Things I dislike being asked:
1-Are you pregnant?
You can’t win with this one. Either I am, and for very good reasons I’m choosing not to make it public yet, or I’m not, and I just look especially chunky that day. Either way it’s awkward.
2-So, are you done having kids? Or (this actually happened last summer. I swear I am not making it up.): Are these all your kids? Really? That’s all you’ve got? You don’t have more at home? (I had all my three children with me at the time.)
This is another area where I feel like I don’t want to explain myself. My standard answer to “are you done having kids,” is “we’ll see” or “taking it one child at a time.” Within the last year I have been asked whether I’m done having children by a person I’d met five minutes before at a party, a relative I hadn’t seen in a decade or so, and an acquaintance (not close friend) I hadn’t seen in about fifteen years. Among others.
Every time I’m asked about my reproductive plans by acquaintances (again, not close friends) I’m always a bit shocked, like, really? Really? I hardly know you and you want to know about whether I’m having more kids? Did you also want to know about how I broke my ankle the year I was planning to get pregnant, and then did you want to hear all about my miscarriage the next year, and did you then want to hear all about my ambivalence and many issues towards pregnancy and motherhood too? Because if you really want the full answer, that’s what you’d get, but I try to extend a little courtesy to those who ask by not dumping my life upon them.
After I calm down a bit, though, I start thinking about how uniting, how liberating it is to talk about this kind of thing: at a girls’ night out we had a great discussion on having the next child. But I don’t think anyone asked me what my plans were; I think someone volunteered first, and the rest of us shared, and it was a great conversation. Or I think of having lunch with some of my aunts a few months ago. After chitchatting for a little, my aunt leaned forward and said, “Enough of this. Let’s talk real. How are you really doing?” And we did. It’s healing to talk about real things with people who really care, to know that the personal questions I’m being asked are by people who want to understand my heart, without judgment.
Personal questions are the boundary between the superficial and the real. But it takes a while for me to open up, and it’s hard for me to be real with someone I just barely met. Maybe it’s not the question itself, but the abrupt displacement of what is for me a deeply personal issue to the light and airy framework of just-getting-to-know-you, or haven’t-seen-you-for-ten-years-catching-up. I welcome the talking real, but I prefer to do it more on my own terms. (Um, like blogging for the entire world. Yeah, there’s some irony here.)
What do you hate being asked? What do you wish people weren’t scared of asking? How do you navigate the terrain between getting real and being nosy, and make the transition from superficial chatter to authentic conversation?