To Bemoan or Not to Bemoan, That is the Question

You have arrived at the party in a totally vile mood; you feel as if you have fifty-pound weights dragging on your soul.  Everything in your life seems to be going wrong.  And yet, (for whatever reason) here you are stuck in a room full of people who are talking and laughing and seem to be having a wonderful time.

You can’t imagine making smalltalk.  You don’t feel like forcing a smile, and you are completely dreading the question “How are you?” because you are very much afraid you are going to answer with the truth, and the truth is, “Horrible, just horrible.”  You know this is not acceptable.  Negativity, like dirty laundry, is something we all have but are supposed to keep tucked safely away at social events. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything,” people always say, and “Laugh and the world laughs with you; Cry and you cry alone.”  Or “Don’t’ be a Debbie Downer.”

But are these adages true?  Should you always suck it up and fake it, or can you--do you dare to--tell people how you really feel?  Is there an acceptable way to reveal your sorry state of mind?

Here is a little quiz for those times when you find yourself mingling under your own personal black cloud, and someone asks “How are you?”  Should you or should you not use the following lines:

Line:  “Well, if you don’t count today, I am doing great!”  
(YES   This may be not entirely true, as you may not be “doing great” in any way you can possibly imagine, but it does acknowledge your current frustration, so you won’t have to completely hide your bad mood.)

Line:  “Well, I guess a lot of us are doing pretty poorly in this world, right?” 

(NO.    This line pretends to be about something other than just you, but you might as well paste a big “L” on your forehead.)

Line:  “Don’t ask.”

(NO.  This is a sure fire conversation-stopper because--they won’t.)

Line “Okay, and you?”
(YES.   Nothing wrong with boring.  It’s better than morose.  But you better hope the other person has something to say.)

Line:  “I’ll be much better after I have a drink!”
(YES.   I like this one.  But you have to be sure of your crowd.)

Line:  “Oh my god, just wait until you hear about the terrible things that have been happening to me."

(NO.   “Wait until I hear?”  Hmmm.  Why don’t I wait over on the other side of the room, while talking to some other people who are a little more fun?)

Line:  “Actually I’m only so-so.  But I am really more interested in how YOU are.” 

YES.   An excellent response, providing it does not come off as fake or condescending.  If you are not sincere, you must at least sound sincere.

Line:  “I’m swell.  By the way do you know if there is any arsenic in the house?”
(MAYBE.   This is so out there you may be able to get away with it  But only use this if you are at a party of unconventional guests--or very good friends.)

Line:  (With a grateful, warm smile) “Until this very second, I was having quite a bad day.”

(YES.   This is the very best line, and can double as a romantic line.  You never know, with a line like this your whole miserable life could turn around, fast.)


  1. I can hardly wait until I use that last one. Meanwhile, what do you think about responding in French, something like "Je suis fatigue" -- does that make you seem glamorous, like Jeanne Moreau in a 1960s movie?

  2. Glamorous can be a nice choice, but if your accent is too good, the other person may leave you to go find an English-speaking person. Merde!

  3. nothing beats a smile and an upbeat response.
    Nobody wants to be a Debbie the Downer