Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Married Without Children -or- How Not to Start a Conversation with Me

The minute my fiance, now my husband, slipped the wedding ring on my finger, the questions from friends, family and near strangers went from “When are you getting married?” to “When are you having kids?”

My husband and I have been married just over two years, and we’re enjoying our lives, keeping busy with our flourishing careers. When we see friends or family, though, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend.

“So...” they begin, glancing down at my midriff.

“That’s just fat,” I tell them immediately, and at their blank stares, continue, “I like bacon.”

Which is absolutely true. Who doesn’t love bacon?

I’ve learned to brush off most of the questions and looks. I even use the Twitter hashtag #notpregnant because as soon as I mention food cravings, nausea, stomachaches, fatigue or anything that might suggest I’m in the family way, speculation ensues.

I get it. Pseudo-relatives, rarely seen acquaintances and people I don’t know intimately gravitate toward life milestones in conversation. “How was your vacation?” “How’s your cat?” and “How’s the house?” are typical. Likely, you’ve heard these questions at different stages of your life:

“How’s school?”

“Which college program are you in?”

“When are you getting married?”

“When are you having kids?”

Well, I’m not deigning to answer that question here. Suffice to say, #notpregnant exists for a reason.

To prevent future awkwardness regarding my inexplicable weight gain and/or reproductive capabilities, here are some better topics of conversation you won’t be able to shut me up about:
I will also accept any conversation that is simply a back-and-forth Q & A where every question begins with “Have you seen/read...[insert a movie, internet meme, YouTube video or book].”

Tired of being interrogated about something personal? Do you have topics you’d rather not have people poke you about? If you could wear a sign that said “Talk to me about...” at a cocktail party, what would your list include? Let me know in the comments below!


Geri Krotow said...

Vicki this is priceless! We waited seven years (on purpose) to become parents. I'm so grateful for that time we had to grow together, before kids. Enjoy it, and the bacon!

liztalley said...

So I'm guessing you're NOT pregnant?

LOL, couldn't resist. I'm naughty that way.

My husband and I were married five years before we had our first little pumpkin. Until that point my mother hounded me at least once a day over when I'd give her a grandchild. Finally, I flipped out and told her "When I'm pregnant, you will know it. Until then, don't say another word about having a baby!" and I said it in a shouty, loud pissed off voice. She got the message.

I get it. People don't mean to be rude. They just are. I love your response when they look down at your belly. Talk about making them feel stupid.

Now, about bacon. I just saw a bacon Halloween costume and wondered how that might come out considering trick or treating is usually in a neighborhood....with lots of dogs.

Pamela Hearon said...

Vickie, love that you handle the social faux pas with grace and humor. Ann Landers used to advise that, when faced with an awkward question, to simply answer, "Why would you ask such a personal question?" Your answers are just as effective!
I was married seven years before my daughter was born. Five to seven seems to be the norm here. My sign at that cocktail party would read: Talk to me about my book (characters, setting, next book, etc also work:-)

Kristina Mathews said...

I love your sense of humor.

I waited five years before having my now high schooler. I told my mom she had to love my dog before I would give her a grandchild. When she started putting peanut butter behind her ear, so the dog would lick her, I knew it was a hopeless cause.

Now I have to convince her that the only granddaughter she's ever going to have also likes to lick and wag her tail.

I'm not yet at the point of discussing my writing with strangers. Other writers, yes. Friends, ok, but it's hard to explian the process. And then the topic turns to 50 Shades...

If you really want me to yammer on without taking a breath, talk to me about the Giants and baseball. I'm a freak that way.

mary sullivan said...

Great blog, Vicki! I once had a woman I hadn't seen in years ask me, at a party in front of a lot of people, when my due date was. I had already been menopausal for years and was weeeeell past childbearing age and she must have been aware of my age. Very strange.

I said, "I'm just fat," and left it at that. I think she was more embarrassed than I was!

My ex thought she was being catty and had asked on purpose. Perhaps. I don't know, but I'm sooo careful about asking women if they are pregnant.

As far as questions like, "When are you getting pregnant?" go, it sounds like you're handling them really well!

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! This is funny.

Why do people automatically assume once he puts a ring on it, he's gonna put a baby in the belly?

So...Jeremy Renner...


Kaelee said...

As someone who wasn't blessed with children and who sometimes had/has a weight problem, I give you my complete understanding. It's always hard to meet new people as one the topics of conversation quite often is "How many kids/grandkids do you have?" ~ Right now my answer is two cats.

I'll never forget the look on one man's face when he asked me my due date and In return I asked him his. He had a much bigger belly than mine.

Snookie said...

Oh Kaelee, I love that comeback! None of my friends or family asked me when I was going to have a baby. They all knew better. My in laws did bug my husband,though they never asked me. I was perfectly happy being childless. I played softball, paddled, worked crazy hours and had all kinds of fun with my husband :). I wasn't sure I wanted any kids. I waited 8 yrs before I got pregnant at 39. Once the child came along... it was a total lifestyle change! Now all of a sudden there was a little human to consider whenever you did anything! Now he's 17 going to be 18 in a month and it's hard to believe how fast the time flew by! He's away at college in AZ and we are going to visit for his birthday.

Anonymous said...

I find it so very interesting -- and telling -- the number of people here who have *assumed* you're just biding your time and plan on getting pregnant one of these days, in your own time.

Just as presumptuous as asking if you're pregnant, in my opinion -- not to mention rude, offensive, and potentially downright hurtful.

There are many of us who could very easily use the hash-tag #notpregnantANDNEVERGOINGTOBE

Those reasons are just as varied -- and valid -- as the reasons for not being pregnant YET.

I cannot tell you how many people have asked me why I don't have children. Or worse, still, how many have assumed they know the reason why, and then judged me for it.

There are those who have declared me selfish for choosing not to have children. There are those who have given a smugly sympathetic nod at my lack of fertility while parading around their own.

None of these parties bothered to ask whether my lack of offspring was by chance or design, mind you -- they just made their own assumptions, and judged me for their own great inventions.

Many mothers have actually said to my face that they were better women than I was, because they had given birth. (Hmm... like getting yourself knocked up suddenly makes you Mother Theresa?) Many have oh-so-helpfully told me to hurry up, because I'm running out of time.

Guess what, ladies (and gents) -- some of us will NEVER have children. There are a great many medical and personal reasons for each person's non-pregnancy, none of which are really anybody's business except their nearest and dearest.

Don't assume. As with any assumption (and the resulting judgement), it's probably wrong. Not to mention, painful for those at the receiving end.

If someone wishes you to know whether or not they're planning to have children (and the reasons behind that plan), I'm sure they'll let you know.


Emmie said...

Vicki, I love it!! I'm so using that "I love bacon" line.

Vicki said...

To #notpregnantANDNEVERGOINGTOBE, I definitely struggled with addressing this issue in my post because frankly, the question "what if?" does circle my brain. And it brings up all kinds of scary questions that I don't want to think about right now.

You've said it beautifully and succinctly, and I sincerely hope I didn't hurt or offend you personally. You're right, it's no one's business, and it's cruel, stupid, and unfair to judge another woman (or her partner) by her choices or reproductive capabilities.

So let's talk bacon, instead.

Anonymous said...

No Vicki, you definitely didn't offend me, never fear!

As for the bacon... CRAP... Vegetarian. Maybe we can agree on chocolate? Or wine? Or chocolate and wine?


Vicki said...

Tofu bacon? I'll also go with chocolate and wine, though the conversation there seems to be limited to "I LIKE IT GIMME AHM YAHM YAHM!"

Anonymous said...

Re-reading your response, Vicki -- especially the bit about you struggling about addressing this issue in your post. No struggle necessary. I think you addressed it with sensitivity and humour, and were inoffensively clear about your own boundaries on the issue. Best way to approach any potentially thorny subject!

What I was trying to point out (with less clarity, it seems) was how many people, in their "yay Vicki" responses were doing what so many people do -- projecting their own choices onto another, and seemingly ignoring your statement "suffice to say, #notpregnant exists for a reason".

You never stated the reason, yet many assumed you were just waiting, because that was their own choice -- not a safe assumption, nor respectful of a boundary you made perfectly clear.

Yes, many of those cocktail party "do you have children?" [nope] questions are followed up with "why not?" [if you don't know me well enough to know I'm childless, you don't know me well enough to dive into the reasons].

But so often, the response SEEMS more benign, but can be just as hurtful: "oh yes, I decided to wait a few years, too" [hmm, wait a sec, I didn't say a thing about waiting] "you'll know when it's time" [yup, never is a time...] Assumption and projection, a dangerous combination!

As for the more pleasant cocktail party conversation: Jeremy's a little young for me. We've covered the bacon. I like dark chocolate with a hint of red pepper, and a good Merlot (aw heck, I'll drink the bad Merlot too, especially if I have to go to another $&#* cocktail party...)


Anonymous said...

LOL - two messages that pass in the night, er... day.

I will admit, that sometimes when I have a craving for salt and smoke, I will eat tofu bacon -- and then usually regret it.

I have a similar response to you with chocolate and wine. Might explain why people thought I was pregnant so often... !


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