Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Tentative Interrogative

I've talked in the past about how I've been guilty of manipulating people and controlling the conversation. The conscious choice I've made to leave that behind has made me a happier person overall, but there's still one aspect that I've had a very hard time leaving behind. Every time the situation arises, I have to leash back the sentence that's about to charge out of my mouth.

And that sentence is, "What are you doing tonight?"

It sounds like a perfectly reasonable sentence. But often when someone asks me that, I feel like I'm being led into a sort of trap. What am I doing? Well, nothing really. Good, then can I please possibly do this or that?

From the other side, I'm willing to admit that it's riskier to state what I want in my question. It gives all the yea/nay power to the other person -- a fact which is an incredible display of vulnerability. And I have to say that modern society hasn't made it very attractive to be vulnerable, because it looks a lot like weakness to the cynical eye.

But I make the conscious choice to frame my questions that way (with front-loaded info), because it is the way *I* would like to be asked. It annoys me when someone says, "Hey, what are you doing on Friday?" when it's transparently obvious that they already have the follow-up "actual reason" poised for delivery.

It's even more awkward because if I do happen to be busy during the suggested window; then the gloomy silence takes over the conversation.

Them: "Hey, are you free on Saturday?"
Doctor Andy: "No, I'm going to be out of town."
Them: <with a mournful head tilt and eyes sweeping downwards> "Oh."
An awkward silence follows.
Doctor Andy: "Why?"
Them: "Oh... no reason."

I've even had people do it with gigs.

Them: "What are you doing eight weeks from last Friday at 7pm?"
Doctor Andy: "Uhhh... nothing, maybe?"
Them: "Then you're on board to play a wedding across the state for $10?"
Doctor Andy: "No."
Them: "But you just said you weren't busy!"
Doctor Andy: "I just this moment remembered that I will be busy shaking my head. It will probably take all evening."

It's just terribly transparent. Why else would anyone ask, unless they had something in mind? Out with it!

Them: "So…….are you doing anything tomorrow?"
Doctor Andy: "OBJECTION, your honor! Leading the witness."
Them: "Err...what?"
Judge: <from nearby park bench> "Sustained."
Them: "Hey!"

I do admit that I've used it in the past, especially with people I have a romantic interest in. I was lacking in a certain kind of confidence, convinced that there wasn't really a good reason for a woman to ever say anything remotely approaching an affirmation to any offer I could make.

And so the passive question was a way to suss out whether or not I even had the basic opportunity to move forward. If the answer was, "I'm going to be in Borneo," then I had successfully determined that I didn't need to tip my hand and ask the more personal question. I also wouldn't need to have the almost-inevitable disappointment of having someone I was interested in actively turn me down to my face.

Doctor Andy: "Umm... what are you doing next Saturday?"
Nice Lady: “I don't think there's anything going on…”
Doctor Andy: "Then you're free to go out to dinner with the best guy around!"
NL: "Well, sure, I suppose..."
Doctor Andy: "It.. it's me. I was describing me."
NL: "Turns out I'm washing my hair."
Doctor Andy: "What? All day?"
NL: "I have complicated hair."

Now I put everything up front, because there's no point in hiding the fact that I have a particular design in mind. I feel like I'm respecting the person and the person's time by giving them all the "conditions" up front. They are then free to respond in any way they care to, whether that be with a quickly-crafted white lie to preserve the social niceties, or with the actual reason why they are otherwise engaged.

Doctor Andy: "It'd be really nice if we could go to dinner. How does next Thursday sound?"
Beautiful Lady: "I really appreciate that you let me know what you planned first thing. That's so refreshing. And I’m deeply flattered that you’re interested in me."
Doctor Andy: "So, seven o'clock then?"
Beautiful Lady: "Complicated. Hair."
Doctor Andy: "Damn it!"

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