I believe in asking personal questions. I want to know you, who you are, what you stand for, what hurts you, what makes you happy. I like people and I am curious about them. Sometimes I can tell I’ve put someone off by the question I’ve asked. I wish I knew where the line of acceptable questions ends and unacceptable questions begins. I don’t mean to be rude; I’ll admit I’m a bit selfish; I want to indulge myself in intimacy with you. I want strong human connections and I believe being personal gets me there.
If only the freedom of childhood innocence and the ability to ask honest questions, without being considered nosey or impolite could follow us into grownup-hood. Even as a child, I could only ask those real questions, when an adult wasn’t along to hurriedly SHHHH me in my need to know. I remember sitting in the grocery cart once when a man rolled his cart up behind ours in the checkout line, his face was disfigured and ugly. I stared at him; he looked back and held my gaze, and slowly smiled a crooked smile at me. I pointed at his face and asked him, “Does it hurt?” He looked away and then turned back gently and was about to speak, when my Nana looked up from her National Enquirer, saw the stranger, quickly looked away put her finger to her lips and “shhhhed me,” rolling her eyes at him with a “you know kids” kind of look. I still wonder today what he might have said.
The rules are ambiguous about what we, that big collective societal WE, can ask each other. I can ask you where you found that very cool purse, or who cuts your hair, but I’m not supposed to ask you about your developmentally disabled brother and what it was like to grow up with him, and what its like now with your parents gone and you’re alone in your worry, about what will happen to him if something happens to you? It seems a more important question than who cuts your hair.
How can I know you, if I don’t ask you about you? My friend’s son committed suicide. Everyone was careful not to speak to her of his death. One afternoon I decided to ask her about it and I learned how deep her suffering was. She shared how painful life had been for him for a long time, but what she couldn’t understand was why he had hated her so much, he knew she would be the one to find him. And, I saw it differently. She was the only one who could be allowed to find him because there was no one else who could love him enough and who could protect him to the very end, he trusted and loved her that much. And, she held my hands and thanked me. I believe in asking personal questions, and sometimes in answering them.
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