Saturday, August 29, 2015

Don't Ask

By nature, I’m a private person.  By that, I don’t mean quiet or reserved, but I have always been guarded about revealing my true self.  As many women do, I want people to think I have it all together when they look at me, thought that’s rarely the case.  In many ways, this blog has been counterintuitive to the way I carry myself in my daily life.

Nevertheless, here we are and one reason for that is that I needed people to know and understand why my life looks the way it does.  It seems the purpose has been served because I got through Open House and the first week of school without being asked one time whether or not I have children.  Either the word is out about me or I’m getting so old that no one cares anymore. 

It was different during our first few years of trying unsuccessfully to conceive.  I began to dread meeting new people and seeing old friends, both in my personal and professional life, for the chitchat that was bound to ensue. 

Do you have children?” No. (At some point, I stopped saying, “Not yet.”)
How long have you been married?” Long enough.
What are you waiting for?” Awkward pause.

I never figured out how to deal with the questions without lying, forcing discomfort on the other person, and/or feeling my own blood pressure rise.  All I knew for sure was that I hated the expectation and ultimately the judgment.  Over the past several years with the explosion of social media, our already unnatural curiosity about private matters has been magnified.   I’m not sure I would be any better if I hadn’t been dealt my particular life experiences, but my best advice to my former self and for anyone else is simple: just don’t ask.

The intrusion isn’t limited to us childless folks.  It stretches to those who choose to (or don’t choose but still do) have just one child and to those who are waiting to become grandparents.   I’m sure similar questions are frequent for those who are blessed with more than the average 2.5 children per American household or had their children close together in age, and the same type of unwarranted questioning affects single and/or divorced adults.  The questions seem innocent enough on the surface, but to the person being asked, it hurts, sometimes in a more lasting way than you’d imagine. 

There is a difference between being friendly and being nosy.  If you aren’t sure which you are, scale back.  In most cases, the asking is completely innocent and simply seen as the easiest way to start a conversation.  Perhaps it is easy, if the answers are what you expect.  But for those of us who defy expectations, it’s anything but easy.  Find another topic for mindless chatter- the weather is always safe.  In some cases, there is genuine care, interest, and concern behind the questions.  But those of us answering can feel the difference.  We all should examine our hearts before we speak to such matters. 

I think I can speak for everyone whose life doesn’t fit into a perfect little box when I say this: please don’t evaluate my sanity or worth based on what my life looks like on the outside.  Perhaps that’s not the intent in asking such questions, but sometimes that’s what it feels like to those of us who spend every day intentionally making our own way and learning to love each day based on the path God has laid out for us.

I’ll even suggest a compromise.  If you want to ask, that’s fine, but please get to know me first.   There are certain questions that simply can’t be given justice on a first meeting or during a quick encounter in public.  So in short, don’t ask.  When the time is right, I’ll tell you and you won’t even have to ask.  Until then…nice weather we’ve been having…

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