My 17-year-old grandson and his father, my son, have been responding to any question I ask them with a tolerant shake of their heads and a, “She asks the hard questions, doesn’t she?”
They do this whether I am asking a question about religion, “Is there a God?” for example, or a general knowledge question, such as, “How fast is global warming going to melt the icebergs?” or just a trivial question like, “So what did you do last night?”
I interpret this reaction as a statement that they think I ask too many questions. As does every other member of my family and some friends too.
I roomed with a good friend on a vacation a few years ago and finally she said, with some exasperation, “You ask the strangest questions!” I never thought of asking someone’s age as a strange question.
One of the first things my sons ask each other at holiday gatherings is, “Has mom interviewed you yet?”
Interview is the operative word here. I was determined to be a journalist by the time I was 12. What do journalists do? They ask questions. It’s the best way to learn things about people, although eavesdropping and reading others’ mail can be useful too.
I’ve never understood why people are reluctant to answer the who, what, when, where and, especially, the why questions.
Here’s the kind of questions my son and grandson roll their eyes at.
“What do you think that means?”
“Why did he do that? Is he going to do it again?”
“And then what happened?”
“What would you do?”
“Is that a good or a bad thing?”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate ... oh, a movie, a class in school, a restaurant?
It had gotten to the point where I was becoming self-conscious about my conversations. Then I heard a speaker who restored my confidence in the importance, the value of questions.
A professor with a Ph.D who has wide teaching experience, has traveled extensively and lived in three other countries, she was lamenting the fact that to many of her students, nothing matters.
“Nobody asks the hard questions any more,” she said.
It was all I could do to not wave my hand wildly and shout, “I do! I do! I ask the hard questions! My son and grandson tell me I do.” But I hesitated to interrupt her talk.
She said students tell her, “Just tell me what you want me to think and I will put it down.” They don’t want dialogue, she observes. They want a monologue from the teacher which includes the answers she expects.
Those kind of students, she mourned, are irritated by the students who do care and ask questions.
I couldn’t wait to accusingly inform my son and grandson that I had heard an important speaker who wanted people to ask questions. The next time we went out to dinner, even before they had time to look at the menu, I practically shouted: “Guess what? I’ve met someone who thinks hard questions are a good thing! So what do you think about that?”
And before they could roll their eyes or open their mouths, I said triumphantly to the waiter, “I’ll have the Number 1.” And added, “Why is it Number 1?”
Mary McClure lives in Lawton.