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What DON’T You Do? What Really Defines Us

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You walk into a cocktail party. People are mingling, sipping champagne, nibbling little bites, uttering pleasantries. Eye contact is friendly, but fleeting. Before you know it, you are in the mix. Talking to people you don’t know. Trading vital statistics. First, you play that well-worn name game. And then someone asks you that question. That question you are asked all of the time. That question with which our society is curiously obsessed.


“What do you do?”
And faced with that simple question, you pause. You search. You’ve had plenty of practice answering this one. And yet. Your answer comes out in uncertain fragments. Well, I am writing now. But I am a lawyer. Not practicing though. And I have two young kids. And they keep me plenty busy. I am happy to be flexible. Your answer is an honest, scattered, non-linear mess that elicits sympathetic nods from coiffed listeners. You vow to work on the answer to this question.


But then you realize something as you are silently berating yourself for not honing your reply. You realize that there is another question. One that no one ever asks. One that would perhaps reveal more, far more, than the one everyone does ask.


What Don’t You Do?
You allow yourself to imagine what would happen if this was the question asked in the throes of awkward social collision. You envision how people would react. How you would. You imagine someone asking you this deeper, more daring question and you realize that this time, the answers would flow freely.


I don’t drive.


I don’t clean.


I don’t cook.


I don’t bake.


I don’t swear.


I don’t drink beer.


I don’t rock climb.


I don’t eat whole fish.


I don’t travel.


I don’t go to Broadway shows.


The list goes on an on if you let it. And maybe you do. You realize that you can tell a lot more about a person by what they don’t do, by what they avoid, purposefully or no, then by what they do do (or say they do). You realize that next time, at the next civilized adult affair, when people float about insecurely trading cheek kisses and artful BS, you will ask this question. And you will take note of the surprise splashed on strange faces, the temporary wash of confusion, and the answers that come.


And then you realize that you can’t wait for the next soiree to ask this question. You don’t want to. You want to ask it now. You want to see what it unearths.


And so you do.


What don’t you do?

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