Wednesday, November 3, 2010

People say the strangest things

I like voting.

I've liked it since my parents took me to the voting booth on 96th Street in New York.

I feel so patriotic and so like I'm making a difference, and I feel a sense of community. One argument against voting is that your ballot is just a needle in a haystack, but for the counter-argument, think one word: Florida.

Yesterday was a beautiful New England fall day, sunny and in the 50s. I walked into South Hadley High School looking for the room where my precinct was voting.

What happened next took me aback.

A town official whom I've known for years was directing traffic, pointing voters to the correct rooms. With perfectly coiffed blond hair, blue eyes and a radiant smile, she doesn't seem to age. Our daughters were on the same soccer team, and we used to watch games together.

If I want to, I can go around incognito. Many people don't recognize me. Although I think I don't look too different, my hair is short now (compared to previously being at least shoulder-length), I wear glasses and my cheeks are still slightly puffy from prednisone.

But I felt like saying hi to this woman, whom I haven't seen for a while. So I reintroduced myself. She smiled, gave me a big hug, and asked how I was. I said things were good and I was coming along. She looked me over and said, "You don't look too bad."

As in, "You don't look too good?"

Excuse me? Was this a compliment? It didn't feel that way.

This was not a jolly, joking, slap on the back "You don't look too bad!"

I'm sure that she was busy and didn't give this comment a thought. But still, didn't we learn in kindergarten that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all?

How about, "Good to see you!" or, even if it makes you choke, "You look good!"

People with health problems – not just those with cancer – or those recovering from illness probably run into this often: The well-meaning person who doesn't know what to say or the clueless person with no filter.

I vote against the Foot-in-Mouth party, which actually had many members this election season.


Diane said...

Well thanks for voting and thank goodness we retained ur 'blueness' on Tuesday as Sam put it. Maybe we should send the town official to another state where there are obviously other people who seem to be missing a few pieces upstairs so to speak.
In terms of whether you look good or not, there are really only 2 people who matter in this regard - You, who went running and have been playing tennis, and your team at DFCI who know you are terrific.

Ann said...

I have many of these people in my life. I just want to tell them that they don't need to say anything when they don't know what to say. I'd rather the bliss of silence over awkward boorishness any day.

Trish said...

after having our cantor tell me "I love you dearly, but go home, you look like sh!t" (to which I giggled, because it was out of love)...I try to remember people are *trying*, some just fail badly. I've railed about people crying at me over MY cancer. Or people telling me "aren't you over that already?". Uhm, yeah, poof, my cancer is gone because it bothers YOU.

When I see someone who obviously isn't at their best, I try to say things like "It is REALLY good to have you here" or "I am happy to see you healthy enough to be with us today" or "I am happy you joined us today". Trying not to focus on them looking like the cat dragged them in, but that they are joining in on festivities, in whatever capacity they can. Rather than being pegged "the cancer patient" they are part of the crowd, like anyone else...which, when I was so ill, is ALL I be "normal".

Glad you voted, perhaps next election you can work to vote that official off "the island"? ;-)

donna said...

Are you kidding! You look great! Your new haircut is so cute and your new coat looks fabulous on you! What is it with some people???!!!

Susan C said...

Looking back at all the kind folks who gushed, "You look great!" I'm thankful that they didn't finish the sentence ". . . for someone who's going through treatment."

And, for the record, Ronni, I think you look fabulous.