The Loaded Question

We’ve all experienced the loaded question whether it’s being the recipient or the asker of this dreaded question. This week’s blog post by staff writer Frank Friedlander discusses the loaded question and the resounding echo that can result in relationship situations.

“What are you thinking?” While this little question may sound innocent enough, it’s really not. I think of this dreaded little inquiry as the “What is the meaning of life?” of the relationship world. Whether or not there is an answer, we simply don’t know it. If we do know it, more often than not if we answer the question, it leads to no end of no good. Why must I be thinking at all times? Can not my brain just shut off from time to time?

If I’m sitting there, zoned out and staring into space, and my wife asks me this question, my first course of action is to try to pretend like I didn’t hear it. Perhaps that tactic may have worked for the first few years, but much like an over used anti biotic, it’s no longer of any use, and a response of some sort must be concocted. Even if I am to produce a response, I have to find a way to buy myself some time to concoct it. Phrases such as “ummmm,” “I’m sorry, what was that?”, and “well….” Can give you a few seconds, but it’s futile. If I am in fact thinking about something, using that as an answer is a no-no. Whether it’s baseball, money, or Kate Beckinsale versus Jessica Biel in Total Recall, it will lead to some type of confrontation. It could be a minor one, or it could end up in a screaming fight.

Of course we could just make something up, but no matter how far me may have it planned in advance, it will never come out right when it’s time to diffuse that little bomb under pressure. Yes, knowing that the question will pop up sooner or later, a prepared response could be ready. It could be something romantic and intricate such as “I’m just reflecting on the years we’ve spent together, as well as the events that lead up to the fateful night in which we first encountered. The only thing more magical than reflecting upon the years we’ve spent together is the thought of the memories yet to be conceived.” It could be something far simpler such as “us,” or even “ the spectacular meatloaf that you prepared the other night.”

The fact of the matter is that rehearsal is easy enough, especially after we’ve gone through enough of them. Unfortunately, when it’s time to perform in front of the audience, it’s a whole new ballgame. Whatever we may have had planned in our little brains is then put through the food processor in our heads, and comes out as the milk shake version of the script. Something along the lines of “…love,” “…taco cheese,” or “certainly not Kate Beckinsale versus Jessica Biel in Total Recall. No I was most definitely not thinking of Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel fighting in leather outfit in Total Recall.” Of course, there’s no realistic chance that the exchange ends there.

Even if we give the answer that more often than not is the real answer, which is “nothing,” it’s far from sufficient. The follow up is imminent: “oh come on, you must be thinking about something.” It can’t be sports. It can’t be financial. It certainly can’t be fantasizing about girl fights involving Kate Beckinsale. Our only hope is that one day, scientists and religious types will be able to one day put their heads together and come up with the right answer to this devil of a rhetorical question, thus saving men everywhere from endless headaches, bumbling attempts at repeating some half assed response stored in our heads which we thought sounded brilliant, and many a cold night on the couch.

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