Question Something: The Dreaded Q

When you’re unemployed, there’s probably one question you dread most (well, except for those pesky interview questions):  “So, what are you doing now?”

In most circumstances, this question, or the q, is an innocent inquiry meant to facilitate smalltalk and prevent awkward silences.  It’s like a more personal version of, “How’s the weather?” or, “How ’bout them Yankees?”  It shows interest, but is generic enough to apply to multiple situations.  And in some cases, the person you’re talking to genuinely wants to know about the latest happenings in your life.  (Gasp!  Crazy, right?)

I’m certainly guilty of throwing the dreaded q around when chatting with old family friends or acquaintances.  “Hi Neighbor M!  How are you?  What are you up to?”  It’s almost become a second reflex.  Before I realize what I’m saying, the q pops out, and I can’t take it back.  But now, more than ever, I really wish I could.

When I was younger, I never really minded the q because I had a fulfilling answer:  “I’m finishing high school.  I’m going to college.  I’m studying abroad.”  The questioners would usually smile warmly in return and comment in some approving fashion:  “Oh, that’s great!  Good for you!”

But now?  Now I don’t have a very fulfilling answer, and the conversation that follows is often even more awkward than silence:

Questioner:  So, what are you doing now?

Me:  Well, I’m looking for a job.

Questioner:  Oh!  What kind of a job are you looking for?

Me:  Um…maybe a job with the state, or something government-related.  I don’t really know.

Questioner:  Okay.  Well, I guess you just gotta keep looking.  I’m sure you’ll find something.

Me: Yeah.  Thanks.

Questioner:  …..

Me:  …..

The conversation is quick, but painful because the genuinely approving responses of the past are gone, replaced by tepid, somewhat disingenuous replies.  (What a confidence booster!)  I mean, it’s not really their fault.  No one particularly likes prolonged discussions about unemployment.  It’s a tricky subject.  And let’s be real, would it truly be better if the conversation went something like this?

Questioner:  So, what are you doing now?

Me:  Well, I’m looking for a job.  I’m kinda getting depressed, though, because I’ve applied for so many positions, and I haven’t gotten any interviews.  So, right now I’m taking a bit of a break, and drowning my sorrows in childhood nostalgia.  The 1990s had some really good tv shows, didn’t it?

Questioner:  Uh…haha, yeah.  Yeah…no wonder you’re unemployed.

Me:  Yeah…

No, not at all.  That’d be too embarrassing.  Honest, but embarrassing.  (I’ll just write it on my blog instead).

So…what are you up to now?

– l  xo

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