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Words: FINE

Posted 02-13-2017 at 02:21 PM by kittenlyss
Updated 02-13-2017 at 02:24 PM by kittenlyss

We all know that joke about how if a woman says she's fine, you should worry because she's not fine and actually planning to kill you.

So when I was growing up, we were taught that fine really means

Feelings Inside Not Expressed

And that using that word is bad. Because it means you're holding things in. But I never really understood what was so bad about having a word for "feelings inside not expressed." Maybe that's exactly what I want to say. And I don't think saying fine when you're not 100% is lying, anyway. I'm not trying to tell you I'm great and having the best day ever. And I'm probably going through some pretty heavy stuff. But I take a while to process and I may not be ready to put words to what's in my head at the moment.

And repeatedly asking me what's wrong and telling me that you know I'm not really fine is just going to piss me off because
A) You're interrupting my process and making me focus on getting you to leave me alone.
B) You're assuming my emotional state for me.
C) You're prying.
But you know what I am? Motherfucking functioning. And sometimes functioning is a damn good achievement.

I've been using "I'm fine" to mean "not ready to talk" for a while. And part of me wants to continue doing so because why should I have to change the way I speak just because everyone else hears something different than I'm saying? The pragmatic part of me realizes that maybe I'm better off changing my words though because "I'm fine" is pretty firmly entrenched in our culture as a phrase to be wary of.

I recently read Buffering by Hannah Hart (I highly recommend it). But one of the things that hooked me was her explanation of why she chose the title she did "You know, buffering is that time where you are processing data, right? Buffering's that boundary - that little spinning wheel, that boundary that your computer puts up saying, I'm not ready to show you this yet. I'm still processing, and I'm working on it." (from her interview with NPR about her book)

What about you? Do you say "I'm fine"? What do you mean when you say it? How do you want others to respond to you? What do you think and how do you respond when you hear someone else say it? Should we ditch this phrase?
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  1. Old Comment
    Butterfly's Avatar
    When I say I am fine (which I do), it means the same thing. I am not really ok and don't want to lie, but I also don't really want to talk about it right now. OR I can't talk about it right now. I also need to process things for awhile before I express myself and saying "fine" is giving me the time to do that. I don't think we should have to change it, but as it is widely known and joked about being something to avoid, it tends to make people panic and then we usually get the opposite result.
    Posted 02-13-2017 at 03:28 PM by Butterfly Butterfly is offline
  2. Old Comment
    naughtylittlegirl's Avatar

    Lyss wrote a blog, Lyss wrote a blog, Lyss wrote a blog! Okay, be cool, be cool...

    Soooo, 100000 times yes to all of this. Thank you for putting it into words - it's that element of 'interrupting my process' that can make my stress level skyrocket like nothing else. 'Fine' is very much how I close the door as politely as possible while I sort myself out and become able to use words again. And I definitely have used it in some instances where it would have been better to actually say that I was having a difficult time rather than be avoidy. But I need my 'fine' days. Thank you for posting, your blog makes me happy.
    Posted 02-14-2017 at 11:44 PM by naughtylittlegirl naughtylittlegirl is offline
  3. Old Comment
    kittenlyss's Avatar
    @Butterfly: I've been thinking that one of the reasons I take so long to feel comfortable in a relationship might be because it takes a while to point out, and have discussions about, all these tiny little areas I'm not a "normal girl."



    The problem is that most men are taught that if a woman says "fine" you're actually supposed to keep asking until she tells you what's wrong. And to me, that just feels like the adult equivalent of a 2-year-old with a good handle on the "Why?" question.
    Posted 02-15-2017 at 01:14 PM by kittenlyss kittenlyss is offline
  4. Old Comment
    naughtylittlegirl's Avatar
    Originally Posted by kittenlyss View Comment
    The problem is that most men are taught that if a woman says "fine" you're actually supposed to keep asking until she tells you what's wrong. And to me, that just feels like the adult equivalent of a 2-year-old with a good handle on the "Why?" question.
    Right! Because they are taught that women play games and secretly want to be hounded. It ends up being exhausting for both people. Let's just not play those kinds of games.
    Posted 02-16-2017 at 11:30 PM by naughtylittlegirl naughtylittlegirl is offline
  5. Old Comment
    iSpuds's Avatar
    Interestingly, I don't normally say "fine" unless I mean I'm actually "fine." Even then, I usually say I'm okay, because I'm well aware of the anxiety that the word causes in - not just men, but everyone. Even "I'm okay," can't always be trusted (fuck knows I obsess over monkey's claims to being "okay" if I don't think he sounds okay...)

    The thing is, I'd much rather just use words (the very words you mentioned) to keep my partner and friends abreast of my emotional state. Why, just the other day I asked Monkey if he was okay with me calling him at a later time because I needed some quiet time alone to myself, because I was not feeling up to talking. I was sad, actually, and emotionally distraught behind a social interaction. I didn't tell him exactly what I was feeling or what had happened, but by telling him that I needed some time alone, he was able to respect that I was processing something.

    Men know what it's like to need time alone. Everyone does. You always get that stereotype that while men are brooding, women are nagging them to share their feelings. It's the same thing as saying "I'm fine," and being pestered to share what you're really thinking. And it all comes from the same place: anxiety. People become anxious that you're going to blow up at them later when you bottle things up or don't share immediately. As time passes, people torture themselves with the idea that they did something wrong and that with each passing second that you keep it inside, your anger grows into a fearsome inferno of rage and fury. They're scared.

    And also, they're worried for you. They want to make sure you're okay and not torturing yourself internally. Maybe they feel like you're prone to making a big deal out of something that can easily be hashed out if you just talk to them.

    I'm not trying to be preachy, though. Everyone deals with their emotions in their own way. I'm saying that these are the thoughts that move me to avoid using phrases like "I'm fine" or "I'm okay" as a means of sticking a pin in the discussion of how I'm actually feeling, or worse, as a means of masking my feelings.

    By just saying, "I'm not sure yet, I need to think," I'm able to signal to my partner to A) Leave me alone, and B) Be ready for when I need to talk. Those are the two things I generally need when I'm processing something heavy. On most occasions, though, at least in Monkey's case, I am able to trust that I can tell him a little bit of what I'm thinking now, and keep re-visiting the conversation throughout the days, weeks, or months until I feel things have been worked out. In this way, I'm actually including Monkey in my processing, which gives me the benefit of having an outside perspective keeping me from retreating inside myself and turning my inner self into a knot of bad feelings and self-hate, and also, I'm keeping Monkey aware of what's going on so that he doesn't become anxious, either.
    Posted 02-18-2017 at 07:44 AM by iSpuds iSpuds is offline
  6. Old Comment
    pet monkey's Avatar
    So, I've been thinking about this blog the past couple of days and trying to decide if I want to respond to it to if only to give the viewpoint of a male.

    First: on the my history of the word, I had a long relationship with a woman who was not the most emotionally stable person. She loved the words 'fine' and 'sure' to the point where they have both just become trigger words for me. When I hear the word 'fine' now, I don't hear "Oh, I'm just trying to figure something out." or "I've got an issue I'm working on in my head I'm not ready to talk about, I'll let you know when I am." What I hear is: "Someone (probably you) or something really screwed up and I'm really mad and I'm just going to stew for a while about it." Now, as some of you may know, I'm a guy, we like fixing things, be they physical or mental, so when someone or something hurts the woman I love(d) I want to try to fix it, but I can't do that without knowing where to direct my attentions. So, yes, it is important to me to find out why the person I care about is hurting.

    It would make so much more sense to me (and probably to many males out there) if, instead of just saying 'fine' (or whatever equivalent you prefer), just say something like 'Oh, I'm just processing something and I'm not ready to talk about it right now.' That will turn off the male 'fix-it' reflex and will allow you your thought processing time. Seriously, I'm more than happy to give you your time alone with the problem, if you will just take that extra second to say, 'No, I'm not fine, but I need the time to figure this out enough to be able to express what I'm feeling, before I share it with you." That does two things:

    1) Lets me know what I can do to help at this point in time: Stop bugging you about it
    2) Give me the assurance that you aren't shutting me out.

    Honestly, I think it all boils down (like so many things in relationships) to communication. If you tell a man, any man, what you need, in this case time, and not try to hide it behind a terse word/phrase which, honestly sounds like you are shutting us out, you'll get what you need.
    Posted 02-18-2017 at 07:51 AM by pet monkey pet monkey is offline
  7. Old Comment
    kittenlyss's Avatar
    @Belle: And sometimes I accidentally say fine when I'm maybe mildly perturbed and it has nothing to do with that particular person and I'm also not ready to words it yet. But because they don't believe my "fine" they keep pestering me about it and use my exasperation at being pestered to prove that I'm not really fine...

    @iSpuds: I've realized recently that part of the reason I use the word "fine" is because I'm telling myself that I'm fine. If I'm in a situation where I feel like I need to be functioning at a certain level, that reminder helps me focus on whatever my current priority is. And, objectively, I do appreciate the concern that I know prompts their questions. When I'm mid-processing, I seem to just perceive it as intrusive and get annoyed that other people exist. I'm pretty sure that my bar for what qualifies as fine is set pretty low compared to most everyone else I've met which probably adds to my confusion at being poked at for my perfectly reasonable assessment (from my view) of my current state.

    I've also noticed that with people I'm particularly close to I can mention that I'm tossing X topic around in my head and will send a journal and ask for their input as soon as I can get some words down to describe my thoughts.

    @Monkey: I do want to avoid unnecessarily worrying or confusing anyone. I've noticed that I prefer having what are essentially codewords to use as an easy way to describe basic concepts. The advantage of using "buffering" (or my other one "hamsters" which is for when I'm mulling over something that I'm not upset about but I also don't want to have to respond with "nothing" and sound like I'm brushing someone off if they ask what I'm thinking about) is that it's a pretty good analogy for what's going in my head. I think/hope that makes it more memorable. It's also random enough that if I reply with that one word out of habit and I happen to not have explained what that means to me yet, it's not that hard to explain the concept behind it. And by having that conversation, we've steered away from the tone normally set during the "Fine" "You don't sound fine. You shouldn't say fine unless you really mean it. Tell me what's really wrong." conversation. Maybe it's just because I really like metaphors. Or maybe it's because they're kind of silly ways to think about things. And silliness is one of my best coping mechanisms so introducing it into a potentially argument makes complete sense to me.

    @all: Thank you for your viewpoints.
    Posted 03-10-2017 at 02:18 PM by kittenlyss kittenlyss is offline
    Updated 03-11-2017 at 05:58 AM by kittenlyss

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