What you need to know about clueyness, a weird kind of sad.

It's like conjunctional empathy, and it happens to all of us.

This post was originally published on Wait But Why.

I have a new word for you: cluey. Let me explain.


My father once told me a mundane little anecdote from his youth. It involved his father — my late grandfather — and one of the happiest and most loving people I’ve ever known.

One weekend day, my grandfather went to the store and brought a new board game home for the family: Clue.

He excitedly asked my father and his sister (who were 7 and 9 at the time) if they wanted to play. They did. They joined him at the kitchen table as he opened up the game, read the instructions, explained to them how to play, divided up the cards, and put all the pieces where they go.

Just as they were about to start, the doorbell rang. It was the neighbor kids, who said they were on their way outside to play some outdoor game they all used to play. Without a second thought, my dad and aunt jumped up from their seats and left with their friends.

A few hours later, they came back to the house. The game had been put back in the closet.

At the time, my dad didn’t think much of it — pretty normal day in their lives. But later on, he found himself remembering that day, and he always felt bad about it. He pictured his father sitting there at the table, now alone, with all the cards and pieces laid out. He pictured him waiting for a little while before accepting that it wasn’t gonna happen, then collecting all the pieces and cards he had laid out, putting them back in the box, and putting the box back in the closet.

Pretty random story for my dad to tell me, right? The reason he did was because it was part of a conversation where I was trying to articulate a certain thing I suffer from.

I feel incredibly bad for certain people in certain situations — situations in which the person I feel bad for was probably barely affected by what happened.

It’s an odd feeling of intense heartbreaking compassion for people who didn’t actually go through anything especially bad.

When I explained this, my dad said, “I know what you’re talking about,” and offered up the Clue story. Devastating. My grandfather had been excited about playing, and he was being such a good, loving dad, and he ended up let down and disappointed. He sat there all by himself with the game board, and finally, he put all the cards and pieces back in the box because no, the game wasn’t happening anymore because his kids would rather play with their friends than him.

My grandfather fought in World War II. He probably lost friends. He probably shot people. He might have been shot himself, who knows. But the image of him quietly putting all the Clue pieces back in the box? That’s not fucking OK. And now, thanks to my dad sharing this memory, I live every day haunted by this image:

All images here used with permission from Wait But Why.

It’s not just my dad doing this to me.

Tell me how I’m supposed to handle this fucking story, where the grandfather made 12 burgers for six grandkids and only one showed up.

Full Clue situation. And the story includes the clueyest picture I’ve ever seen:

As I read the story, I started picturing this nice fucking man buying all the ingredients in the grocery store, in a good mood with anticipation for the night, then coming home and making each of the 12 patties by hand — maybe even adding carefully-thought-out spices into them — toasting the buns and timing everything to be done at just the right time. He even made homemade ice cream. Clue up the dick. It continues, if you imagine what happened at the end of the night. Either he wrapped up eight uneaten burgers, one by one, and put them in the fridge, ensuring that he’s later reminded of the rejection each time he heats one up to eat it, or even worse, he just threw them in the trash.

And then there’s this story of an 89-year-old grandmother, who got dressed nicely and put her paintings up for display at an art showing, and guess what? No one fucking came. Then, according to one of her grandchildren, she packed up her paintings and drove home, feeling “foolish.” You know what that is? It’s cluey as hell. Especially the word foolish, in particular. I really don’t need this in my life.

Movies know all about clueyness and use it to their advantage.

Remember that super cluey old man neighbor in "Home Alone"? Who was so nice and lonely and misunderstood? The writers literally invented him to inflict clueyness on the audience so they could then release the burden of that clueyness at the end by showing him in happy reunion with his family. Cheapest trick in the book.

Clueyness doesn’t only apply to old people. One time, about five years ago, I was in a bad mood and in a rush when I hastily walked out of my apartment building. A FedEx man was standing outside the building with his cart of packages, and he wanted to get in so he could leave the packages on top of the communal mailbox (I assume the package recipient wasn’t home, so he had had no luck being buzzed in). As I walked out, he reached for the door as it closed behind me, but it shut before he could grab it. After the door relocked, he let out a frustrated exhale, and then he turned to me and asked, “Can you please open the door so I can drop these off?” I was already 10 steps away though and late, so I said, “Sorry I can’t right now” and turned back toward where I was going. Before I did, I briefly saw his reaction to my refusal to help. He had the face on of a nice person who the world had been mean to all day. The snapshot of that dejected face he made bothered me more and more throughout the day, and now it’s five years later, and I still think about it.

If someone asks me what my biggest regret is, I have to lie because how weird would it be if I answered, “The FedEx man incident. I’m a monster.”

Clueyness is a strange phenomenon.

My grandfather probably forgot about the Clue incident an hour after it happened. The FedEx man probably forgot about what I did to him five minutes later. I got cluey about a dog the other day, when he was super excited to play and I was busy and nudged him away with my foot, and he looked at me confused and taken aback and then went to the side of the room and laid down. The weight of my heartache in these cases outweighs the actual tragedy like 10,000:1.

But knowing that it’s totally irrational doesn’t make clueyness any less excruciating —something I’m reminded of every time my night is ruined by post-Uber-ride-when-the-friendly-driver-tried-to-start-a-conversation-and-I-wasn’t-in-the-mood-so-I-gave-curt-answers-until-he-finally-got-the-hint-and-then-felt-embarrassed-and-stopped guilt.

I’m just destined for a life of feeling cluey about things. But at least I can take solace in a little headline I came across:

Sad Papaw No Longer Sad: Thousands Wait in Line for Burgers at His Cookout

More

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

Someday, future Americans will look back on this era of school shootings in bafflement and disbelief—not only over the fact that it happened, but over how long it took us to enact significant legislation to try to stop it.

Five people die from vaping, and the government talks about banning vaping devices. Hundreds of American children have been shot to death in their classrooms, sometimes a dozen or so at a time, and the government has done practically nothing. It's unconscionable.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
via Hollie Bellew-Shaw / Facebook

For those of us who are not on the spectrum, it can be hard to perceive the world through the senses of someone with autism.

"You could think of a person with autism as having an imbalanced set of senses," Stephen Shore, assistant professor in the School of Education at Adelphi University, told Web MD.

"Some senses may be turned up too high and some turned down too low. As a result, the data that comes in tends to be distorted, and it's very hard to perceive a person's environment accurately," Shore continued.

Keep Reading Show less
Education & Information
Truth

Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

truth
True