One of the things I personally hate about bumping into people you haven’t seen in awhile is that one obligatory question you always get, “What have you been up to?” Which really amounts to about three questions: Are you married? Do you have kids? and What is your job? Some how these are the three questions that seem to matter most and it’s the information the person asking the question will immediately offer up. I always feel at a loss when I find I don’t have a business card or résumé on hand and even apologetic, “no, we don’t have kids”, “no, my job is not important but I do know some people who do important things – I once worked with people who were important” (as if that some how makes it all better). I almost want to answer, “yes, it’s only legal in California, but our love is real; you’ll adore her. We have a daughter, God bless sperm donors and basters. I also own a quaint upscale restaurant downtown where I also act as head chef – my asparagus on a plate with the drizzle of yummy is $18; you’d die for it! Bring a camera.” At least that would have some spin-off stories that might be interesting.
Instead I get online to gripe about it.
But really, why “these” questions? They don’t tell you much or maybe it’s that they don’t tell “me” much. Ok, I’m married, I don’t have kids and I work for the government. What did you just learn about me? I’m lazy? My uterus imploded? I drive around in a black car and intimidate people who say they’ve seen space craft?
I think I’ve learned more about people from some recent classes where each one opened with a question like: What do you do for fun? If your life were a movie, who would play you? (I personally voted for some script doctoring and asked for Linda Hamilton, but I think I’m now content to say Katherine Hepburn playing a similar character to the one she did in “Bringing Up Baby” – smart but a just tad goofy.) If you could travel anywhere, where would it be and why? If you were a superhero, who would you be? (Ok, I shouldn’t have answered that one; it’s a bit too revealing of the ultra geeky side I try not to show at work, but kudos to me for holding back a little and sticking with the mainstream with my declaration of “I’d choose Rogue” and not throwing out characters like Revanche, Domino or Kabuki – all of which I prefer to Rogue. And more kudos for not snorting when someone declared “there are no female superheroes”. C’mon, guys draw these things and geeky guys LOVE to draw women; there are a TON of female super heroes. The comic book stores are crawling with stacks of trade paperbacks featuring tiny wasted girls with big boobs and big weapons. But I digress and boy did you just learn a lot about me.)
So, I guess I personally don’t think the question “What have you been up to?” is a good question especially if you want to find out more about that person. It’s merely a “polite” question rating up there with “How are you?” The kinds of questions you really don’t want an answer to – you just want a “fine” or a “not much” and you want to get the hell out of the conversation as quickly as possible. And my feeling is: why bother asking? We could just grunt at each other in passing. Have that little flicker in our eyes of “I know you! Now get out of the way, I’ve got to make it to chips and soda aisle and your babbling is setting me behind. Oh, and your kid looks goofy. Take that picture away, I have a weak stomach. TATA! Let’s do this again.”
What am I up to? Not much. Thanks for asking.