Sunday, August 14, 2011

Ask Me About My Dogs

Seriously, ask.

I ran into a casual acquaintance the other day, a woman I was friendly with in grad school but see infrequently now.

We had the exact same superficial conversation that we've had every time we've bumped into each other in the past seven years:  "Not much, what's new with you?  Yes, work is keeping me busy, especially this time of year;  no, I don't live at the beach anymore, I moved into town with Mr Wren when we got married seven years ago;  yes it's been seven years; no I don't know where the time goes..." You get the idea.

And then, out of nowhere, she threw a conversational grenade right in the middle of our boring but harmless little chat.

"Do you have any kids?"

Now, if I had birthed a baby at some point in the year and a half since I saw you last, don't you think it might have come up during the "what's new" portion of our conversation?   But fine, it's a common question and one I'm used to dodging.

"Nope, no kids.  The two dogs keep us plenty busy!"  Ask me about my dogs, please ask me about my dogs and get off the subject of kids.  I have lots of cute stories about the dogs, let me tell you one.

"Well, do you think you'll EVER have kids?"  


Could there possibly be a worse question to ask a woman dealing with infertility?  To be fair, she has no way of knowing that I miscarried 6 weeks ago after three years of unsuccessful treatments, and that I have been asking the exact same thing of the universe for a long time now, but it's a grossly inappropriate question to ask during idle chit-chat regardless.  

My reproductive choices, functions and issues are none of your business, person who can't remember where I've lived for the past seven years despite my telling you EVERY TIME we talk.

In the intervening days and after a few glasses of red wine, I came up with several scathing retorts, including:  "Do you think YOU'LL ever have good manners?" "Do you think you'll ever stop asking me if I still live at the beach?"  And, "do you think you'll EVER find a man or are you going to die alone with your cats?" 

But I'd like to think that in the moment I handled myself with grace and dignity, and made my point without being unnecessarily cruel.  

I smiled, ladled a little extra sugar into my southern drawl and said, "well, THAT'S personal" in a tone that both conveyed mild amusement and delivered a velvet-gloved verbal smack down.

She apologized and asked about my dogs.  I was more than happy to tell her about them.


  1. I usually always say something like, "Well, we hope so!" or "We'd like to!" Usually that has always clued people in that it's a sensitive subject and that perhaps it's not by choice that we don't yet have kids. They get the hint and move on. Sounds like you handled it well!

  2. I don't understand why people ask about the timing of kids, unless it's just because it is the only thing their worlds revolve around. If it comes easily for some, I think they take for granted that everyone is naturally doing it. The last time someone asked me when I was going to have a baby, I told him that for all he knew, I might've just miscarried the day before or been told I could never have kids. I'm sure that was rude, but I bet he never asks a woman that question again.

  3. Birdie - I usually just say "we're working on it!" but right now I'm a little more sensitive than usual and really wanted to let her know it was an inappropriate question. I think she got the message!

    Andra - I understand when the question comes from women who have kids and that's the focus of their lives...but this woman is single, no kids, early-to-mid forties. She absolutely should know better! Love your response to the busbody - thanks for helping spread awareness!

  4. Good reply to a totally inappropriate question! I always struggled with what to say to that all-too-frequent question, and usually said "We're working on it"-/but that IS really personal, and random people AREN'T entitled to that information! Also good job on restraining yourself on asking if she thought she'd die alone with her cats--though given the circumstances, it had to take a lot of self-control not to say that! You'd think, though, that it might occur to her that asking a childless (for whatever reason) woman when she's going to have kids is akin to asking a single (fir whatever reason) woman when she's going to get married.

  5. Thanks, Willow. I have to credit a co-worker for the inspiration - we work with the public and one day a random guy asked her if she had a boyfriend. She just smiled and said, "oh, that's my personal life," and continued helping him professionally. I thought it was a very classy way to shut down that line of questions entirely. I'm just glad I was able to keep my cool and say it with a smile. That's not always how I roll. :)