Hitched: What Not To Say To People Who Don’t Want Kids
Now that I’m an old-ass boring married lady, spending all my time vacuuming in heels, watching my stories and making martinis at 5 p.m. in anticipation of the imminent arrival of the most interesting man in my world, the only thing left for me to do in life is get pregnant.
But that is not the plan. Well, the making myself martinis at 5 p.m. is frequently part of the plan. Which would be a bad plan if, indeed, Patrick and I were trying to have kids. But this Sunday, and every forseeable third Sunday in May after that, I will celebrate my mom and my mother-in-law, and never be celebrated myself.
By my own design. Of my own volition. With the express agreement of my husband, who will similarly find himself celebrating his dad and father-in-law on future third Sundays in June, but never receive a hideous tie of honor himself.
I realize this isn’t normal for most people. But whether it’s normal or not, let me ask you to err on the side of not being a presumptuous snoot when talking to people who don’t have kids and who, moreover, don’t want to have kids.
Well, you shouldn’t be a presumptuous snoot to anyone for any reason. But when it comes to other people’s deeply personal decisions, two things seem to magically become other people’s business after a certain length of time: marital status and reproductive intentions. This length of time will be mysterious to you, but obvious to assholes.
Hence, people say things like: “So, when are you going to make an honest woman out of her?” or “You’re next! or “Don’t you hear your biological clock ticking?” or “I bet you can’t wait until you have one of your own!”
So don’t say that kind of thing. And, even though I know you really really really really really aren’t trying to be mean or pushy or hurtful, don’t say any of these things, either:
- “Does your partner know?” This is the question I get most often when people who have some important thoughts about how I should run my reproductive life find out I do not intend to have children. Invariably the person who asks this question is horrified by my crusty, cobweb-strewn womb and unable to believe that any man could possibly be interested in putting his dick anywhere near it. Without going into too much detail, let me merely say: to the fucking contrary, ladies and gentlemen! My husband not only knows I don’t want kids, he had someone stick sharp objects into his most precious parts to help ensure that it never happens. I am not a secret baby-hating ninja bitch with nefarious intentions, and neither is my husband a dopey and hapless derp of a man incapable of asking questions like, “Kids? Yes or no?”
- “Aren’t you afraid you’ll regret it?” Nope. Nope I’m not. Do you want to know why? Because if I do regret it, I have decent options. I can foster kids, I can adopt them, I can volunteer with them. But if I have kids and I regret it, there isn’t anything I can do about it beyond being a resentful and emotionally distant mother, and/or commit murder, and neither of those two really fit into the picture I’d like to paint of myself for posterity. Horrible jokes aside: life is weird and unpredictable, and it guarantees us nothing. Would you knowingly ask an infertile person whether they’ll “regret” not bearing children? You wouldn’t. Because shit happens to us all. To pretend like anything is a sure bet that we definitely have the option of “regretting” is to misunderstand the nature of an arbitrary and alternately cruel and wonderful universe.
- “You’ll change your mind.” This is the total dick way of saying, “Aren’t you afraid you’ll regret it?” because it implies that some know-it-all possesses some secret knowledge about me, my body and my brain that I don’t have. But sir or madam, I have been in this body, with this brain, for nigh on 30 years, and unless you are pulling some next-level Exorcist-meets-Miss-Cleo shit, I recommend against assuming that what is true for one person is true for everyone.
- “Don’t you think you’re being kind of selfish?” Okay this one is almost always intended to be mean, pushy and hurtful, so you get no kind of pass for asking someone this question. No one owes children to others, to family members, to the world. Human babies aren’t literal gifts. Parents aren’t universally selfless and non-parents aren’t universally self-centered. Children aren’t Disney sidekicks whose job it is to sweep in and teach people how to act better. They’re humans who deserve to be wanted and loved, not produced out of obligation.
I don’t want to leave you with nothing to say to child-free people, though. That would be cruel. I’ve spent all this time telling you what you can’t do. But there are some perfectly appropriate things to say. Okay, there’s one sort of appropriate thing to say, maaayyyyyybeeeeeeee.
- “Are you planning on having kids?” I don’t actually recommend asking this question to anyone on Planet Earth, because it remains intrusive and presumptive coming from anyone who isn’t your gynecologist or your life partner. But if you just can’t live without knowing what someone’s doing with their uterus, ball sack and/or tens of thousands of dollars in adoption fees or doctor bills these days, at least ask the question as if “No” is a real answer.
But that’s not all! There are other things you can totally say to people who aren’t having kids, including: “This weather is really something, isn’t it?”, “I can’t stop watching House of Cards!”, “How fucked up is America’s relationship with guns, rated on a scale of one to 10?”, “Does this look infected to you?”
All great conversation starters.