The English language is interesting. It’s structured so that we often get clues about what’s to come. For instance, right now you expect me to come up with an example, because I used the phrase “for instance.”
By the same token, in life there are certain opening lines that you just don’t want to hear, because you just know that something bad is going to follow, based on what you know about the English language and how people use it. Here are some opening lines that spell trouble ahead.
1. Do you know what I’ve noticed about you?
This is almost never followed by a compliment of any sort. Instead, it’s usually followed by a laundry list of things that are wrong about you. Some complaint about you or your behavior that the other person has been holding inside for years, maybe, and now it’s about to be spewed out in an ugly attempt to “help you be a better person.” Run.
2. Are you sitting down?
Oh God. Something awful has happened and you’re about to learn about it for the first time. What is it? Has someone died? Is the house still standing? Is your spouse leaving you for good because you couldn’t ever get a handle on putting the toilet seat down? What is it??!! Tell me!!!!!!
3. Can I be honest with you?
You can safely assume that if someone leads with this line, they’ve been lying to you for the entire time you’ve known them. What? We’ve been married for 10 years and NOW you decide to be honest with me? Or, imagine you’re in a tiny little 2-seater Beechcraft charter plane, flying over the Atlantic, and your pilot whispers into your headset, “Can I be honest with you?”
4. When is the last time you saw your car?
Absolutely—trust me on this—absolutely, nothing good follows this question. It’s impossible. It’s not going to be:
When is the last time you saw your car? Because I think you’ll be amazed at the detailing job I did on it!
When is the last time you saw your car? Because a magic genie just turned it into a BMW.
When is the last time you saw your car? Because I think I just saw Christie Brinkley driving it.
5. Are you in a good mood?
Lock up your wallet if anyone lays this doozie of a line on you. Boy-o, I’m not kidding, you’re going to be hit up for a loan. Either that or your kid just got kicked out of school for cheating, or your car just got dented, or all your recordings of Downton Abbey got deleted.
6. We need to talk.
Uh oh. “We need to talk” can only mean one thing. You’re getting dumped.
7. I’m not quite sure how to tell you this.
The forthcoming news is so bad that there are no words for it. Think about it. There are a gazillion words in the English language, and this person can’t figure out how to use them to tell you the news because that’s how bad it it. I mean, this is probably what people said right before announcing that Babe Ruth got traded to the Yankees. Not good.
8. Is that what you’re wearing?
How are you supposed to answer this? “Yes, because I like looking like I get dressed in the dark.” Or, “No, I was going to stop in a phone booth on the way and change into my superhero costume.” Whatever it is, just spit it out.
9. Do you know where your daughter is right now?
Oh. My. God. This sucks to hear anytime, from anyone, but can you imagine if these words are spoken by two uniformed men in blue at your door at midnight? Talk about conditions ripe for a heart attack…