On Responding to Sneezes

A few weeks ago, I sneezed at work.

I really have a way of starting these posts in such profound manners.

Anyway, I sneezed at work and one of my coworkers said “Tammy, are you a bless you kind of person?” And I was honestly taken aback, but also thought that was probably the most thoughtful question anyone had ever asked me at work.

I said yes, because in my mind, though the phrase bless you does have a religious background, it is usually said out of kindness and not out of trying to convert all sneezers to a certain system of beliefs. But I honestly still, to this day, cannot believe that that is the first time anyone has ever asked me that.

Have you ever been asked if you’re a bless you person?

The other night, after watching Clerks II (cause we’re that classy), boy (he did not approve of the nickname super stud) and I talked about saying bless you. I don’t remember what brought it up. I assume one of us sneezed. Boy comes from a Jesuit Catholic background, and I am the Jewiest of all Jews (not at all…though many of my friends think I am), so sometimes things with any tenuous connection to religious get us into conversations.

Of course, my first step was to tell him about this HILARIOUS thing I came upon on the internet (thanks The Oatmeal) one day about how it’s weird that we bless people that release a bunch of germs and disease into the air, but shun people that fart. Boy and I are very open with each other about farting. Mostly cause apparently I farted in my drunken sleep somewhere in the second month of our relationship, so y’know, I gave up then and there.

Anywayyyyyy after we laughed at the weirdness of that awkwardly for approximately three seconds, we moved on to talking about languages because, in case you didn’t know, I’m kind of obsessed with languages and linguistics.

My mom speaks seven languages, jealous. I have been bilingual since I was 8. I’ve been told I pick up languages pretty quickly, but I don’t think I believe that any more. After taking 6 years of Spanish, I took French and Arabic in college. I’m pretty sure I retained nothing of any of those languages. Well, probably Spanish. I also took a handful of linguistics classes. Definitely my favorite parts of linguistics are the cultural aspect, the historical aspect, and the psychological aspect. FASCINATING!

I totally remember how we got on the topic of bless you. NEITHER ONE OF US SNEEZED. I was telling Peter how at work I read about the root of our saying goodbye and how originally it was because someone shortened “God be with ye” to “Godbwye” and then someone misread it or something. Then we got to talking about other religious phrases in the English language and that’s how we got to bless you. VINDICATION.

I then told him I thought it was weird (and a little insulting) that English uses a religious phrase because there are so many languages that very elegantly (and logically) don’t. I pointed to Spanish and Hebrew as examples (both basically say “to health). I told him I assumed French was the same (apparently they are similar to Spanish in that there is a different response to every sneeze if you sneeze a few times in a row!). And finally I went to the German gesundheit. Neither one of us knew what the word actually meanth, he thought it kind of sounded like God Bless, and I said it seemed much more likely to be something along “good health” though as I said it I realized that good is like “gut” but I kept that to myself cause I didn’t want to proclaim my wrongness so quickly.

So of course, at a moment of slight boredom at work one day (at least I was learning something), I went and looked up both the meaning of gesundheit and what other languages say in response to sneezes. I was particularly curious about Arabic because it is very similar to Hebrew in many ways, but also very religious, so I wasn’t sure which way they’d go!

Here’s what I found (keep in mind, my main source is this Wikipedia page, I am confirming some of them through other research, but some just seem weird…also hilarious, read through them, you will laugh).

Out of the ~100 languages on the page, about half refer solely to the sneezer’s health. Less than 20% make a religious reference. There are a handful of languages that do both – but there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe this as it listed Spanish as one of these languages and I always learned that in Spanish you say “Salud,” “Dinero,” “Y amor.” Unfortunately, I don’t have friends that have been immersed in most of these languages, so I can’t confirm or deny this for sure.

Arabic is actually one of the ones listed as having both a religious and a health-related response. I asked one of my good friends who lived in Saudi Arabia for a while after college how people respond to someone who sneezes in Arabic. He said the religious one “ya rahmoka Allah” (meaning may God have mercy on you). I asked if he’d even heard sahha, and he said that was used more for burping. Of course, Arabic is a language spoken by many people across many different countries and cultures so this might not apply everywhere, but at least in Saudi Arabia it appears to be a religious response.

By the way, I asked him if he ever felt awkward when someone said that to him or he said it to someone, since he’s not Muslim. This was his response:


So how should you respond when someone sneezes. Honestly, I’d assume most people would have the same response I did at work and my friend had in Saudi Arabia. I doubt anyone has malicious or evangelist intent when saying “bless you.” If you do feel a need to be more aware, you can be like my coworker and ask. Or you can just go ahead and say gesundheit, it’s pretty acceptable in the US, though some people may just think you’re trying to be funny.

If you are the recipient of a bless you and you really really really really really really really don’t want to be, be kind, say thank you, and maybe clarify that you’re not religious and while you appreciate the well-wishes, you’d prefer not to be blessed. Keep in mind though, for most people saying bless you is a pretty thoughtless response, a reflex if you will, so if they keep doing it, don’t think they’re doing it out of spite or anything.




Fearless Friday 1.10

A while back I revealed that my partner and I met online.

Though I think some people still stigmatize online dating, I feel like it’s become much more acceptable than it was even just a few years ago. Maybe I’m just biased by my own success story, but I don’t feel nearly as uncomfortable sharing this information with people.

Well, with the success of online dating, and my generally complaining about how hard it is to make friends as an adult, I embarked on a mission of online-friend-finding.

This is nothing new.

Online communities have been the basis of friendships for a while. Not only that, but we’ve all heard stories of people meeting their best friend through an Instagram comment or tweet. The Minimalists wrote a great article about how the internet can often lead to more meaningful friendships.

This also isn’t that new to me.

Back in Michigan, before I moved almost a year ago (WHATTTTTT), I tried attending a handful of Meetup events. The idea was pretty straight forward. Find a group of people with whom you share a common interest. Go meet them and talk about/do something involving/whatever that common interest.

I think I was a member of somewhere around fifteen Meetups. I was probably active in two. There was one I actually created events for. I only ever went to one Meetup. It was an 11 mile hike in February. It was really fun. I skipped lunch after though. 4 hours with people I didn’t know was already a huge step outside my comfort zone. The truth is, Meetups just didn’t work for me. I’ve spoken with some other people who have tried attending these, and I can safely say that it’s not just me. Based on how many emails I get about Meetup groups getting cancelled (I signed up again once I was settled in Portland), it seems like maybe the idea isn’t working that well in general.

But, almost a year into Portland, and with really just a couple of friends to hang out with outside of the boy, I was really desperate to start meeting new people. Specifically females, to balance out the heavy dose of male company I get at work every day. Luckily, right around this realization (and I swear I had the realization before this happened), Bumble sent me an email about BumbleBFF.

Bumble was one of the many dating apps I used before meeting my main squeeze (I said it). It’s much like all the other apps, swiping, matching, hurrah! But the difference here was, only women could initiate a conversation once a match was made. The idea was to empower women. But also, it definitely served the men. I’ve heard many complaints from my male online dating friends about women who never respond. Still, I like that it puts the onus on the women. Because I’ve also heard so many of my female friends complaining about guys not texting them. I am then met with blank stares/silence when I ask if they had texted the guy.

Anyway, now this cool, women-empowering app was setting up a special portion for its females looking to make female friends in the adult world.

What great timing!

I logged on, switched to only the BFF portion (and obviously told the boo so he wouldn’t think I was sneaking behind his back going back to online dating again), and created a much more female-centered profile. What did that entail? Honestly? I used pretty much the same pictures, but felt more obligated to show the fun things I do rather than the most flattering pictures. My short blurb was pretty Portland generic. In fact, I think I might change it. Cause it literally matches 75% of other profiles I’ve read. And then I started swiping.

And then I got stuck.

After three years of online dating, turned into actual dating several times, turned into some kind of relationship a hand full of times, I had developed a pretty strong idea of what I was looking for in a romantic relationship and a pretty decent radar for spotting it online.

But what the heck was I looking for in a friend?!

I have a good number of friends in my life. But I have exactly four friends that I consider my closest friends and that I turn to no matter what (five if you consider the boo, which I do, he’s just more recent). These people know gross stuff about me. They know weird stuff about me. It’s gotten to a point where I know I can tell them pretty much anything and I know they won’t run away. And those four friends are all pretty different from each other (in my mind) and were met under totally different circumstances. Not only that, but these were friendships that developed with time. I rarely have an instantly strong connection with someone. I might have a sense of someone really quickly and I can maybe gauge if a strong connection is possible. But the connection itself takes time. I have trust issues. But also I’m human. And so is the other person. And there are about a million other factors that play into this.

So how the heck was I supposed to swipe right or left????

Well, I just went with my gut. And a few personal guidelines I chose. Namely age restrictions (and by age, I mean stage in life, and mainly I mean past the I wanna just party and get wasted attitude…which I guess isn’t so much of an age thing, just not my cup of tea). I also swiped left on women whose female relationships looked (in pictures) so far removed from what I do and have in mind, because I figured they were a good indicator of what they were looking for.

And then I went on my first friend date. And I was as nervous as I have been for any romantic-potential date. And I left, honestly, disappointed. And I feel ok saying this because considering neither of us contacted each other again after that, she probably felt the same way. The truth is, online dating prepared me pretty well for online friend-dating. This girl (woman damnit) and I had a really awesome texting-chemistry. But it just didn’t translate into real life. Maybe one or both of us was feeling off that day. Maybe it would have been worth a second visit. But, sometimes your gut just knows. And after three years of learning to listen to my gut in romantic situations, I decided to trust it in friendly situations too. Sure, maybe we could have met again and had a smoother conversation. But we were both on this app to make real and genuine connections. I’m sure we’ve both fallen into the friends of convenience trap and in looking for something wrong, maybe we both learned to run away from something less than stellar. And that’s ok. A few days later I went on another friend date and it was totally awesome. We kept talking and eating and laughing and talking. Eventually, after my phone just wouldn’t stop buzzing, I apologized and noticed we’d been at it for well over an hour. Making off the cuff plans to see each other again didn’t feel forced or awkward. I don’t know if this will keep on, or fizzle out like so many things do, but for now, it’s nice to have someone new to meet up and chat with.

So yeah. Confession: I’m using a dating app to make friends because, like dating, I don’t know how else to meet people. So sue me! Or join me. Your choice!


There’s this person in my life that I resent.

I have pretty much always resented her.

In my mind, she is potentially the most horrible person that I personally know.

I know this is weird to share.

But I’ve been trying to write a post about this topic all day, and I decided, although I try to stay positive, that coming out and sharing my hate is the best way to do it.

I find this person selfish. I find her careless. I find her rude. I find her hot-headed. I find her inconsiderate. I find her irresponsible. And the thing that drives me the most crazy, is that with all these negative qualities I feel that she has, she appears to be getting every single thing she wants.

But the truth of the matter is, this woman knows what she wants and she goes for it. And as our goals begin to differ, I’m realizing that that, more than anything is what I both hate and envy her for.

I’m still in search of what I want.

I have a seed of an idea. That’s a lie. I have about a hundred seeds of ideas of what I think I want. The truth is, what I know I want is pretty abstract and it kind of scares me.

The truth is, I know what I want, but am very unsure of how to achieve it.

This woman’s goals, at least the ones she outwardly projects, are very concrete very tangible goals. And she doesn’t let anyone or anything get in the way of her achieving them. And as I’ve come to realize this, along with my resentment towards her have formed some feelings of admiration.

I hope that when I wrap my mind around how to achieve my abstract goal, I go for it with the same tenacity that this woman does. I think she might even serve as inspiration when that day comes. Until then, I hope I can let my feelings of admiration grow next to my feelings of resentment and maybe even overpower them.

Because these negative feelings cause me more harm and cause no one any good.