Let’s talk about questions.
Well, first, let’s talk about Bumble. I downloaded Bumble again the other day, and then went on a swiping-binge for like, over an hour. At which point I had like, twenty matches waiting for me to message them (what’s great about Bumble is that women have to message men first. What’s not great about Bumble is that it works on a gender binary which ugh).
Anyway I had a bunch of matches, and I sent them all the same opener (b/c time constraints and b/c you get zero to go on re: profiles, so might as well). I asked them how their holiday is going and what the last movie they saw was and what they thought of it. Their ability to respond to what seems like a simple question will tell me a lot about them right away.
I copy and pasted this message into each Bumble chat box, and waited. As of today, I’ve been chatting with a few people. Some of which started well, but all of which fizzled out pretty fucking fast. And you want to know why they fizzled out so fast? Because the men I was chatting with stopped asking me questions.
You might think it’s that these men lost interest, but I actually don’t think so, or at least, not necessarily. Instead, I think it’s because of a social failing of our culture, one in which men are afraid to ask too many questions. Or just don’t realize that they should be asking questions. I have heard from men, over and over again, that they feel like questions are ‘intrusive’. I take it this is because questions do have the ability to be aggressive, violent, even.
Except, when you are having a conversation with someone, especially someone you are trying to get to know, not asking questions is a big problem. Because, for starters, I don’t want to just give some big monologue about myself. And I certainly don’t want to ask HIM a million questions (hello I’ve been on too many of those dates and justzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz).
Sorry. Dozed off there. Where was I?
Questions can be aggressive, violent even in the right context. When things are one-sided like an interview or an interrogation, questions become pointed, they magnify, they are sometimes designed to make the recipient of the questions uncomfortable.
I love the movie Magnolia in part because it’s about question-asking, and the aggressive ways that fits into human relationships. There are lots of scenes in which we see this kind of questioning play out: a Jeopordy-style gameshow in which a child is being made to ‘perform’ his intelligence on national television, much to his anxiety and discomfort. Tom Cruise plays an egomaniacal pundit who submits to an interview to aggrandize himself and finds himself the vulnerable target of extremely personal questions that he wasn’t expecting. A police officer enters the home of a drug addict to respond to noise-complaints, in which she dances around his questions to avoid him discovering her stash.
But when it comes to conversation, questions can also invite. They can create openings, and connections. They can tell you about the question-asker, what that person wants to know about you, what about you interests them, and what they want to hear about. I have found it really upsetting when boyfriends *haven’t* asked questions, precisely because it subverts intimacy.
I once told the Ex that he didn’t ask me enough questions, and to ask me more questions. His response: “Oh. Ok. Um…… (long pause). So… have you ever been hang-gliding?”
What annoyed me about this question, well, one of the many things that annoys me still about that question was its deliberate subversion of intimacy. This question wasn’t about anything he already knew about me, it wasn’t based on his desire to get to know more intimate things about me, or sparked by something he wanted to have a conversation about. It was simply a question. It was any question.
When I got upset about this bald lack of curiosity about me (on a number of occasions), his reply was that of course he was interested in getting to know me, but that he wanted it to happen ‘organically.’
Right. Well, sorry for asking, but how the hell will you ever get to know someone ‘organically’ unless you ask them some goddamned questions once in a while?
Questions, in this context, are not intrusive, they show me that you care. They show me that you want to hear what I have to say, which is pretty damn important as a woman searching for a man, let me tell you. It shows me that you find me interesting, that you want to make a connection, that you are going to hold up your end of the conversation and not make me do all of the emotional and intellectual labour of pushing it forward. Of moving, ultimately, the relationship itself forward.
And so those Bumble conversations sit there, and I keep looking at them, unmoved.