Seriously, It's Fine

29th December 2020

At my extended family Christmas gathering, my girlfriend Jay smashed her wine glass. She got up to get cheese and on her way back to sit down, she clumsily booted the glass into the chair's leg. Collectively, we, my family, shook our heads and said, “Oh my gawsh, Jay-y.”

We weren’t serious, of course, but Jay is gullible and, when she feels like she has let people down, defaults to guilt. So when she turned bright red, I knew she felt terrible and I stopped joking around. My uncle, though, went on. “That was our very special glass, Jay.”

“I’m so-o sorry,” she said, crouching on the floor.

“It was very expensive.” My uncle smiled, not that Jay could see. She was now on her knees, cleaning up the shards.

“It’s not even that broken,” she said, lifting up what was left of the glass. The stalk was still intact, but the part that held the wine was a lethal weapon. The rim was a terrain of jagged glass harpoons.

“I’ll get you another glass, honey,” my aunty said, standing up.

“No, seriously, don’t bother.” Jay said. “I can still drink out of this. See? Fine.” Jay touched the intact stalk.

In an attempt to not feel like an imposition, Jay probably would go as far as drinking from broken shards and I for one wasn’t going to take that chance. We confiscated the weapon and gave her a fresh glass. “Are you sure?” Jay said.

Jay’s not alone. I squash my own preferences to avoid conflict too. “No, don’t worry about the hair in my dish,” I said to the waiter at a restaurant. I needed to floss my teeth anyway.

As I get older, I’ve realised this desperate need to keep the appearance of affability is ubiquitous among my culture. We do this so much, us humans, we even created a word for it: fine. When we ask someone, ‘How are you?’ and they reply with, ‘Fine’, what they actually mean is, ‘I want to jump off a cliff.’ Or, in the case of my ex-girlfriends, ‘I want to push you off a cliff.’

Either or, we’re so fearful of experiencing the vulnerabilities that surface from external discords, we’d rather deny ourselves than fess up. Then, we secretly justify this passivity by identifying as a martyr. So the chef or waiter doesn’t get mad and have a bad day, I’m just going to take one for the team here and eat this dirty hair. Gosh, I’m selfless.

We’re not selfless, though, because we spend the rest of the evening resenting them. “I know I said I didn’t mind the hair,” we confess, “but they should’ve made me a new dish anyway, the filthy animals.”

“Just ask for a new dish!” our friends say, becoming frustrated.

“No, no. Seriously, it’s fine.”