The four questions I hate being asked

There’s a famous question for barristers to ask in cross-examination, to which there is supposedly no credible answer:  “When did you stop beating your wife?”

I remembered that question when my friend Lynn asked me, towards the end of her epic Italian dinner party, “What will you have, a limoncello or a sticky?”  I could think of no credible response but to answer with another question: “Can I have both?”

There are other questions, though, which I have tired of people asking me, and which I have been wishing they would keep to themselves.  Like these:

“What do you do?“  When I say, “I’m retired,” the usual answer is, “You’re too young to retire.”  What I reckon many of the questioners are actually thinking is, “He’s probably been made redundant and just doesn’t want to say.”

“How old are you?”  I invariably round up to my next birthday, in the mostly vain hope that it will forestall the “You’re too young to be retired” response.  Maybe I should try lying outright and add five years, and hope that they will then have to say, “Gee, you’re doing well for your age.”

“Where did you go to school?”  I immediately get self-righteous and defensive, because there is a good chance that “James Cook Boys High School Kogarah” is the wrong answer.  People who ask that question are generally in a club of which I am not a member.  You would think I would be over that by now, it being 41 years since I left school.  Old resentments apparently die hard.

“What do you do to fill in your time [sub-text: in your alleged retirement] living in the mountains?”  Well, probably much the same as you do except without the traffic and the humidity.  I am not sure what would drive the underlying assumption that I live in some Appalachian backwater where boredom must be inevitable.

I chafe under the questioning.  Then again, I have to admit the truth of my wife Brigitte’s theory that the more questions you ask, the more likely it is that you will reduce the degrees of separation between yourself and the person you are talking to.  She is an expert at finding connections with near or complete strangers in a short time.

Bugger.  When I looked back over this post, I noticed that rather than being a witty expose of other people’s foibles, it might be demonstrating that I am just becoming a grumpy (not that old, okay?) man.  I would probably do better to treat those damn questions as genuine efforts to engage, and instead respond positively and helpfully.

Which is not at all what I wanted this post to conclude, but when you try and make sense of your life on the page, I guess you have to up for whatever emerges.

david white

    • Dee
    • October 13th, 2012

    Umm….everyone gets asked these questions at some point in the calender year. Its usually because of politeness or smalltalk conversation. Imagine that,who wouldv’e thought?! and some ppl might actually be genuinely interested!! Being “tired” of these questions does display a trifle churlishness maybe? Oh well, you are an official “GOM” tomorrow so go crazy!! (grump old man).

  1. You still made me smile though Dave White 🙂 Just what I need on a Friday Arvo!

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