Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Keep the personal questions to yourself, rude-o

A reader writes:

I went to a barbecue with my husband's family over the weekend. My husband's grandma asked us when WE would be having kids. We told her in the cutest way possible that the answer was never, if we could at all help it. She made a face and some sort of dismissive noise, and conversation moved on. She came back at me three more times with the same question, each time more and more unhappy at the answer she received. She informed me that I was being selfish, and that God would hate me for not having children.

Is it just me, or should people just butt the hell out of a personal decision like whether or not my husband and I choose to spawn?

There are so many ways the question, "When are you two having kids," could go wrong.

Ultimately, the choice to have or not have children is a deeply personal one that I believe should remain between a husband and wife. But, what if we make that leap to presume that it WAS Grandma's business? What gives her the right to tell us that we're horrible people because we're not making the same life choices she made?

Our reasons for not having children are numerous and very well thought out. Should we have to defend them over and over?

- A Reader

Dear Reader:

Short answer to your last question: No.

People everywhere, let's get this straight: asking about children, born, unborn or imagined in your head, is effing rude. No matter what -- whether the person is single, married, Mormon -- it's none of your business.

The wisdom here lies in the writer's third paragraph:

There are so many ways the question, "When are you two having kids?" could go wrong.

Yes, yes, yes. And this is so true for everyone -- those who want kids and those who don't.

  • -Maybe the couple can't have children due to some emotionally-painful medical reason.
  • -Maybe they are trying, and that's causing them distress.
  • -Maybe they've chosen not to reproduce
Either way, what they do with their reproductive organs is none of your business. Ever. Even if you think someone is pregnant and want to bring it up, don't.

Women who are newly pregnant don't talk about it for a variety of reasons, all which make sense: It's a medically sensitive time, they may not carry to term, they may not want it. No guessing games, stupid people.

Whether someone wants to reproduce or not is a personal decision. Please respect that, and keep your mouth shut.

Now, for those of you who get asked intrusive questions, here's some responses. Practice, practice, practice:

  • -"Hmm, that's an interesting question. Why do you ask?" Then shut up and say nothing -- no matter what kind of clever "I want to know" answer they give you.

  • -"Mmm...I'm sorry, that info is on a need-to-know basis." Tell them you'll let them know if they "need to know."

  • -"Oh, we're still in our honeymoon phase!"*

  • -"That's a rather personal question, don't you think?" (Then be quiet. Don't justify.)

  • -"It's just not in the cards right now."
Readers, you never have to justify your life choices to anyone. Use a little polite deflection, be quiet, and don't offer up any more information. Then smile and change the subject.

*This one was shared by my 50-something friend who's been married for 25 years. Whenever she's asked, "Do you have children?" She always answers, "Oh, we're still in our honeymoon phase!" Thinking she married late, the questioner will always say, "Oh, when did you get married?" and she revels as she answers, "Twenty-five years ago!"