The problem is that people use that question like a greeting, as extension of "hello". They don't usually want an hour-long list of symptoms. So we learn to minimise, or use a shorthand that makes things sound much less difficult, painful, or complicated than they actually are.
But some people really are genuinely concerned and want to know how we're feeling. For those people, I now present the translation of a number of common answers lupies give to the question "How are you?"
- "I'm great, never better." Translation: "Nothing is actually hurting at the moment, and I'm worried that might be a sign something is wrong, because I can't remember the last time nothing was hurting."
- "Uh.... um... huh?" Translation: "Sorry, my brain fog is so bad today that I can't even process the question. Ask me tomorrow, or next week."
- "I have a bit of a headache today." Translation: "It feels as if someone has shoved a white-hot knife between my eyes and through my brain and is now whizzing the resultant halves of my brain through a blender, along with a fair amount of explosive. Stand back, I don't know how far the danger zone extends from my actual body when this mix goes off."
- "I'm fine." Translation: "I'm in a bit of pain, and feeling tired, but nothing out of the ordinary."
- "I'm OK." Translation: "I'm in a bit of pain, feeling tired, I have an upset tummy, but nothing I can't cope with."
- "I'm not too bad." Translation: "I'm coping, but just barely."
- "I probably shouldn't have gone out in the sun yesterday." Translation: "This rash itches and hurts and scares the hell out of me, and on top of that I'm tired, sore, and sick."
- "Oh hi, how are you?" Translation: "I'm too sore, tired and sick to even come up with a decent euphemism, so I'm going to avoid answering."
- "I've got a few aches and pains." Translation: "This is killing me."
- "It's quite a bad day." Translation: "How does anyone survive feeling this bad!"
- "I'm having a really bad day today." Translation: "Oh God! Please just let me die now!"
- "I'm a bit tired." Translation: "If I go to sleep now, I won't wake up until at least next week. And then I'll still be tired."