathing.

  32. Chally, while I obviously don’t know for sure what Grafton meant, I suspect that ze was referring to the difficulties which autistic people typically have with various social niceties. Many of us have learned from experience that people get mad at us or think we’re rude when we don’t ask them how they are. “Scripting” is a compensatory mechanism that many of use, quite consciously, in order to say the “right” things. This is the basic script most of us learn:

    Person A: How are you?
    Person B: I’m fine/good/etc.

    For most autistic people it takes conscious effort to initiate this script or to respond to the question in an “appropriate” manner. So it can be quite confusing for us to find out that some people don’t like to be asked this question. While I definitely understand the legitimate irritations which many commentators are discussing, I do also think that it’s worth pointing out that some PWD don’t understand a lot of social protocols in the “typical” way, and hence can be confused about these kinds of conversations.

  33. That’s what I thought Grafton was referring to also, Sarah. Thank you. 🙂

  34. My favourite is when strangers or acquaintances ask the ‘how do you do x’ question, usually, how do you use a computer, how do you find your way around, how do you manage to colour co-ordinate your clothes so well, I understand that they’re just being interested and I usually try to answer politely and change the subject, but while it might have been the first time they’ve had chance to ask a visually impaired person these questions, it’s about the thousandth time I’ve had to answer them so patience wears very thin! I don’t go round asking sighted people how they do (insert daily activity here) because, as well as being not that interested (their own business after all) I think they’d have genuine trouble answering since being sighted is considered as the default ‘normal’ setting’ and because there’s is the dominant experience it’s unlikely they’d have given much thought to how they negotiate the world with sight, they just do, just like I don’t spend much time brooding over being blind, every time I go to the shops or hand in an essay or cross a road I’m not thinking about how amazing it is that I’m managing to do it, just getting on with it in my way.

    On the how are you debate, most of the time it’s an automatic thing for me, always answered with ‘fine’, I’ve never really thought about it, but when my dad and I ask each other the question we always mean it, probably because we’re asking about each other’s various aches and pains and that’s understood, we’re never asking it out of politeness, funny how a question can mean such different things in different contexts.