I’m FINE, thank you.

fine_edited-1What does “fine” mean?

Usually, it’s as close as you can get to speaking without saying anything. Someone asks how you are, you assume it’s a formality, so you give the generic answer: “fine.”

But context and tone can dramatically change the meaning. Like when my son asks me how I’m doing and I say, “Fine. Thanks for asking,” because I’m delighted that he cares. Or when I’m recovering from a crisis and tell a friend, “I’m fine”—and we both know that’s way better than yesterday.

Then there’s the “fine!” I say to my husband when we’re fighting. That one word expresses a world of meaning: “You are so obstinate, impossible, wrong! There’s no point in trying to talk to you! Forget I ever said anything! I give up!”

I am definitely not fine today. The roofers are at our house, pounding on my head, Samantha’s ceiling is leaking, and I’ve got to have surgery on my hand—again.

You could say I’m FINE, though, if you use Ruth Zardo’s definition. Ruth is a seriously crabby old woman and famous poet in Louise Penny’s mystery series. In her world, FINE means “Fucked-up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Egotistical.”

How poetic. Or in this case, honest.

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