I’m NOT Fine ~Death to Small Talk

death to small talk
Copyright : Peter Bernik

I’m in a great mood right now. Surprising, huh? I usually write when I’m depressed, pissed off or at least lethargic. Never fear, because the other day, I wasn’t in a great mood. I was in a horrible mood, but necessity dictated I go out into the world, so I did.

As I went, I was determined not to tell people I felt “fine.” I’ve gone out with this decree in my head before. When people ask, “How’s it going today?” I think, I’ll tell it like it is. Though I fantasize about responding with, “shitty, actually,” I know I’m not confrontational enough to pull it off; I hate making people uncomfortable. But I figured  I could say, “Not great,” or at the very least, “Meh.”

It turns out, it is a physical impossibility for anything other than “fine” to escape my lips. The clerk at the grocery store asked how I was, and I said, “fine.” I didn’t even realize it until thirty seconds later:

Wait, did she ask me how I was? Did I say “fine?” Crap, I did. Damnit!

It’s like breathing. I don’t think about saying “fine,” it just happens; I’m barely aware of it coming out of my mouth. Bottom line is, people use it as a greeting and aren’t actually interested in how you are (unless you are indeed “fine” or “great” or “fabulous.”)

The thing is, though, what are they going to say when I give less than, “Gosh, gee, ain’t it great to be alive?” They will probably…

A. Be sorry they asked.

B. Ask what’s wrong even though they don’t want to know.

C. Be baffled when I shrug my shoulders and say, “Just one of those days, I guess.”

I’d like to be honest about my feelings when people ask, even if it’s a stranger. I don’t want to pour my heart out to them; that’s part of the reason for the knee-jerk “fine.” I just want to be able to use an adjective that actually applies to my mood and/or day. In my ideal world, where everyone admits they’re not “fine” all the time, it would go something like this:

Stranger: How are you today?

Me: Not great, actually.

Stranger: Oh yeah? I’m sorry you’re having a bad day.

Me: Meh. It happens. How are you?

So here’s the question: Have you ever answered “How are you?” with something other than the expected positive affirmation when talking to a stranger? How did it go?


7 thoughts on “I’m NOT Fine ~Death to Small Talk

  1. Yes, sometimes I do! If I’m not fine, I’ll go with something like “It’s been kind of a rough day!” and they do usually say “Oh, I’m sorry!” and then we smile at each other, because we are still making it through regardless.

    Now if I’m feeling spectacular, then I’ll say “I’m good! How are you?” because that’s how I casually roll. They will almost invariably reply “I’m well, thank you.” Which I take as an attempt to subtly correct my grammar, and then I am no longer quite so “good.” 😂

    You know, there is a “D”. I ask how you are and I really want to know, so give me details I can sympathize about!


    1. That’s good to know. Maybe I can be honest with a “not great today,” and just be able to leave it at that (unless it’s someone I know well enough to vent to). Thanks, Kristi.


  2. To a “how are you”, I once told a grocery clerk, “terrible, thanks for asking” (the name of a podcast I listen to). He was very solicitous asking me what’s up. I just said it’s complicated, sighed, and left it at that. He shook his head in understanding. Little did I know while we were chatting he had his coworker get me a bunch of flowers. It didn’t change the shitty things I was dealing with, but it did cheer me up when I looked at them. It certainly was not the response I was expecting. I had determined I was not gonna use the standard “fine” all the time and see what happened. Not bad for a first! I do have to admit I haven’t used that phrase since even if it was applicable.

    Liked by 1 person

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