Back when I was in college, I worked in an office on-campus. One summer afternoon, just before the Fall semester of my sophomore year was to start, this absolutely beautiful girl walked in. Long blond hair, freckled cheeks, a brilliant smile, and an incredible body. I’m pretty sure I made sense when I responded to her question, but I wouldn’t be surprised if gibberish came out of my mouth.
I, of course, was the Gutless Wonder at the time. Incapable around the fairer sex, and most certainly lacking any courage to ask such a creature out. But, a guy can dream, right?
Fast forward a year and it turned out she was in the same major as me and we had a class or two together. And, this strange thing happened. We started dating. For a few months, anyway. The problem was, however, that I was still the Gutless Wonder. Incredibly immature and inexperienced in the ways of dating and love and beautiful creatures. That was me. I hadn’t a clue.
And, one day, I can still picture this in my head, we’re making out on her sofa and during a pause she looks at me and asks, “what are you thinking?” Inside my head, a big massive WARNING sign went off. There were explosions and great damage done to my gray matter. Yes, the scars remain. Whatever I said in those next few moments would change the direction of history. And, what I knew above all else was that I simply could not and would not tell her what I was actually thinking at that very moment. I couldn’t possibly tell her that I was trying to figure out how to take our make out session further. That I wanted to engage in the naked pretzel more than anything I had ever wanted to do, but I had no idea how to go about doing it because … see above. I was immature and inexperienced and above all CLUELESS AND GUTLESS!!!
So, I mumbled something that has been lost to history and our dating gradually returned to being friends until she went her way and I went mine a couple of years later. Her reason I think stemmed from my inability to answer that question, to open myself up to her and tell her how I really felt. (Side note: I absolutely do not have this problem anymore. Communication and openness and sharing feelings and thoughts are the most fundamental aspects of human relationships and how to make them work. So, you know, ask me anything and you’re likely to get an answer.)
But, I still hate that question as some current friends know who have asked it of me recently. There’s just something about the way it’s phrased that just seems so … so … intrusive. It just gets to something that just absolutely opens me up, bares my soul, and is just so difficult to answer most of the times its asked. Ask me anything else, just not that. Which is really odd because I’ll pretty much answer just about any question. I will reveal my deepest, darkest secrets and tell you how I feel about you, about me, about life, and death. About just anything. Just don’t ask me that way.
“What are you thinking?” is not, however, my least favorite question. No. It has been replaced with “Why?” and its dark cousin “Why not?” There are two forms of these questions. There are the innocent versions like “why is the sky blue?” or “why do dogs bark and cats meow?” You know, the kinds of questions designed to gather information about interesting things.
And then, there is the darker version. The one that is a challenge. As in, you’re having a conversation with a family member and they say you should do something because it’s what they would do and you say you don’t want to and they challenge you with “why not?” Like any fool would do it their way and you must explain and justify your different perspective. BECAUSE! Or, how about you tell a family member that you’re going somewhere later in the day, or doing something, or maybe just picking the lint from your navel and their response is “why?” Never, hey that sounds like fun, I’d like to join you. Or, but what about this – I thought we could do it together. Now, instead, it’s just the challenge of why – why would you do that then?
Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the family dynamic, but every time I say something and I’m met with a “why?” or “why not?” it feels like a challenge to me – to explain myself, to defend myself for my decisions that are more and more often these days contrary to the decisions the rest of my family makes. And that’s what this is really about – the ever expanding differences between me and the three. And, it absolutely drives me crazy.