Me: "Bless you."
LF: "Thank you."
Every once in a while the preceding exchange, which occurs several times a day with the roles reversed on fully half the occasions, strikes me as exceedingly weird. My lady friend sneezes, I give her my blessing, she thanks me. The strange part is the gravity with which we undertake our respective roles: I speak with a seriousness that implies an absolute confidence in my ability to bestow blessings, like a high priest of holy sinus ejection, and Courtney thanks me for my largesse, as if a sneeze gone unblessed would be truly bad fortune.
Of course, the more proper, formal dialogue would precede "bless you" with "God," passing the authority for the actual blessing further up the line and it would probably be more of a request than an assumption of immediate blessing. But most of us have dropped that formality in the service of brevity, in the process taking the mantle of official blessor of violently aspirated mucous onto ourselves.
And woe be to anyone not participating in this back-and-forth of divine implication. At one point during college, in one of my periodic fits of rebellion, I decided that the whole blessings-for-sneezes program was ridiculous and I would henceforth not be taking part. Who was I to go around tossing blessings at every a-hole with allergies? Sure, I knew that my silence in the face of a sneeze would make me the a-hole, but any good revolution requires sacrifice.
About a month after I kicked off my uprising, I was having an argument with my roommate, who was like Comic Book Guy but without the social skills, genial demeanor or hygiene. At the peak of the heated and definitely non-friendly debate he reminded me, as if laying down his trump card, that he had sneezed, weeks before, and I never said "Bless you." He was completely serious, having held on to this point of contention all that time knowing he could hold it against me when the situation demanded it. I conceded the point and refrained from reminding him that he smelled perpetually like pizza and body odor and would never enjoy the touch of a woman, because I may be an a-hole, but I'm not that big an a-hole. No sense destroying the poor guy, right?
Point is, people notice when you don't play your part in the sneezing game. I eventually gave up my non-blessing crusade, redirecting my revolutionary energies toward more important goals, like making Toby Keith feel unwelcome in continental North America by way of my unrelenting, if subtle, ridicule (Seriously, Toby: You can have the Aleutians. Really. You'll be safe there and then we can both go on with our lives. Just don't infect the local salmon population with your greasy Country-dickwad shtick, because I like my wild-caught Alaskan salmon dickwad-free.)
On second thought, that's too big a risk. Does St. Helena have any vacancies? Or Mars?