“Jillian, can you come downstairs and watch me play Fortnite?”
Translation: I reject nearly all video games and particularly your fervor for this one. But, you have been pretty well-behaved today and I get what a toll it takes to be the only tween at this gathering of grown-ups. But uggghhh FORTNITE 🙄
If, after I am satisfied with conversing with the other adults, you still want me to watch you play your little video game, I will do that. Also, would it be OK if I just fell asleep like I did when your brother used to ask me to watch him play video games?
“You should check out this podcast.”
Translation: Do I trust your taste? Do I have room in my podcast repertoire?
Is it celebrity driven? = signs point to no
Is it music-related? = true maybe
Is it true crime, criminal (in)justice, or a historical scandal? Will it shed light on some cultural phenomenon? = you may rely on it
Credit to my wife’s friend Samurai (not his real name, which I do not know).
“Do you want to read my newest piece on the Prompt?”
Translation: That feels like a big time commitment. I want to support you, but it’s difficult to know what you’re getting into when you start reading something with no context other than “written by a friend.” Why can’t you do photography or drawing or sculpture. That only takes 3/4s of a second to take in, process, and then respond affirmatively. At least stick to haikus.
“Erin, will you do a shot with me?”
Translation: I probably will not do this shot. If it’s early in the night and I haven’t already started drinking, maybe I will have it. If it’s a Bills tailgate, I will likely take it. But if we’re about to get in a Lyft to ride to a bar, I absolutely will not do this shot for fear of car sickness and/or feeling nauseous for the rest of the night. Shots are almost always a bad idea.
“Would you want to sub for my [ sport other than bowling ] team sometime?”
Translation: Yes, yes, a THOUSAND times yes. I’m wary of sounding too eager, too desperate, and throwing myself at your team. But the truth is, more than anything in the world, I want to partially dazzle you with my above average athleticism. I want you to shrug at my adequacy and think, “Not half bad! Would text her again if [other blonde with pony tail] bails at the last minute.”
“Oh! You should totally write about that!”
“Hmm! Yeah! Maybe!”
Translation: I have absolutely no interest in writing that story. But I do want you to recognize me as your writer friend and occasionally read my work when you’re bored at work.
BERNARDO: Looks it not like the king? Mark it, Horatio.
TRANSLATION: Oh, it’s the king, all right. Dead, buried, but back and thirsty for vengeance. Get the kid back here from college, now. The kid has a job to do and it needs to be done quickly, efficiently and brutally. The future of Denmark hangs in the balance. Get this right or our entire society is going to collapse and we’re going to wind up under the rule of Poland. Poland! What is this, the Ubu plays?
Niece/nephew: “Sarah, will you paint my nails/play this game with me?”
Translation: I would like to, but it’s contingent on multiple things, including: if I can use this as bribery; how much time I have; and if you forget before you or I leave, in which case, we will revisit said game or nail painting at a later date.
Email: Can you take on this project?
Translation: I’m already overwhelmed and have a bunch of work to do before I can even think about taking on something else, but I don’t want to say “no” right out of the gate.
EVERY HUMAN, UPON SEEING MY FLAWLESS SKIN: “Were you born with it?”
ME, SULTRILY INTO THE CAMERA, MY DRESS FLOWING IN A MYSTERIOUS WIND: “Maybe.”
TRANSLATION: It’s Maybelline, you idiot. I use Maybelline.
“Hey Josh, could you do X thing for me, if you don’t mind and have a few minutes?”
Translation: Let me go ahead and run some quick calculations. For starters, how much time in my day has been set aside for me? Subtract that by the amount of time the favor asker has ever seemed to give to me or would potentially give to me or has given to people that I care about. Multiply that by the likelihood that this favor granting will lead to other favors asked, a sort of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” type of situation. If that answer comes out above the requisite 8, than maybe = yes
<Question redacted because I’m embarrassed to let people know what I’m thinking when they ask>
Translation: How do I say no without hurting our relationship, without damaging the potential business and/or personal interactions we may have in the future? The truth is I can’t say no so I’ll say maybe or let me think on it or how about we get together and talk about it or some other delaying tactic that is specifically relevant to the redacted question at hand but I dare not list it here for fear that one day, maybe today, maybe five years in the future, you come across this silly thing I wrote and realize how noncommittal I am. The truth is, really, yes, here is the heart of it, I am risk averse, I am a chicken shit, I am terrified of the future and embarrassed by the past. You want me to do something, you’ve demonstrated faith and confidence in me by asking, but all I hear is the fear of failure that comes with opportunity, so I shrug, I delay, I try to sound thoughtful and cautious, but cautious in a good way, the way people respect and revere, until time drags on and I regret not pouncing on this opportunity, not saying yes, because the maybe has been stretched out, hanging in the air, uncomfortable and heavy, and it reveals me as a coward, using a no in five letters, indirect, obscure, the worst answer to your question.
So let’s talk next week. Get lunch. Hammer this out. It’s a great idea and maybe we can figure it out together. Maybe I’ve learned my lesson. Maybe I’ll say yes. Maybe.
“Hey, Mom, were you going to eat that ice cream in the freezer?”
Translation: Keep your grubby paws off my Death By Chocolate, pal, if you know what’s good for you. You were expecting that I was going to make dinner again tonight? Well, guess what—maybe. And if my Death By Chocolate disappears, then, maybe not. Ne touche pas à ma glace, mon petit chou. You may have decided to take Spanish instead of French, but Mom’s hairy eyeball should give you a big ol’ clue what that particular French phrase means.
After some thinking I realized I don’t use “maybe” all that often because it’s such a weasel word and seems impolite. Instead, I developed my own weasel words.
Them: “Hey, we should <whatever> after this coronavirus thing is over!”
Me: “Oh that sounds like a good idea!”
Me (really): “My time is precious and I probably don’t like to spend time doing <whatever> even if it’d be with people I like spending time with. It’s easy to talk about <plans> when there’s no chance of it happening right now because of social distancing; let’s talk about it while I secretly hope that we get ‘too busy’ again when things open back up. Then I’ll have better excuses to not do <the activity.> Plus this way I can say something that’s technically true—it does sound like a good idea to get together and <thing!> It’s just not one I have any interest in ushering into reality.”
Did we cover them all? The answer is maybe. Hit us on Twitter to let us know what we missed!