In Sweden people always ask you how you are when they meet you, but they really don’t expect you to answer honestly. The standard answer is “fine”, “good” or, if you’re feeling especially frisky, “really, really good.”
However, I sometimes assume that perhaps people really want to know how I am, and I answer honestly. Like 2 years ago, after being dumped in a nasty way by Åse B, I took H to a kid’s party. Sitting down on the balcony with some other grown-ups, one of them asked me in a bored way, “So how are things with you then?”
I stared at him for a moment, and decided to go for it.
“Well, kind of crap really. I was dumped by somebody a few days ago, by e-mail, and I feel really quite bad.”
The parent in question developed a look of horror in his eyes, nodded ever so slightly, made a “aha” noise and did not talk to me for the remainder of the day. Even better, his teenaged daughter was sitting with him, and she looked as If I had just pulled out my penis and slipped it in my cake.
A proper reaction to my reply would have been to show some concern, ask how I was, offer a shoulder to cry on, or fetch the Jack Daniels from the secret cupboard in the kitchen. And don’t get me wrong, Swedish people have been know to do this, just not so often. Over here, everybody must feel well and happy all the time or else they have some kind of problem, requiring that they are discreetly put somewhere large, industrial and white and given lots of pills so they can be “normal” again.
And since everybody over here is striving to be so damned “normal”, that leaves one interesting question—just where are all these normal people? Because I don’t see them on my street, or on the bus, or on the TV, or at my job, or anywhere else.
I guess they’re all at home, hiding under the bed.