Join me.Posted: July 9, 2012
I’d like to announce that I am officially withdrawing my support from the “letting you know that you don’t need to ask permission by pretending it’s not okay” joke. I am done with it. I’m closing the book on that chapter.
You know the one. The one where you say something like “I’m just going to nip to the bathroom, if that’s all right?” and the person replies with a dead “No.” Then they see the look on your face, the look where you’re obviously trying to figure out if they’re serious or not. They see that look, feel bad, and tell you “Of course it’s all right!” with a big shit-eating grin and you politely chuckle. Maybe you exclaim “well, I don’t know!”
I know. I’m being a grumpy old man about this, impotently rambling away about shit you’re tired of. I don’t care. I’ll keep going.
It’s one of those social tics. One of those things you say without really meaning to maintain a sociable atmosphere. Essentially, it’s little more than a primate grunt that means “everything’s okay over here”. Those aren’t bad things. They’re usually super helpful in people getting along. But sometimes they become outdated, overused and generally annoying.
The “letting you know that you don’t need to ask permission by pretending it’s not okay” joke has a particularly low threshold that it passed a long time ago. That joke has never been funny. The only laughter it has ever produced has been that of embarrassment. I know your intentions are good, but the person asking is only trying to be nice because they probably already feel ill-at-ease. Don’t draw attention to that. And like I said: not funny. What’s more, I think you know it. You know it’s not funny, but you say it anyway. It’s even probable you’ve had it said to you, and you didn’t like it, but you can’t help yourself, because it’s a social tic.
Basically, I don’t know how to react to it so stop using it please. Just skip straight to the “of course it’s all right” with the shit-eating grin part. Then you get the reassurance instead of the awkward moment, hanging in the air like an off-colour remark. I’ve been phasing it out slowly (I used to do it so much), and I think it’s time other people joined me. I’m tired of it, you’re tired of it: let’s get rid of this dumb joke together.
Note: This auto-published a day early, with a great big link at the top right rather than on the main page as expected, so it’s going up now. There’ll still be a new post tomorrow. Sorry about that.