I love nosy people. I really do. I'm fascinated by their persistence in gathering information. If they do it without ruffling any feathers, I'm doubly impressed. I've been bad at this my whole life. A friend tells me they're going to an appointment - I don't pry. It could be a hair appointment, a surgery appointment or tattoo appointment. I don't ask. Someone needs me to babysit. They could be meeting with their meth dealer and I would never know. Just tell me when you'll be back. This used to make my mother crazy.
Mom: Is Sarah coming to the Christmas party?
Asia: No, she'll be out of town.
Mom: Where's she going?
Asia: No idea.
Mom: Is her husband going too?
Asia: Didn't ask.
Mom: You are useless.
Part of the reason I don't ask is because I feel like people will volunteer the info they want me to have. The other reason I hesitate to dig for detail is because I'm afraid the answer will be "testicular cancer."
Let me explain.
Once upon a time, a casual acquaintance mentioned to me that he was really sick as a teenager.
"Really? What kind of sick?" I asked, fully prepared to hear about mono or chicken pox.
"It was cancer, actually." Oh gosh. The air of our breezy chat suddenly halted.
"Like leukemia or something?" It was the one form of cancer I was sort of familiar with.
"Um, no. Testicular cancer." Oh gosh oh gosh. Did I do this? Did I lead us down this path? We were talking about his balls. Did he want to talk about his balls with me?
I put on my best "Yes, I understand." expression despite the fact that there's nothing I understand less than tumors of the testes.
"It's ok. I had surgery and everything is fine."
I can't even remember what I said after that. All I know is that we weren't well acquainted enough for me to know he only had one gonad. And I have no idea if he was OK with me holding that information.
I don't pry because I don't want you to feel forced to give me the low down on your genitals. I call it "giving people their privacy."
But the truth is I LOVE it when other people do just the opposite. I have sat on the sidelines of some truly revealing exchanges and for that I am grateful. Some people just have a gift for interrogation. I can think of no better question-askers than my two sisters-in-law. Because of their disarming charm and quizzing skills I have valuable information I never would have acquired alone.
Example one. My eldest brother married a girl named Lacy. She's DE-lightful. One summer my family took a vacation to a cabin in Tennessee. We spent the long days tubing down shallow rivers. Warm nights were devoted to playing card games and singing songs in rounds. One evening after the babies had gone to bed, my mom, Lacy and I were lounging on the couch talking about boys and celebrities and tv. I don't know if it was sleepiness or mountain air that caused present company to shed a layer of propriety, but that night Lacy got information out of my mother I had never before heard.
Lacy politely probed and my mother obliged with tales of her troubled childhood, torrid affairs and adventures that would make any memoir a best-seller. Lacy pressed for all the whos and whens and wheres. The stories unfolded like a book I had always seen on the shelf but never bothered to open. I sat quietly between them on the green sofa with rapt attention as my mom revealed a full and exciting life she'd lived before I was even an idea in her mind. Was the reason I didn't know my mother's history because I'd never asked? I was grateful that night that Lacy was nosy.
It should be noted that on this trip Lacy also played investigator to my younger brother and I learned far more about his "intimate" life than I really wanted to know. This was not even the brother she's married to. She really is a go-getter with those questions.
Example two. Kaitlin. She's my favorite person born on Christmas day. Put down your pitchforks, nerds. Jesus was born sometime in April. Anyway, it's thanks to Kaitlin that I married my husband. Well, sort of.
When Austin and I met, he was "waiting for a missionary." This is in quotes because he wasn't very good at it, obviously. I knew he had a girl somewhere in the world that he had once pledged his affection to, but I also knew that we were having a great time together. I didn't ask about her because I was fairly certain I was winning whatever game of emotional tug of war he was playing in his heart. But Kaitlin had the guts to actually ask.
We were all chilling in my mom's living room when the subject came up. Kaitlin boldly asked about the other girl. Was she still in the picture? Was he still writing her? "I was," he explained, "But I haven't contacted her in a while." How long? Is this because of Asia? Oh man, she was good. Rapid-fire. Austin didn't hesitate. I didn't blink. "A few months, actually. Things have just been going really well and I want to give Asia my full attention." I nodded in a solemn "good to know" gesture.
Thank goodness for nosy people. I salute you and applaud you. But mostly, I love being there when you pry open the doors I'm too shy to even knock on. May you continue seeking answers and may I be there when the goods come out.