Sunday, December 8, 2019
what do you do? more stories of connecting with others
a common question when meeting someone at a party is "what do you do?"
This ranks right down there with strangers who pass you on the street and ask
"how are you?" in a cheerful voice as they continue walking.
what do people really want to know?
will I pass or fail depending on my answer?
why is it so tiresome to me to deal with little social amenities like asking after my well being while not caring about it?
Try telling someone the true sorry tale of how you "are" and watch as they squirm, start to look away or worse, at their watch or phone. It's not comfortable.
Back to the question of "doing"
I realize most people ask this because they don't know what else to say to connect to you, or they think by knowing your occupation, they know who you are.
For example (I worked in a school for a while...)
They may even decide right then and there that your job of say, teaching, means you are intelligent since you need a degree from university, but that you settle for a lower paying job so maybe you're not their kind of go-getter.
Or they may look up to you since they were not financially able to go to uni. They may hate you since they never did well in school, or their disgusting uncle john was a teacher and they hated him. They may see you as a sounding board for their platform on education reform, or increasingly in today's political atmosphere, a drain on taxes since they don't truly believe in education. (don't get me started) (they don't even teach how to write nowadays)
Anyway, your answer will cause a reaction of sorts, quickly followed by judgement of your entire life.
What if we were prepared with an answer to the question, what do you do...
...when you have free time
...for a hobby
...when confronted with bullying
...to sleep better at night
...with your savings
...to find peace inside
What if you answer, tongue in cheek, to the question: "what do you do (implied, for a living)" with, I sit around watching mindless tv and doing sudoku puzzles while ignoring what my spouse is saying.
what fun to see that reaction!
There may follow an uncomfortable silence, looking at a watch or around the room, and moving on to someone who knows how to play the surface game of get- to- know- you.
As a young woman, I used to answer the question with, "I'm a dancer on Broadway, but now it's off-off-OFF Broadway, and then I smiled.
Only the very interesting people hung around after that...
After all, how boring to say, I'm a social worker, dealing with abuse and neglect cases. I knew no one wanted to admit that happens in real life so, they put me in a box with other do-gooders who made little money. They made an assumption about who I was, and that was that.
There was so much more to me...
I was a social worker, by day, and by night I danced off-off-OFF Broadway in shows, and volunteered for charity events, I was an artist who painted and quilted, I loved my dog and walked miles a day, I made crepes for dinner on my electric crepe maker, I read books and thought great thoughts, and wanted more from life. I strove to be honest and the best person I could be.
what do you do?
better question at a party, what do you want to do but haven't yet?
so my suggestion is to stop asking questions you don't want the answers to.... and start conversations that really bring about connecting with someone you just might really like.
a quick story... dh and I had just left an embassy hop in DC where we watched a tango trio play in the Argentine embassy. We stopped at Dupont circle and sat on a bench to watch people at play.
A group of three tall young men sidled up to our bench, pants drooping down thin waists, dark skinned with frowns on their faces. We are middle aged light skinned professional people on the surface.
On the surface, this was a chance to be real with another person.
I turned to the one who sat closely to me, and smiled, and said something. Now, I can't remember what, but somehow the two of us ended up talking about writing the great American novel.
He admired a certain author, and wanted to write like that, and this young man wrote every night at his kitchen table after work. I didn't ask what job he did. I said I too wrote at the kitchen table, and wanted to write a novel.
We watched the kids splashing in the fountain, men playing chess at concrete tables, and couples making out on the grass.
His friends walked off. He and I had a wonderful conversation and it changed me. I often wonder if he remembers the moment when two people who seemed to have little in common, talked excitedly about shared goals? I remember it well.