Within the confines of saying that you are fine, there are a few variations allowed. You might answer that you are finer than frog hair, which you have to admit, is pretty fine. I have an acquaintance who almost invariably says that he is, ”Pretty good for a fat old man.”
I have a couple of answers to, “How are you?” I like to say that I am good, “But not as good as you.” I also sometimes like to answer, “I am so dang wonderful,” and then add, as though an afterthought, “At least, that’s what Barbara tells me.” It’s all done in fun and accomplishes a greeting without too much fuss. There is no depth to it, but sometimes we don’t want to deal with depth.
I have a little book entitled, “What Do You Say After You Say Hello.” It is one of many books of a similar genre that I was into a few years ago. In summary, the book enumerates the many things we do and say to avoid intimacy in interpersonal relationships. It observes that intimacy is to be greatly desired but risky, and opens us to the possibility of rejection, that most painful of social punishments. Mostly, we avoid the risk of intimacy.
Many years ago, way back when such things still mattered, I suddenly came face to face with an old love on Main Street in Moab. I’m sure that we were both a bit shocked at the sudden encounter. I hadn’t seen her in years, but I had thought about her and wondered how life was treating her.
Wouldn’t you know? We fell into the safe, inane little ritual of, “How are you?” and “Pretty good. You?” A bit more of such nonsense and we went our separate ways, not knowing if we would ever see each other again. It was the terrible waste of an opportunity to speak from the heart. But then, speaking from the heart borders on intimacy and is always risky.
It may have been that particular lost opportunity and failed encounter that made me more determined to cut to the chase, as the saying goes. I hope to never again waste such a precious moment.
Someone said that we should treat everyone we meet as though they were struggling with serious problems, because most of the time they are. I agree with that observation.
It seems a tragedy to greet someone who has serious problems and let it slide in favor of some inane social pastime. I think it is worth the step through the door of intimacy and the risk of rejection to make oneself available to give comfort, if nothing more than an understanding heart and a sympathetic shoulder.
Most troubled people don’t need or want advice. They are generally perfectly capable of working out their own problems. But it is almost always helpful to talk about them with someone who will quietly listen. About the best we can do is provide information if it is lacking, and to ask pertinent questions.
I continue to go on field trips with my grandson recently returned from Mexico. We have the best conversations. I am determined that we will make the best of this rare time together by speaking from the heart and speaking of important things.