Sunday, September 12, 2010

Put these questions on the "do not ask" registry

It’s not often that I am speechless. I usually have more than enough to say about everything under the sun, but there are a few instances that leave me scrambling to figure out what the appropriate response could possibly be.

For example, I had to have blood drawn a few weeks ago, and the nurse drawing my blood kept tapping my veins and saying, “You have really bad veins.” Now mind you, this is not the first nurse that’s disparaged my circulatory system. I get this all the time and I always sit by silently, allowing my veins to be slandered so, because really … what is the appropriate response? Do I say, “I’ll try harder?” How about, “Oh, you want the GOOD veins? Well, why didn’t you say so to begin with? Give me a minute … I was just giving you my mediocre veins but I know I can do better.”
Instead I sit by silently because there is no good response.

Here are a few other comments and questions that leave me speechless.

“Are these your children?”

This one always gives me pause because I’m not sure what behavior immediately preceded the question. Now, if my child has just played Beethoven on the piano without missing a beat, or been listed on the High Honor Roll, then yes, he is my child. But if my child has just finished burping the entire alphabet and followed it up with an arm fart, than no, I have no idea who that horrible child is. And any family resemblance is merely a coincidence.

“Is that what you’re wearing?”

My mom was the queen of this particular question. It made me re-think every style decision I had made leading up to my entry into the kitchen for breakfast. I’d ask myself, “What is it exactly that she has a problem with?” (Because there was no doubt in my mind … she had a problem with something in my ensemble, hence the question.) Was it the 4-inch dangly earrings? The bleached-out jeans which were all the rage in 1984? Or the rolled-up bandana wrapped in a jaunty fashion around my head? I thought I was styling, but with one simple question, she left me wondering if I had indeed made a mistake. (For the record, I now use this technique on my own children.)

“Are you feeling sick?”

Whodawa? I WAS feeling right as rain until you came along. But now? No, I’m not feeling so hot because I’m wondering … Do I look ill? Do I have something hanging from my nose? Have I broken out in spots of which I am unaware? Has my skin taken on a hue that is not human? (A close relative of the awful “Are you feeling sick?” is “You look tired.” If you do come across me looking sick and/or tired, your best bet is to keep moving along and save yourself an (1) illness or (2) bad attitude.

“When are you due?”

Let me be absolutely clear here – this is NEVER a good question to ask a woman. If a woman looks like she might be pregnant, just stop right there. You need not ask anything further. If she is indeed pregnant, let her announce that joyful bit of news herself. You know what they say about assuming? NEVER ASSUME.

The ironic thing in all of this is that I’m usually the worst offender with these kinds of things. I tend to think verbally, then edit later, which, let me tell you, is not a good plan. Sadly, I came by my column name of “Did I Say That Out Loud?” honestly.

So let this be a reminder to all of us to be careful out there. And just let it go once in a while … we don’t really need to know “Is that your real hair color?” Next time you have the impulse to ask, just take a deep breath, smile and walk on by.

Eileen Burmeister lives and works in Roseburg. She can be reached at

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