Curiosity and Questions
Updated: Sep 8, 2021
Not only is the internet a strange and mysterious place, but the local intranet at the Big Bank where I work is equally complex and tricky to navigate. Who even knew we had the equivalent of a blog on there? I was aware of our pseudo-social media website embedded in our online existence. It has a catchy name which I won’t state here in case it is truly our own and not the same one found at every other big bank or big corporation in the world.
There are different online forums available to join, in case you want to chat exclusively with LGBTQ members or BIPOC members, etc. There is an online book group to which I think I belong but am not entirely certain. I feel like I get random posts about books people are recommending and when I look at them I realize they were only responding to a thread that I had not been a part of at all. Maybe I was too busy working to notice when it was first posted. This is possible. This is after all, where I work.
Last week I wandered into a thread that was emailed to me, clicked a link, and was reading a lengthy post from a woman, a fellow Big Bank employee talking on the subject of connecting with co-workers. I think this was a thinly veiled ruse at heightening the enthusiasm for employees to return to the office sometime this year, you know - so we too can “connect” with others. She mentioned how chatty she is naturally (how nice for her!) and how much she’d missed seeing people in person so that she could ask them questions about themselves. She went on to describe how she learned something new about a person she’d known for a while but hadn’t previously known their back story. Until she asked.
As a memoirist, I am also very curious about others. But I find myself unable to ask those questions. Unless someone has already peeled back a layer, so that I think they might be willing to go further, I worry that people will find questions intrusive. I’m not sure why I feel this way because I rarely feel a question is too intrusive for me. Which of course brings to mind the one exception to this statement. A time when my girlfriend’s son asked me, at my house-warming party with my soon-to-be new husband, “Heidi, why didn’t you stay married to your other husband?” He rolled it out, with my name in the beginning just like that, so that he had my undivided attention. And then I wanted to flee the scene.
I mean, honestly, it’s not like I wouldn’t have that candid conversation with any one of my girlfriends, but an 11-year-old kid in the middle of a party with my new husband’s friends? It was outlandishly rude, but easily forgiven since it came from a child.
Yet he pressed on.
“Didn’t you and (insert ex-husband’s name) agree to love each other forever on the day you got married?” I think I physically moved away from him at this point while calling out over my shoulder something along the lines of “It’s complicated.” His mother calmly and thoughtfully explained to him why that was maybe too personal of a question for him to ask the hostess. Maybe too much of a grown-up topic.
But his wasn’t the only intrusive question that day now that I am honest about it. Nearly every woman there asked me, excitedly, hopefully, “So when are you getting married?” or “Are you two going to get married?” or even “Did you already get married? Did I miss something?”
None of the men in attendance asked me anything remotely related to marriage future or past. As if they knew the code on this topic and they weren’t privy to the passwords. The women felt entitled to know. But I was humiliated by the questions, mainly because of my disappointing answer: (while smiling hopefully) “I don’t know” or “We haven’t really talked about that” or optimistically “Not yet!” (still smiling, eyebrows raised in expectation of the certainty of this future happiness). They meant well and only wanted to share in the excitement for this potential turn of event. But for me, it only opened up the wound of my own uncertainty. I’d recently bought a house with this man - why didn’t I know more about our future together?
Maybe this is why I shy away from asking others personal questions. I have to think too carefully to craft a pathway in which I don’t risk creating the wrong impression. I don’t want to launch an invasion, I am genuinely curious to know them better.
But in the office, sometimes we’re simply too busy to tread so carefully. Honestly, it’s easier to only do my work at Big Bank. And read the occasional book review or blog post. When I clicked out of the blog post on our intranet, I was unable to ever locate the thread again. This is where the weirdness comes in. It’s like in the Twitterverse where you see an interesting tweet, but if you don’t respond to it, or bookmark it chances are it will quickly disappear into the ether. Forever. But thanks to that employee’s post, I am inspired to ask this question: What is the most awkwardly intrusive question you have ever been asked?