I am originally from the south, and like many southern girls I speak in a very indirect way that can be completely indecipherable to someone who isn’t used to it. It’s this very vague, veiled way of talking — I will express what is actually a direct, actionable request as an anecdote about someone else’s desires or perhaps if I’m feeling really forward, as vague statement of hope.
Then, I get my feelings all hurt when people don’t understand what I’ve said and don’t realize that maybe I’ve asked them something very important. It causes confusion, and bitterness, and I need to knock it off, which my mom was good enough to point out to me the other night.
I can’t drive since I had that dumb seizure a month ago, and so have needed to ask for rides pretty frequently. I hate doing this. Hate it. It makes me feel like such a burden, like someone whose very presence adds all sorts of layers of complication and inconvenience to others’ day.
The other night, I was visiting Portland and needed my mom to drive me across town to my dude’s house, but first I had to stop by his work to grab his keys. Rather than just say this, I began my game of verbal roundabout. You know, maybe if she could drop me off at such-and-such place because I needed to get the keys but then I could just carry my luggage back to his place? There was a very cold windstorm going on, and my mom wasn’t going to make me totter around at night in my high heels carrying my suitcase through that, and said so. Then, she added that I needed to work on my asking-directly skills.
Not 30 minutes later when we were getting the keys, dude asked if I wanted to come back and stick around until he got off, which I totally did want to do. But rather than just ask my mom if she’d drive me the eight blocks back, I told her a story about how he had said that, and wasn’t that sweet?
Mom: Kelly. Do you want me to drive you back up there?
Me: I mean, you’ve already gone to a lot of trouble and I really appreciate it.
Mom: Yeah, but do you want me to drive you back?
Me: I mean …
Mom: If you want me to drive you back up, just ask.
Me: I mean, it would be really great if you wanted to.
Mom: Seriously, just ask.
Me: Can you drive me back?
Mom: Yes, of course I can. I’m happy to.
I need to remember that there’s a difference between being polite and being a wallflower who can never ask for anything directly, and realize it’s not the end of the world if someone tells me no. Part of the beauty of the way I talk is that if you never ask, no one ever directly says no. They just don’t address your wants, which in the end is no better.
Note: I am, of course, speaking in such generalities here. Lots of southern women are unbearably blunt; lots of New York dudes have a hard time saying what’s on their mind. This is just my experience.