Sunday, 7 March 2010

Don't ask

"Gosh, it seems like every woman I know is pregnant these days, are you pregnant too?"

Now what are the options here folks, on encountering this question (whether to you or to someone else)?

Personally I went with a bit of an assault on the questioner, along the lines of how is it any of your business, and you don't get to ask that, we tell you when we want you to know. Because the questioner is a good and long time friend of mine, who is very patient and familiar with my stroppiness, he didn't get defensive back and the conversation didn't descend into nastiness but instead continued in the light hearted tone he started with. Later on I patted him on the arm and told him I did love him but he really shouldn't ask people that. It was all ok, I think.

It never ceases to amaze me how people will ask stuff they have no business enquiring about. "Do you think your pregnancy will affect your performance?", "are you having fertility issues and is that why you haven't had children yet?", "you're recently divorced from a man, have you considered giving women a go?" These are all examples I've heard recently. The answers are none of anyone else's business. Really. And thus the questions should not be asked.

No one should try the "but I can't help myself, I'm so curious, and I only ask because I care" line on me please. I have friends I would love to ask if they are going to get hitched, when/if they are going to have children, but I resist. It's called self-control. You use it when you really want to yell FFS in the middle of an awful work meeting, when you want to slam the phone down on the family member who is being a dick, when you see something beautiful that you know you can't afford. You use self-control to protect yourself, why wouldn't you use it to protect someone you care about too?

If someone wants to share something with you that's personal they will do so. If you genuinely want to ask because you care you can easily say "look I'm not going to ask, because I don't want to pry, but if you want to talk about X I'm happy to listen."

Here endeth the lesson.

13 comments:

Hugh said...

Disagree.

Azlemed said...

I get sick of the s"so are you finished having kids", four is enough crap, our fertility isnt anyone else business, my Mum has had workmates tell her that I shouldnt have anymore children, where do people get off.

Last year I had a woman I know say to me when she found out I was pregnant, oh your poor kids.... wtf... my body, my choice and actually the kids were damn excited to be getting another sibling....

being inquisitive is ok, being rude isnt....

Alison said...

Why Hugh?

Many many people deal with infertility (including when they've already had one or more children), with miscarriage, with wanting more children when their partner doesn't. Why is it ok to cause those people pain simply to sate one's own curiosity?

I happily answer people who ask if we plan to have children one day (often with "we plan to, but who knows how that will work out?") but I don't ask it myself, and I am annoyed when asked when we plan to have children. It frustrates me all the more because I know that when friends who are infertile do tell people that, the response is generally either discomfort, or advice ("you just need to relax! My sister's plumber's cousin did that..."). Most people who ask these questions don't want to hear any answer other than the one they favour.

stef said...

I'm generally of the opinion that the contents of my uterus is not really anybody's business except my partner's.

And yes that seemingly innocent question about children can open a world of hurt to the person being asked. So don't.

stargazer said...

yup, totally agree with you on this one julie. i had trouble conceiving my second, and had an endless number of people asking when i was having another and telling me how bad it was to have an only child. i can't count the times i wanted to scream "NONE OF YOUR F*%&ING BUSINESS"!

Anonymous said...

My wife is amazed that my friends and I do not ask searching questions of one another's medical or health issues. I have explained to her that it is uncomfortable for men to talk about matters that are exceedingly private. The fact that the young woman that just walked past has huge tits is not deemed to be private. And the tackled ball rule is not private.
Women seem to be much more forthright in their questions put to other women. And it is that forthrightness that creates such discomfort to the woman being questioned.

Principessa said...

I'm another vote for that question being banned. And another issue I have- I think it's a good idea when having a dinner party to have a mixture of people there. People with kids, and people who don't have kids. There's nothing worse than being the only couple in the room with no kids. Call me bitter and twisted at the moment- I don't care- there's nothing worse than having to listen to eveyone talking about their kids when you don't have any yourself.

harvestbird said...

I've responded to this post chez moi.

Alison said...

Anonymous, I find it interesting that you're assuming it's only women who ask these questions. Purely anecdotally, I find I am asked when or if I'm having children (or why I don't already!), by men far more often than women. Health issues are different - my close friends and I talk comfortably enough about those, but I think that's quite a different phenomenon.

sue said...

I've never had a baby (i get the oh your clock must be ticking, or watch out you are getting clucky lines - which are another whole none of your business moment) but the one thing that amazes me is how people seem to think a pregnant woman's body belongs to the world. 'Can i touch your stomach' has to be the most bizarre thing i see people ask all the time.

Julie said...

In regard to the analysis that it's only women who ask these questions - of the four questions I used as examples in the post three were asked by straight men. The fourth (about whether a recently single woman had considered relationships with women) was asked by a lesbian woman.

I have heard these kinds of questions asked by straight women too. But by no means are they the only nosey parkers!

Julie said...

Sorry forgot to say before thanks for the feedback. Still hanging out to find out why Hugh disagrees...

On the issue of touching tummies - I was astonished how many people who were outside my circle of comfort touched my belly when I was pregnant with Wriggly. One dear friend stopped herself just in time and we had a really good discussion about it. I refrained from patting her when she was pregnant, in turn :-)

Cad said...

What really grinds my gears is the assumption that having children and a family is a universal experience. When I started my job last year, people who had just introduced themselves to me would ask "so how many kids do you have?" or "What does your partner do?". Saying no to both was a real conversation killer.

Now that I've been there a while, I don't get that assumption so much any more; but people still try to make small talk with me about things I have no understanding of. So your grandson was 23kgs when he was born? Hmmm, that's nice. So your 4 year old just learned to walk? Wow, is that early? I have no idea what is happening in this conversation.

But people do seem to love talking about babies, which offends people who are having babies and don't think that it's anyone else's business and is awkward for those of us who intend to never have any.
What ever happened to talking about the weather over the coffee machine?