Dear Uncommon Courtesy,
I got married almost a year ago. After being married for nearly six months, I began to get inquiries about starting a family. Now at nearly 10 months since the wedding, these inquiries have been getting frightfully frequent. They usually come from seemingly well-minded co-workers, friends and family members and have ran the gamut of “Are you pregnant?” to “Are you starting to think about having a family anytime soon?” to “Is there something you need to tell us?” to “Clock’s a tickin’!” I love kids, but my husband and I want to spend some comfortable years together before we try to have a family. These questions have upset me to the point of tears, and I my answers of “We don’t have the money for kids” to “We’d just like to have some years to ourselves” are just not working. The point of tears usually happens after people tell me about BC failures…like it’s impossible to have a planned, wanted child.
What could I say that is not overtly assertive and argumentative to people who ask?
A wanted child, who wants a wanted child.
Miss Manners suggests treating all inquiries about family planning to a frozen smile and silence.
Victoria: Want to ask people about being pregnant? Don’t.
Jaya: This is straight-up horrifying to me. The letter writer has every right to be assertive and argumentative, so she’s a saint for still trying to be nice.
Victoria: Asking if someone is pregnant is suuuuuuuuper rude. You should not assume someone is pregnant unless you see a baby coming out of them. (Except on the subway? I don’t know how that works). But for the first instance from someone asking are you starting a family soon….is kind of a normal chit chat sort of thing, so I don’t think it’s THAT rude. It’s only annoying because everyone asks. I got tired of being asked my major in college too.
Jaya: I’m going to have to disagree. Being asked about your major can be annoying, but it’s nowhere near as personal. Unless someone brings up their own family planning ideas, or you are really really close friends, I don’t think multiple inquiries about pregnancy is normal conversation.
Victoria: If someone asks repeatedly, you can shut it down by saying, “as I’ve said before, we aren’t there yet and probably won’t be for a while.” And keep getting more curt the more someone asks.
Jaya: Yeah. Or even if you don’t want to explain your plans/non-plans for kids (which you don’t have to), say something like “I know you’re just curious, but I feel that’s something very personal and I’d rather not discuss it.” And you can ramp up to “It’s none of your business so please stop asking” if they continue. Because saying things like “we can’t afford it” or “we want to travel” just leaves it open ended.
Victoria: And I mean, I hope everyone else would have something more interesting to talk about…but…people don’t realize that everyone is asking you the same question.
Jaya: Even if people have decided this is normal chitchat, how do you have the right to know?
Victoria: You don’t. But you don’t have the right to know what I’m making for dinner tonight or what I did over the weekend either.
Jaya: True, but asking that has nothing to do with your reproductive health.
Victoria: But I don’t think people really see it as your reproductive health, you know? Having kids is so normal.
Jaya: That’s a big problem! We treat it that way, but I think that’s so unfortunate. It’s really personal! Some people don’t want to have kids. Some people CAN’T get pregnant! How are they going to feel if you’re asking them day in and day out? Do they have to divulge that they have these issues to get you to shut up?
Victoria: That’s so true! I just don’t think a lot of people see it that way unless they are in the middle of it.
Jaya: This is why we exist. They should see it that way.
Victoria: You can definitely deflect, though, and maybe with time people will start to realize it. The ones we mentioned above are good for friends and coworkers, though if it’s your family, you can say something more like “We aren’t having kids for X years/don’t want kids/aren’t sure, but trust me, you will be the first to know.” And then you can say “please stop asking” if they continue.
Jaya: I also totally support just pretending you have a non-functioning uterus and going into really intense detail about your medical history and making everyone who asks feel like shit.
Victoria: Hahaha oh my god. Yeah, I almost think that people have to have a serious talking to by someone who is having difficulties with kids, or who is a raging-kid-free person before they realize they are being too nosy. You probably only need to get screamed at once before you stop asking people.
Jaya: I hope so.
Victoria: It probably doesn’t help that so many people WANT to talk about their kid plans and engagement and wedding hopes/plans/fantasies.
Jaya: Ugh yeah. As much as I don’t want to be asked about it, I also don’t want to hear it!
And now, we present some cut-and-paste “overly assertive and aggressive” wording that you can use to deflect these questions, should you need! Some of these may have been used by one or more authors in real-life situations.
- “If I am pregnant, you’ll have to drive me to the nearest abortion clinic.”
- “If you want a baby so bad, use your own uterus.”
- “Why, do I look pregnant?”
It’s also worth noting that this is a very gendered phenomenon – a dude can get married and return to work and everyone recognizes that he’s a human being who has interests other than making and raising babies. Men aren’t as likely to get the constant, “Are you thinking of starting a family soon?” questions. I have a recently married friend who will say to coworkers: “Huh. I wonder if you would ask a man the same question.” (Obviously that doesn’t work for “are you pregnant?” but works nicely for “are you having kids soon?”)
Absolutely. Also if you’re a woman and a man keeps asking you about getting pregnant, respond by asking him about his sperm count constantly.
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Yes! Finally something about abortion clinics.
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