If I could ask

I know that in normal social interaction people don’t ask each other these kinds of questions. Most people rely on other folks reading social cues accurately instead. Not all of us are that great at reading social cues — and sometimes I wish I could just ask, and trust the answers, so that I could just know, and base my decisions and actions on real knowledge instead of fuzzy guesswork.

Here’s a question I would ask if it were permissible. If you feel okay about answering honestly, without being offended, it would be useful information for me. I’m looking for useful information, not fishing for reassurance. You can select as many answers as apply.

Edited to add: I didn’t really post this looking for people to reply (But don’t let that stop you if you want to reply!). It’s more about being honest about my difficulty with social cues and wishing I could magically know how things are without having to rely on social cues. I don’t want to burn bridges by interpreting simple busyness or whatever as dislike, but I also don’t want to bother people by continuing to pursue them when they wish I would stop.

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9 thoughts on “If I could ask

  1. there is something very brave and touching about this, marcy. i hope your friends honor your request and reply with the same courage and kindness.

  2. I would rather not know the answer to a question like this. I would rather figure it’s not a good fit for some reason than have it pinned down that specifically. But that’s just me. I hope you get the feedback you are looking for.

  3. Thanks Gio!

    Amy, I’m all about detail! Some of the things I could do something about or work with — a general not-good-fit answer would drive me nuts wondering. I’m sure it would hurt to know that someone didn’t like one thing or another, but I’m also sure it would be better than both of us pretending to be friends when we’re not.

  4. the ETA bit is interesting. i thought you were genuinely asking for a response (i get that you don’t mind getting one!), but i also see how this would be a way to help people see the way your mind operates. i think we should make big efforts to try to understand how other people think. people think in dramatically different ways. i have been married to my husband for 20 years and i am still discovering ways in which he thinks. a lot of arguments between us arise simply from ways we have to conceptualize (sometimes just *see*) things — ways that are irreconcilably different. i can get frustrated all i want, and shout all i want (he could shout too, but he’s not the shouting type so all the shouting is mine), but if what i see as red look green to him there is no way around our difference than negotiate that when i say red i mean green and when he says green he means red.

    and yet, these negotiations can literally take years.

    i see that it can be incredibly frustrating, painful, and even maddening to a mind like yours, marcy, not to know, because you genuinely want to know, and have the stamina to take the blows of unwelcome knowledge. i think most people, though, don’t have your tremendous analytic clarity. maybe they don’t invite you and amy for no special reason that they can point to. maybe they don’t want to spend the psychic energy it takes to figure out why, when they are about to take their children to play, they don’t call you. people tend not to analyze themselves the way you (and i) do. most people just do things and try to think about them rather little.

    some people just can’t think of the reasons why they do or don’t do certain things. they don’t have the emotional or technical tools. maybe making the phone call and organize a play date just feels burdensome to them for some reason they are quite unable to identify. they could say, “little [kid’s name] and i went to the park yesterday: i thought about calling you but then we just went on our own,” but it would feel lame and unsatisfactory to them, so so little, so they don’t say anything. they might genuinely want to tell them why they didn’t pick up the phone and call you, but feel that the explanation would expose something rather mindless about them — some emotional laziness perhaps.

    i know that there are people i’d like to see and talk to more frequently yet don’t. if i think about it really hard i think i can figure out what it is that keeps me from making more of an effort to reach them (there always tend to be good, solid reasons). most times, though, what i feel is more along the lines of “eh, i’ll just call tomorrow.” truly understanding the reasons why we do things, unless these reasons are glaringly obvious (in your case, for example, their kid and amy fight regularly) takes tremendous self-analytical skills and huge energy, and most people don’t have either at their fingertips, or even within reach.

    i suspect most people would be hard pressed to explain why they do most things they do, or don’t do most things they don’t do.

    part of the wisdom and peace of living comes from understanding that there are many things we don’t and will never know. another large part comes from understanding, not only rationally but emotionally, that people’s choices are rarely about us and most often about them. of course we do play a part, but our part is somewhat indifferent, one among many elements.

    so, say i’m feeling stressed and burdened by my life in general, and say i prefer light-haired people to dark-haired people (i’m choosing an intentionally stupid example). having to go on a play date, i’ll unthinkingly call first my light-haired friends. if i thought about it i’d feel stupid, and if my dark-haired friends confronted me with it i would feel too humiliated and silly to tell them the truth (if i were able to dig it out of myself). and then imagine i like people with light hair because when i was little i had a kindergarten teacher who tortured me for being chubby and she had dark hair. suddenly, everything is very complicated and i don’t want to go there.

    i could go on, but you know what i’m saying. it’s all simultaneously very very simple and intensely complex, and… well, that’s it!

  5. Oh dear Giovanna, thank you. You get it.

    And what you write in reply is useful, very useful, very helpful information.

    Good tears, and relief.

  6. I just want to add that playdates are more than a social perk to me — I think Amy just about needs them. I think she would really benefit from having a peer to play pretend with, to navigate play, conflict, problem-solving, and relationship with. It’s good for me to play with her, too, but it’s just not the same.

  7. Pingback: The sky through the pines « Becoming Three

  8. Catching up on Google reader a bit… and have to say that I wish you lived near me! We are starving a bit for playdates here too… and I tend to overanalyze why we don’t fit in the social cliques too (which, inevitably, we don’t. Or I don’t. Who knows?)

  9. Thanks, Melody; yet more evidence that even though people have an awful lot of universal common ground, there really is such a thing as significant personality / temperament differences.

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