There are certain things another human being can say to you that throw you off track, shock you inside out, or even make your stomach churn as if about to vomit. Like when you mother randomly announces, “I’d like to see you settle down,” or when a friend in a relationship says, “You’ll find someone.” Everyone has a line of questioning they despise, but none of these compare to the question that unexpectedly came my way last night.
“Are you single?”
Three simple words, punctuated by an unpleasant inflection of hope, sadness and desperation. The question master was a very nice young man from a wet Northwestern state. Being brand new to New York, and coming from a place where people are likely to respond positively to this question, there was no way he could know that this was the number one thing I despised being asked.
When this question comes up, it’s always out of the blue by someone that knows little about you. Probably the reason they dare ask. So thrown off track, I can’t recall what we were discussing prior to that moment. Instantly, I was tongue-tied and began rambling in a desperate effort to change the subject and point the conversation in a direction that didn’t make me want to crawl under the table to avoid glaring eyes. My conversation rebound was awkward, uncomfortable and terribly obvious; as good as I could hope for while under pressure.
So, why does this question make me do mental cartwheels? It’s all of the strings attached to the question. The person asking is usually on the hunt for a relationship. If you admit that you’re single, then you’re opening the door for an advance. Not the worst thing in the world, but it also then encourages people to ask, “Why are you single?” This forces me to say mean things about myself, true depending on who you ask, in an effort to comically reduce stress and change the topic.
Knowing that my question master was new to the city, the question is like throwing out a life preserver and hoping someone will reel you in, saving you from the terror that is the first two years of life here. This question coming to me is like jumping out of a plane without your parachute; you’re going to crash and burn.
My uncomfortable state rubbed off and the next thing I knew we were both avoiding eye contact and trying to talk to other people around the table. A successful deflection of a loaded question. I’m sure it won’t be the last time it comes up in life, but hopefully there will always be an open bar near by to help the situation.