“Hi there, how are you?”
“Fine, how are you?”
“Fine, thank you.”

I’ve seen this play out as some sort of passphrase to start a conversation. It seems people can’t get started without the secret social handshake. But nobody wants to hear the real answer to that question.

I’m a little tired of saying “I’m fine”. But I also understand it’s purpose. If I unload on you, we’re now derailing the conversation to be about my thing. If you unload on me, same deal. If we both unload, nothing’s getting done. For efficiency, we must bury the details.

But the 100% real news is that most people are not fine. Almost everybody is dealing with something, and right now “fine” just means “I have it under control and you don’t have to worry about it/I don’t want to talk to you about it.”

“I have it under control and you don’t have to worry about it.”

People who are not fine

But at times we have to tear down the façade. We gotta say: “Sorry, I can’t deal with this right now.” Some days, even good friends with great news is something you can’t handle right now. I heard somebody use the phrase of “not having the spoons”.

I wish we had another way of indicating “I’m not fine, but I don’t want to talk about it, and I don’t want to hear about your thing because I can’t handle it right now”.

For now, I guess we’ll just say: “I’m fine. How are you?”

NOTE: This text originally appeared as a thread on Twitter.

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