In my day to day I am aware of the questions that are off limits; they sit there begging to be asked for the sake of curiosity but I pass them up because I know rude. For example, nowadays you can almost never ask a woman when her due date is. I will speak on this one from a personal trip I took to NYC a while back when on two separate occasions people older and heavier than me offered me their seat on the subway (needless to say that kick started my diet). Those passengers were just trying to be polite but intentions could not cure the sting. Most people know that weight is an off limits topic and outrage is common when I tell this story. So why is it then that other personal matters are not left ungrilled by outsiders?
One question I take real issue with is the many versions of, "when are you getting married?" I am an unmarried twenty-seven year old who has seen several serious relationships and a scattering of less serious dating. Somehow the topic of conversation, even with complete strangers just meeting me, always leads to my "inevitable" nuptials. At the end of a recent relationship I was swarmed with people asking me what I consider to be NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS QUESTIONS:
- "Oh, so he wasn't the one?" -- obviously not if we are breaking up... thanks for asking.
- "He didn't want to get married?" or "You didn't want to get married?" -- it is possible that one of us did and that is why we broke up so it's awesome to talk about it now. It is also possible that neither of us did; either way this is diving into my personal relationship in a way that feels like bad touching.
- "So do you think you will marry the next person you date?"-- umm, I don't know him yet so it's tough to say. I'll work on finding the answer to that one so when I meet him I can let him know that I have already decided we will be together forever (this is what leads to women looking like lunatics).
- "Do you think you will ever get married?" -- this is a lose-lose for me; if I say yes I have revealed that it is something I want but haven't gotten right yet and if I say no I have to answer the very personal, "Why not?" that would follow.
Here is the problem, society has not caught up with itself yet. People are getting married later and later in life but the standards in the minds of some are still caught up in the old traditions. The habits of posing these queries are seeded deeper than the knowledge that times have changed.
It is all mindless questioning, or the classic idea that not everything that comes into the head should be slated to come out of the mouth. As an extreme instance of people who just don't know what they are doing as they blurt things out: I have a friend who lost a baby during pregnancy. She and her husband were going through one of the most painful things a couple can endure and she was handling it with more strength and grace than I ever could have imagined. She chose to talk to me about it openly, with a rawness that made me see her as the warrior she never knew was. They are trying to move forward with their grief but still must live with it daily. Now imagine what she must endure when someone who doesn't know her situation asks her if she and her husband will ever have kids.
Why is it that on some topics people know better and with others they ask so free and loose? What if for every NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS QUESTION I fired back with another more blatant NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS QUESTION? Let's play that out and see:
- "So when do you think you'll get married?"
- Response: "So when do you think you'll start exercising?"
- "Do you think you'll ever have children?"
- Response: "Do you think you'll ever have a real job?"
- "Why hasn't he popped the question yet?"
- Response: "Why haven't you and your spouse considered divorce?"
- "You've been together so long, have you even had the talk?"
- Response: "You've been overweight for as long as I can remember, have you ever even tried dieting?"
- "Do you ever wonder if you should have married so-and-so instead of breaking up?"
- Response: "Do you ever wonder if you should have worn a wedding dress with shoulder pads instead of something classy?"
My point is that the former questions are no more or less inappropriate than the latter but somehow these are the ones that slip past the rude radar and come flying out.
Social media has not helped the situation either; it is simpler to say anything with the protection of a computer and distance between two people. I cannot count the number of times I have seen a friend post something nice about their relationship or life and some moron will comment, "Why don't I see a ring yet? Tell him to get on it! LOL!" First of all, on a separate note: adding "LOL" to a comment online does not soften the blow of stupidity, I am still getting hit with that. Next, have those guilty of this never considered that this could be a real point of contention in the relationship and now the can of worms is open? I can guess that at least once (and that is estimating way on the low end here) one party in the relationship has shown this comment to the other to prove their point that it is time they made that move.
"Look honey, Aunt Suzie thinks an engagement is long overdue" has never resulted in two people living happily ever after. That either plays out with a huge fight about why we don't let Aunt Suzie with a "z" make our life choices or the pressure gets to be too much and someone makes the choice to get married due to outside influence rather than personal needs. I have seen an epidemic of people my age getting married to the wrong person and I think a lot of times it is a result of external expectations.
Yes, I am a twenty-seven year old female with no husband and no children. This is a result of choices I have made and which I stand behind. I love having the freedom to do comedy every night of the week. I love that I danced to funk music for hours on a Wednesday night and I look back fondly on my relationships but have no regrets. For the sake of disclosure I will admit I do want to get married, but to the right partner, not just at the imaginary right time. I'm in no hurry to force something, but even if I were, my timeline is mine to own and talk about when I please, not for anyone else to prod into unsolicited.