You know when you ask someone how they've been and they say something like, 'fine' or 'not bad' - unless they're not British, in which case they might take you literally and actually tell you. Well, I had one of those unexpected conversations when it became a bit too informative for my comfort. I mean it started out as a casual reference to having been hospitalised a while back so later in the conversation I said, "so what were you in hospital for ? Unless you don't want to talk about it." See what I did there ? I gave them an out while also implying that if it was a bit personal / icky it was not to be shared.
Now, bear in mind I've had a few friends who've had proper serious health issues over the years. One friend who came back from death - which would make her a zombie I guess, but I'm not going to tell here that you said that. Ok, I'll back up a bit here, her heart stopped, while in an ambulance with paramedics who had the paddles that brought her back to life. When I spoke to her afterwards she described it as an 'incident.' Then there's the friend who survived breast cancer and when we talked about it she would say, 'when I was unwell.' Understatement and brushing over it to get back to talking about shoes and shampoo is the done thing with my friends really. So when this chap went into great detail using words like 'gouge' and gave a visual representation of how much was removed - honestly - it was a bit disconcerting.
I think it must be a man thing though. My father-in-law will happily share his medical woes - in great detail - with anyone who is within hearing distance. This isn't so bad unless he's referring to body parts I don't want to hear about or functions I'd rather not discuss. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not a prude. Heart friend and I have had very detailed conversations about very personal matters. Breast cancer friend (I don't call them that to their faces of course) and I have barely any secrets having shared the trials and tribulations of infertility with each other. Maybe it's the ickiness in the detail of boy parts going wrong that surprised me. I mean aren't men supposed to be circumspect about sharing intimate details ?
Maybe it's me. I find myself listening to my hairdresser's problems and asking them if they're going on holiday. When I'm with the doctor or dentist they end up telling me about their stress. I've been known to have long intense discussions with people known for not talking and I recently counselled my own manager about work life balance. I clearly have a look that says, "Welcome, tell me what ails thee."
What I'm not trying to do is put my friends off from talking to me about important things. After all I've had a baby, so to be honest I've seen my fair share of icky too. Instead, I've created this handy guide to help manage future conversations that could go out of control. To make things simpler I've suggested some acceptable answers to common questions:
Me: How are you ?
You: Fine thanks, you ?
Me: Oh that's a shame.
You: It is, mustn't grumble
Me: Did you have a nice holiday / weekend ?
You: Yes thank you.
Me: Are you better now ?
You: Marvellous, thanks for asking.
I'm glad we had this little chat :)