What People Say Vs. What I Hear


In her article What People Say Vs. What They Mean, Chelsea Fagan wisely points out that you can’t always take casual comments at face-value. However, there are also those of us (we, the neurotics) who look so hard for hidden subtext in sincere remarks, we end up blowing things way out of proportion. Sometimes people actually mean what they say — we’re the psychotics reading too much into them.

What They Say: “Ohmygosh, you look so skinny!”

What I Hear: “You look skinnier than the last time I saw you, but obviously I’m paying attention to your weight, so clearly I used to think you were pretty fat. I mean, you still have a long way to go in the battle against your love-handles, but I’m proud of you for starting to make an effort. They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and honey — keep walking, because that’s the only way you’re going to get that ass down to a normal size!”

What They Say: “What are you up to tonight?”

What I Hear: “Everyone else is busy. Believe me, I checked. We could get drinks or something – you’re bearable when I’m drunk.”

What They Say: “I have a friend I want you to meet!”

What I Hear: “When I say friend, I obviously mean someone I hope you’ll end up sleeping with for a few weeks, at least. This whole ‘whiny single’ thing you’ve been doing recently is really starting to get on my nerves. Your desperation is palpable to me and everyone else around you. And frankly, we’ve been spending way too much time together — it’s time I pass the ball to someone else for a bit. I need a break.”

What They Say: “That looks like a good book.”

What I Hear: “I’m surprised you’re not thumbing through one of those trashy tabloids you love! I guess I just assumed if there weren’t any pictures of drugged out celebrities or Who Wore It Best polls, you weren’t interested. Oh wait, that’s Jenna Jameson’s autobiography? That makes more sense.”

What They Say: “I like your shirt!”

What I Hear: “I know you wore that shirt yesterday, and this is my passive-aggressive way of calling you out on it. You thought people wouldn’t notice, huh? You thought you could just spray some Febreze on that baby, shake it out, and nobody would see what a hobo you are? Well, we see. And we judge.”

What They Say: “I’ve never heard this song.”

What I Hear: “I hate this song, can we please change the radio station now. I know you were just singing along, so clearly you like it, but honestly — you have the worst taste in music ever.”

What They Say: “Can I get you a refill on your Pepsi?”

What I Hear: “You seem like the kind of person who comes to restaurants instead of making yourself dinner at home largely because of the free soda refills. This is your fourth one of these, right? I just whispered to the busboy that I bet you won’t leave that table until you hit double-digits. Prove me right, dude. I got five bucks on this.”

What They Say: “We’ll be right back.”

What I Hear: “Run! Run for your life! Don’t look back now or he’ll follow us! This is our only chance to ditch him, go, go, go!

What They Say: “You wanna dance?”

What I Hear: “Your self-esteem seems just high enough that I think you have the ability to dance with me in front of other people, but low enough that I’m not worried you’ll reject me to dance with someone hotter. Plus, I made a bet with my friend over there that I could get laid tonight, and you seem easy, so how about it? Just a few songs and then we’ll get out of here?”

What They Say: “Excuse me, I think you dropped these.”

What I Hear: “You sloppy, stupid idiot! You are so lucky there are good people like me in this world who will pick up after your careless ass! Now take your goddamn car keys back and stop wasting my life!”

What They Say: “How was your weekend?”

What I Hear: “You have circles under your eyes, a hickey on your neck, I can still smell the cigarette smoke on your clothes and you have a bar nut in your hair. Your two-day bender is painfully obvious, but I’m checking to see if you have a well-thought out cover-story to explain your disheveled appearance; or if you’ll spill the sordid details and allow me to judge you openly.”

What They Say: “Wow, it’s cold outside tonight.”

What I Hear: “I never want to speak to you again.”

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image – Patrick Hoesly