On the Superficial Nature of Caring

November 12, 2009
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It is six thirty in the morning and I’m sitting at the breakfast table, eating a piece of toast and reading a Calvin and Hobbes comic book with, when my mom walks in.
“Good morning Becca,” she says, pouring herself a mug of tea, “How are you?”
There it is. “How are you?” I wonder what she expected my answer to be. Of course I replied, “I’m fine,” but I, in fact, was not fine. The honest answer to her redundant question was “I’m tired, hungry, and I need to use the bathroom. I’m sick of getting up at six in the morning and I have terrible morning breath.”
Now, obviously, my truthful answer sounded a bit rude, but how else could I convey her how I am without telling her that I’m fine? My reply had about as much meaning as her question, and the sad thing is, this is a routine interaction with almost all people. We essentially lie to eachother, saying how fine we are, because every time the question “how are you” is asked, it is without sincerity, so it is answered with such.
The inquiry is so overused that if someone were to ask it genuinely, it would still receive an answer of simply “I’m fine.” Asking the nature of someone’s emotional state is, in fact, very personal. A connection between the inquirer and the person of question is made if the questioned individual answers honestly. The reveling of one’s state of mind and feelings is a confidential and large responsibility. It endows the person who is confided in with a trust, even if a small amount.
I often think back on my interactions with people and I realize the extent of my use of the routine question. I, in part, have helped society strip any personal meaning from the intimate question of “How are you?”

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