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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Stumped (which I used as my entry in that contest)

After many years of encountering the same question, you’d think I would have found an answer.  Even if the question were, say, “what is the gravitational pull of a black hole?”, if I were asked it a few times each week by various people, I’d probably come up with the answer.  That way I could be prepared to answer it, since it established itself as a question I’d be asked regularly.  However, I am regularly asked a specific question, and have been for years, and I have yet to figure out an appropriate and accurate answer.  

The question is, “What’s up?”, and the answers of “the ceiling”, “the sky”, and “the pollen count”, as well as “not your zipper” tend to alienate me from the asker by varying degrees.  I have a hard enough time connecting as is, without saying things that trial and error have proven as off-putting.  I’ve also tried to ignore that it’s a question, and treat it like “how do you do?”, which is only answered with an echo.  This, however, doesn’t seem to be an appropriate response either.  

The best I’ve come up with so far is a combination shrug/half smile and a verbal “Not much.  How are you?”.  I know I ought to instead say “What’s up?” or “What’s up with you?”, but I can’t get the inflection right.  I always sound like I’m asking the more aggressive “What’s up?” or “What’s up with you?”, which comes across as “What’s your problem?” than an interest in the other’s life.  The main problem with “not much” as an appropriate and accurate answer (besides the aggressive or inconsistent follow up question), is that I sound like an incredibly lame and boring person.  

Somebody I haven’t seen too recently asks, “What’s up?”, and rather than being able to say, “Great! I had an awesome trip to the coast last weekend - we went to 3 different beaches!  How are you?  What have you been up to lately?”, I simply say, “I don’t do anything exciting, and there’s nothing in my life worth telling you about.  Please feel free to quit talking to me now.  I’ll just bore you to tears.”

If you have a better answer, let me know (and I’ll steal it and pretend I’m cool enough to use it).


  1. I have two standard methods of responding.

    1. For friends who are actually asking an honest question, I give an honest answer.

    2. For random people who are using it as a greeting of some sorts, I try to come up with the most random and bizarre response possible. The majority of the time it doesn't even make sense - and then I pretend that it was totally normal. It confuses the heck out of them and shortens the conversation with someone that I wasn't really interested in talking to anyway. IRL, it plays out something like this:
    Random thumb-sucker: "What's up?"
    Me: (with straight face and matter of fact tone) "Goat cheese." pause "You do anything fun last weekend?"
    They'll be so busy trying to figure out why that makes sense that they haven't noticed that you went to go do something else.

  2. Awesome!!! I'll have to keep this in mind...!!!