This is one of those posts where I make you decide who is right and who is wrong. The people you are choosing between? Me – the really-not-so-great-at-blogging-lately-blogger you adore – or my husband – a guy you don’t even know.
I am going to try my best to explain each side in as unbiased a way possible, so as to keep your judgments strictly fact-based. But you must take a side. You MUST.
Listen, Internet, I need you to really FOCUS here. Because your vote is SUPER IMPORTANT. After all, we are about to bring a CHILD into the world, and teach that child the Right way to do things. And since one of these responses is so clearly WRONG, the WRONG Spouse needs to be educated before the baby arrives.
THIS IS FOR THE BABY.
(As always, please recall that whenever I write a post that forces you, Internet, to take sides between me and my husband – which I have done, to this point, just a few times, not counting this post which is really not interesting enough to require such a lengthy disclaimer – I feel morally obligated to reference Temerity Jane, who writes similar-enough-that-I-feel-morally-torn-type posts [only better and with more hilarity]. [This is purely a moral obligation, not a Temerity-Jane-imposed obligation.])
Let’s get right to the situation shall we?
First, you need to imagine that you are standing in your kitchen, minding your own business, possibly cursing the very dishes you are washing for the ten BAJILLIONTH time because dishes never END, EVER, while your spouse is upstairs doing – let’s be charitable here – some household chore that is equally necessary and irritating, when you hear a loud crashing noise from the second floor. (You may have to imagine that you live in a house with a second floor.)
Now, the crashing noise is… distressing in that it’s not a normal Household Sound (me: momentarily glad I don’t live in a house where crashing is NORMAL) (the baby: not yet) and so you run to the bottom of the stairs and you yell up to your spouse.
What is it that you yell?
One of us, in such a situation, would yell, “What happened?”
The other would yell, “Are you okay?”
Now, before we delve into each of these responses, let’s imagine two other scenarios.
Scenario #1 (okay, really #2 if we are counting the Loud Crash as Scenario #1): You and your spouse are standing in the afore-mentioned kitchen and one of you is loading dishes into the dishwasher and the other of you is puttering about the kitchen, getting dinner ready or putting groceries away or some such. Then one of you – you, your spouse, doesn’t matter I guess; this is YOUR imagination – trips over the dishwasher and cracks a toe or a shin on the corner and yelps in pain.
What do you say?
“Are you okay?”
Scenario #2 (really, #3): You and your spouse are settling in for an evening watching Mad Men or Justified or [insert your own wonderful TV show with adorable leading man here], and one of you carries the bowl of popcorn while the other carries the drinks.
Just as you reach the couch, one of you trips, flinging popcorn/[drink of your choice] all over the couch and the floor and everything.
Okay, if your FIRST response isn’t laughter, what is it?
“Are you okay?”
In my house, one of us almost exclusively responds with “What happened?” and the other responds with “Are you okay?”
“Are you okay?” is the more appropriate response because it defines the other person’s well-being as the asker’s priority. Things get dropped/broken/spilled; people trip. But what is important here is whether the dropper/breaker/spiller/tripper is all right. Understanding whether the person is okay will also help the asker determine what to do next:, i.e. calling 911 or offering a hug vs. grabbing a towel/vacuum cleaner.
“What happened?” is the more appropriate response because it pinpoints the cause of the crash/trip/pain. It allows the asker to assess the situation clearly and formulate a clear plan of action for dealing with the situation. If the cause of the crash was an accidental backing-into-a-stack of books, that’s a whole different beast than if it were caused by a person fainting or falling down the stairs or being pinned under a bookcase. If the trip into the dishwasher was the result of a slippery floor or a failure on the spouse’s part to make it clear that the dishwasher was open and in the way, well, that’s different than if the tripper just misjudged the distance between shin and sharp corner.
“Are you okay?” is NOT an appropriate response because it does nothing to solve the situation or prevent similar situations in the future. Plus, usually, your spouse can SEE, with his/her own two eyes, that you ARE okay, so what’s the point in asking?
“What happened?” is NOT an appropriate response because it implies blame in a situation where the dropper/breaker/spiller/tripper might already feel stupid and embarrassed. Plus, it doesn’t acknowledge any physical pain that may have resulted from the drop/break/spill/trip, which might be more important to the dropper/breaker/spiller/tripper than some knocked-over books or popcorn-covered couch cushions.
It is so very clear to me that one of these responses is WRONG that I am practically shaking with the wrongness.
I have no doubt that you will take my side in this. NO DOUBT. But let’s all try to be fair and reasonable when explaining which is right and which is wrong and why.