Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Art of Being Polite

(I do, and I very rarely do. Image from

I’m British, and as you may be aware one of the things we British are known for (apart from Stephen Fry, Doctor Who and corgis) is being polite when we’re actually thinking something quite rude. We’re staunchly passive aggressive in this regard - it’s up there with such known British quirks as automatically saying sorry for things which we know were the other person’s fault.
I have the added bonus of working in the legal system, which takes this to a whole new unimagined level. Beginning a sentence with “With respect”  in a legal letter for example roughly translates as “I’m going to explain this very slowly to you, because you clearly have the intellectual capacity of goldfish."

So, for a bit of light-hearted humour, I decided to apply the “What the British say vs what they actually mean” approach to some of the most irritating/silly questions I’ve ever been asked about life with a chronic illness.
Before anyone potentially gets offended, I will just point out this is very tongue in cheek. I am well aware most people's curiosity is completely harmless, and that the vast majority are not as obtuse as the questions they sometimes ask. I merely ask you consider the more colourful responses you yourself may consider if you'd answered the same question fifty-odd times and counting.
So, for a bit of fun:
But… how can you not drink alcohol at all?

What I say: Well, it took a bit of getting used to but now I don’t really notice. I miss the odd specific drink but nothing major.

What I mean: I walk up to a bar and I order that-which-is-not-alcohol. It’s my superhero power.

How can you be in pain all the time? That’s not even possible.

What I say: That's what a chronic pain condition is. It's not particularly well understood, as such there's no cure so it's difficult to know how best to go about preventing patients from being in pain. It's just one of those things.

What I mean: Because wizards. Moron.

(See? Wizards... image from

So it’s a chronic fatigue condition. Why don’t you just go to bed early?

What I say: Sadly it’s not the sort of fatigue that any amount of sleep particularly benefits. I still have to be careful how much I do on a daily basis and sometimes even that doesn’t work.

What I mean: If you honestly think I wouldn’t have tried that in the last three years, I suspect your brain is missing.

Maybe you just need to go out more?

What I say: That’s not always a good idea for various reasons, but I do get out as much as I’m able to.

What I mean: No I most certainly don’t, going out is how I end up talking to people who ask silly questions...


Don’t you think it’s all about attitude?

What I say: With respect, positivity can’t wholly solve any medical issue. I think there’s a great deal more to it that’s a fairly dismissive assumption.

What I mean: I mean no respect whatsoever because I think you’re an idiot. I suspect that’s not the attitude you were referring to, however.

Aren’t you a bit young to be  ill?

What I say: A lot of chronic conditions typically manifest in the early 20’s, but can crop up at any age. It’s just one of those things.

What I mean:  No, but I’m definitely a bit young to be this cynical about people…

How come you don’t look ill?

What I say: Because all the symptoms are internal - that’s why it’s an “invisible” illness.

What I mean: Say it with me, "invisible". There’s this thing called a dictionary - perhaps you should try it.

(Nectar of the gods. Also, just to be clear, we Brits don't all serve tea in the finest china. We aren't all the cast of Downton Abbey.)

*In response to not feeling well* - Do you want a cup of tea?

What I say: Yes, I’d love one.

What I mean: I’m British - that’s a completely rhetorical question.

We’re a strange bunch, we Brits. However, keep me in copious amounts of tea and I’ll allow you to ask me all the stupid questions you wish.  Cake is also good.

Wishing you all many spoons xxx


  1. I love this post! In my head when people ask me stupid questions I usually think 'Oh, why don't you fuck off?' yet do I say it? Nope.

    1. Haha, thanks Leah! I've definitely thought that a couple of times myself! xx

  2. Copious amounts of tea are a fantastic social lubricant. Forget alcohol. I do the polite outward/snarky inward response thing too from time to time, but more often I can't help but respond to the genuine desire for knowledge embedded within the question. My pity takes over, and I use it as a chance to educate, as you clearly do with your polite responses. Sometimes, though, if I'm feeling especially quirky or wicked I'll make up an entirely facetious and outrageous answer that I say with a totally normal voice to see if I can get them to believe something ridiculous. There have been a few times when I've really gotten away with it, but my pity usually takes over and I break the truth to them eventually.

    1. It's nice to hear other people react similarly! x