The other morning, a co-worker walked down the hallway toward her desk and then, as an afterthought, popped her head around the separator of my cube.
“How are you today?” she asked.
She’s new; she still hasn’t learned that if a person asks me that question, he or she should expect to actually hear how I’m doing.
One time I told my dad that I wasn’t doing all that well, thank you very much, because I had gotten a part of my flappy labia caught in a tampon applicator and not only had it hurt, but could he please tell me why I had to be one of the few women God chose to bless with a flappy labia and chin whiskers? If God had wanted me to be a boy, I asked my dad, then why hadn’t He just made me into a boy? Then I narrowed my eyes and said, “Did you and Mom try to do some kind of gender selection shit and order a boy but something went terribly wrong somewhere in the petri dish and I just came out like this?”
My dad had recoiled with a huge harrumph. “For shit’s sake, Shay!” he’d exclaimed. “Trust me, if your mother and I had filled out a questionnaire with all of the qualities we’d wanted in a child, you definitely wouldn’t have been what popped out. And gruugh” (it’s the best word I know to describe the noise he made) “nobody wants to hear all that shit you just told me!”
“Well, you asked!” I retorted.
“I did not ask about your…I did NOT ask for specifics. I just asked how your weekend was going." He took a deep breath and shook his head, averting his eyes as he muttered, “Where did I go wrong?”
He rarely asks how I’m doing anymore.
But this co-worker…like I said, she’s new. She didn’t know yet.
So I sat there, a range of emotions playing on my face, I’m sure, while in my brain, civility tried to beat out oversharing.
She doesn’t really want to know, Shay. She’s just trying to engage in polite, day-to-day conversation the way normal people do—
“That bad, huh?” she laughed.
I shook my head, clearing it of inner dialogue. “Oh, no, not at all. It’s just that I was trying to decide if you really wanted to hear how I was doing or if you were just trying to be polite.”
Well, what could she say to that?
“Of course I want to hear!” she said, even if she didn’t actually want to hear. But it was all the green light that I needed.
“Well, I’ve been in kind of a pissy mood,” I began, “because I’ve gained like 8 pounds over the past few weeks, and I can’t figure out why. I’m doing everything right—eating my fucking vegetables, working out, getting enough sleep…
“…the only thing I can think of,” I continued, “is that maybe my husband didn’t pull out fast enough during one of the nights we had a bunch of drinks and then had sex. He’s had a vasectomy, but sometimes we still practice the old pull-and-pray just in case…and maybe his timing was a bit delayed because of the drinks. I tell you what, I’ve been so damn hungry and grumpy and fat lately that I’d swear I was pregnant. And if I am, I’m going to march myself to that vasectomy doctor’s office and demand a fucking refund—after I threaten to leave the baby on his door step.
“Not since I was 20 years old and a slut have I been this worried about being pregnant. I’m 40 and really happy with how easy my life has become with a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old. Those little a-holes basically raise themselves anymore.
"I tell you what, though—and here’s a tangent—it’s not as bad as in college when I used to wake up with the night sweats—I mean, so much sweat that my sheets were wet and stank of perspiration—and worry that I had contracted AIDS from one of my random hookups. When I asked my dad for his thoughts on the matter, though, he said, ‘You don’t have AIDS, dumbass. You’re sweating out the case of beer you and Leigh drink every night.’”
I paused for a moment and looked up.
And to her credit—oh my gosh, to her immense credit—my new co-worker threw back her head and burst into hysterical laughter. “I am SO GLAD I asked!” she roared. “You have just made my morning!”
As she walked away, chuckling all the way through the office, I caught myself smiling. Some people can handle me like a champ and the new girl? She’s one of them.
She’d made my morning, too.
(By the way, I’m not pregnant and I’ve lost 3 of the 8 pounds I’d gained. But I still have the flappy labia and chin whiskers. Maybe if I make an appointment to get a labia reduction, I’ll lose that last five pounds…?)