Ask for What You Want

A woman is sitting, menu closed in front of her, in a nice restaurant. Angrily, she waves at a passing waiter. “Where’s my dinner?” she demands.

woman holds blank placard, maggie mcreynolds blogThe waiter is nonplussed. “You haven’t ordered yet,” he says.

Unfortunately, the customer is unmoved by mere logic. “You ought to know what I want!”

“But…how would I know that?” the waiter stammers.

“If you really valued me as a customer,” the woman insists, “you’d know what I want.”

Other customers are starting to look around; it’s only a matter of time before the manager notices the commotion. Eager to smooth things over as quickly as possible, the waiter takes a wild guess. “Maybe you’d like a nice piece of salmon?”

The customer rolls her eyes. “Nooooo,” she snaps, “I hate salmon, how could you not know that, you idiot? I want a steak!”

At this point, the waiter is wishing he’d taken that job at Doggie Daycare, where it’s permissible to swat the patrons on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. Fortunately, a fellow waiter is passing by with a full tray meant for another table. Our waiter frantically snatches a steak dinner off the tray and presents it with a flourish to his nightmare of a customer. “There!” he says proudly. “A nice steak, just like you wanted!”

“Just forget it!” the customer snaps. “It doesn’t count if I had to ask for it!”

The customer is clearly crazy, right? But what if she weren’t at a restaurant, but in her own home? What if the waiter was her husband? Shouldn’t he know what she wants for dinner? Shouldn’t he know she wishes he’d do the laundry? Shouldn’t he know exactly how she wants him to behave?

We tell ourselves that if people really love us, they will somehow magically know that we want a back rub, that we need a hug, that we are hoping to get flowers on our next birthday, that we have had a horrible day and we need everyone to be absolutely quiet for fifteen minutes or our heads are going to explode.

And when our loved ones don’t seem to know any of this, we are angry not at ourselves for not having asked for what we wanted, but at our loved ones for not having divined our thoughts.

Asking for what you want doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. But not asking for what you want is almost a guarantee that you won’t.

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