You know what’s weird?
No one used to ask me the awkward questions because I was obviously awkward enough.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” Not once.
“When are you going to get married?” Nope.
Once, a near-family member said to me, “You know, getting married is something you should really think about doing,” in her gentle way. I wasn’t too upset because it was already being discussed and that woman is so kind. We were engaged a few weeks later. Because I didn’t mind it much, I always chose to assume that not being asked the awkward meant not only that no one cared, but also that they recognized how futile such pursuits seemed for me. In some ways, this unspoken arrangement suited me, as I’m pretty open about most things, but private about private things.
Today, strikingly, I ran across a blog post from a college acquaintance and fellow writer, Victoria Easter Wilson, entitled “Stop Asking Her When She’s Going to Have a Baby” and it hit home.
One of the strangest things about being married – within religiously conservative communities, at least – is that everyone knows your chaste days are over. Because they couldn’t possibly have been before, right? Okay, that’s not the point here.
Everyone I encounter now knows – whether from my wedding band or by word of mouth – that I’m definitely involved in activities that lead to babies, which, in and of itself is awkward enough.
When Tom and I decided to get married nine months before our wedding, I knew people would assume I was pregnant. I accepted it. We moved on and figured that, come our August wedding, everyone would be satisfied to not see our imaginary baby in attendance and everything would be peachy keen. I figured we had a while before people started asking the next awkward question in our lives.
Then, the night of our rehearsal, my favorite uncle asked, “When are you going to have kids?”
“We’re not taking requests.”
I didn’t miss a beat! The perfect blend of Godfrey sarcasm, my signature annoyed tone, and a pop-cultural twist to make it easier to swallow, all wrapped up with a smile and a dry chuckle made him and my favorite aunt – who are both really more like much older siblings to me – laugh and carry on the conversation. I managed to duck the awkwardness because of love. Still, I didn’t need to be asked that.
We were asked again this past week. And, though it doesn’t really bother me, provided one or both of us knows the person well or if the inquisitor is teasing, it’s a loaded question and I despise that it’s something that I even need to dread or expect.
Having a child is a major decision made behind closed doors because it’s no one’s business but the couple’s and it’s an intimate detail that pertains to a couple’s sex life.
My therapist once explained anxiety issues to me pretty simply – we get anxious not necessarily because of what’s happening in the moment we feel anxiety, but because things we experience in the moment have the power to make us recall a moment in the past which is rife with emotional turmoil.
Now, I’m not saying that asking a couple, “When are you going to have a baaaaaaaby” (Yes, that’s the way people say it.), is going to bring up emotional turmoil for everyone, but it very well could for some couples. For others, it may simply remind them of their conversations on the topic, the socially unaccepted decision to be child-free, their doubts about becoming parents, monetary struggles, past abortions, bad decisions of their own parents, losing children, arguments about when and who’s ready and who’s not, that they’re in their first trimester and not telling anyone in the event something goes awry, fertility frustrations, family history of miscarriage, and about four billion other things.
So, unless you’re comfortable asking a woman, “Are you on the rag this week?” or a man, “So, have you pulled the goalie?” I want you to realize that asking about a couple’s plans (or lack thereof) for procreation is just as crass and even more invasive.
I’d like to add that I think all of a people’s major life decisions ought to be approached delicately, if not avoided entirely. “Why don’t you just buy a house?” “Why do you still have that car?” “Why haven’t you moved somewhere better?” “How can you afford that?” People have their reasons and unless you’re making your question entirely free of judgement and you know the person well, you’re probably just making the person uncomfortable. Leave them alone. Reminding them that they can’t do something or are waiting until they’re more ready is annoying.
Talk about interests, doings, pets, books, television, cinema, theater, art, travel, recreation, religion, politics, or weather. Stop being nosy. When people don’t mind your knowing, they’ll tell you. Keep your nose in your own business and things will go better for us all!