I was in the elevator at work one morning with several fellow teachers. One of the teachers just happened to be pregnant with her first child. Another older teacher in the elevator felt the need to tell this pregnant woman that she had to make sure she didn’t neglect her husband when the baby came. The pregnant teacher didn’t ask for this piece of advice; nor did she ever suggest that she was looking for such advice. It may seem innocent enough and the older woman was most likely offering something she felt would be useful but it wasn’t her business! What is it about some people who feel that just because they know a little bit about you they can just come out and say things that are completely inappropriate, insensitive and not of their concern?
When I was engaged, my sister and I were having lunch with a couple of friends. These were not very close friends as we only see them about once a year. But why did one of them feel the need to ask me if I planned on having kids? Again, the question may seem innocent enough but starting a family, as I have come to understand it, is a very private conversation between the people in the relationship. If I had brought it up in conversation, well then that would have been different; the topic would have been open for discussion. But the fact that this was an emotional subject matter for me, I didn’t know how to answer it without it prompting any more painful questions about it. My sister came to the rescue and jokingly said, “She plans on having 12 babies!” And that did it! They continued on with the joke and I quietly listened and smiled until the joke wore itself out and the question was forgotten.
And yes, I have been guilty of the same transgression. Several years ago, one of my close friends had just gotten married to a beautiful woman of another race. Every time I saw my friend, I’d ask him when he and his new wife were going to have a baby. It was my curiosity about what the baby would look like that had me ask the question every time. I didn’t know that they had been trying for months and were so far unsuccessful. I know how painful it is to try to get pregnant, only to end up disappointed. And to have people constantly ask you about it when it is not even their business can very well worsen the pain. I was being very insensitive about something very private and personal that this person and his wife were going through. I only became aware of my thoughtlessness much later when I was going through my own experiences of people unintentionally being tactless.
Just recently, I went to visit my primary care physician for my yearly checkup and to discuss other concerns. Upon noticing that I had gained about seven pounds, she felt it was funny to call me a fatty, insinuating that I was so happy with my new husband that I let myself go. First of all, assuming my weight change is a result of my newly acquired status was extremely offensive to me. Secondly, I know I’m not fat, yet it still didn’t feel very good to hear that word coming from my own doctor to make light of my unwanted weight gain. Why did she think that was okay? I had to remind her that the complications with my medication for endometriosis was the reason why I gained weight despite my daily exercise routine. She seemed sympathetic, however her comment stayed with me.
Covid has caused a sharp decline in social gatherings for most people, including Dan and myself. I am slightly grateful for that. As newlyweds, I think we are susceptible to the personal questions people would feel compelled to bombard us with just because of the expectations society places on newlyweds. And for some reason, people feel that it is okay to ask these questions. One can argue that I may have opened myself up to these questions by writing about my reproductive hardships, my marriage to Dan and about my life with him in my blog. If it’s my blog one wishes to discuss, I have no problems with talking about its content. But I find that most people who are thoughtless don’t even know I have a blog.
By no means am I implying that only married people usually face such callousness. There’s the single girl who gets asked why she doesn’t have a boyfriend yet. The heavy set girl with a medical condition that gets snickered at because she can’t lose weight. The single man who is asked why he has not yet settled down. The childless single woman who is constantly being reminded of her biological clock. The sister of the bride who is asked when it will be her turn to walk down the aisle. The engaged couple who is politely harassed by concerned family and friends about setting a wedding date. When was the last time you might have innocently pressed into someone’s wounds, adding insult to injury?
Let’s try to be a little more sensitive to the issues people may privately be dealing with. Let’s think about how our questions and comments may affect the recipient before we open our mouths. Let’s wait until the topic is first put on the table by the person in question before assuming it is up for discussion. Let’s choose to be considerate of others.