How are you?

Something you hear quite often when you meet someone you know or a stranger too. It seems to come quite naturally after a point and becomes a part of your habits. People don’t really think a lot about it but it took me so long to realize that this is how you are supposed to carry a conversation.

When I first joined my latest college, I managed to say hi to a few people in my class, the trouble was I didn’t know what to say after that, which led to very long, very awkward silences at times. I struggled to think of something up. I felt like I was under pressure to come up with some interesting factoid or a joke in order to start a conversation. I mean that is how I had seen most conversations start. The other way was that some discussion was going on and I would barge in with my opinions and then let my brain do the rest of the talking. The latter idea works quite well on social media, but not so much in real life. (Believe me, I have tried.)

I tried to think of a lot of stuff, asked around to what I should say and it was as if no one knew exactly what we are “supposed” to say in that situation. It is almost one of those reflexes that are so quick that we don’t even realize we are having them.

I struggled with this for a while, managed to have a few conversations but mostly I was still unsure of myself. Then one day a noble soul told me that I should ask a simple question, “How are you?” and I was confused.

Why this question?

Why not anything else?

What is special about how are you that it is what we normally say?

Why not what are you? or why are you? Or how much would a woodchuck chuck if it could chuck wood?

It was weird; it didn’t make a lot of sense. Most of the time I wasn’t even interested in knowing how the other person was but I slowly learned, through observation, that it is necessary to do and say things you don’t mean if you wish to be a part of the functioning society. All around me were familiar faces that I started seeing with an eye on their actions and words and learned that indeed, they did a lot of things that they weren’t interested in, just for the sake of being socially acceptable. In the past I would have rejected the idea of doing something like this but this time I was a tad bit desperate to socialize a bit and hence I decided to join in the circus of social mockery and hence became something close to a functioning member.

I don’t know how long this would last though. I had in the past rejected this notion of being fake to gain people’s acceptance which is what makes me doubt how much longer I will manage to hold on to it this time.

Well, even if I did want to stop doing all of that again, at least I will have better knowledge as to what happens if I stop doing that and how continuing to be fake might just end up being slightly socially profitable for me.