So, you’ve just met someone, you’re not close, and you have no reason to know if they’re pregnant or not. Or married or not. Or happy or not. Or want to be any of those things. Or what their life situation is at all. But you’re a curious person, and so you just open your mouth and ask one of the following:
“Are you pregnant? When are you guys going to get pregnant? Why are you still single? Haven’t you ever been in a long term relationship? Do you want to get married? Do you want to have kids? Are you doing anything about it?!”
You realize the other person does not like this question. Gasp! What do you do?!
Here’s the lifehack you need:
Build a time machine. Set it to go back to five minutes before you made this huge mistake. Enter machine, go back in time, and instead of asking a question that should be lasered out of our collective brains, just say three nice things to this person you’re speaking to.
Ha! I tricked you. There are no time machines, and there is no coming back from this, there is no good thing that will happen. Your best hope is for a sinkhole to open up beneath you and swallow you whole. Because you’re kinda terrible.
Let me set the scene for this post – it’s the first time you’re meeting someone, and you’re me, so you are a pretty friendly, helpfulish kind of person, and you walk up and make introductions. After exchanging names and little else, this person points at your stomach, makes some hand motions to indicate a bump, and says “you’re pregnant?”
When you answer “No. Nope. No.” She follows up with “oh, sorry. Well, are you married then?”
“No. Nope. No.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
It’s 7:35am. On a day you actually felt kinda good about yourself and your new dress. But now you’re standing there next to someone you regret trying to help, wondering how long you have to stand there until you can make up some reason to walk away politely.
This lasts for about ten seconds until you realize “wait a minute. That was rude. I don’t need to walk away politely. Bye.” And you just walk away. And that feels kinda good. Not good enough. But kinda good. Not good enough to stop you from crying off and on the rest of the day, or wanting to burn the clothes you’re wearing, or swearing you’ll never speak to that person again. But good enough to make it through the next few moments.
I’ve lived through this exchange a few times, especially since moving to Asia. It’s just happy meals and happy hours and a happy life, folks! Not a baby! I am and always will be bigger than your standard female in Asia. But no, not pregnant. If I were, we gotta call the Vatican.
I’ve also endured the “I can’t believe you’re still single! What are you doing about it? When was your last relationship? What do you think it is? I’ve been married so long I just don’t even know what dating is like these days lol asdfghjkl” kind of conversations.
I’ve cringed through someone grilling a friend about why they aren’t pregnant yet and what their plans are, and telling them to stop being so selfish going through IVF and adopt a child (not knowing that her husband was adopted, and that they were seeking out that option already). I gulped down wine and looked away while someone asked my friend if they’ve ever been in a meaningful relationship. And kicked myself about it for months afterwards. I’ve suffered through people asking impertinent questions and giving unsolicited advice about any number of personal things.
My roomie gave me some good advice the other day when I was agonizing over going to an event with a friend, but not wanting to have to go out to lunch after, for a variety of reasons. She reminded me “you don’t owe anyone an explanation.”
It was so powerful. I don’t owe anyone an explanation for anything about me. For why I want to do what I want to do, or the shape of my body, or the color of my hair, or being in a relationship or not, or the music I listen to, or why I won’t get take out food, or how I choose to spend my money. And I also don’t need to feel bad that you feel bad that you said something you shouldn’t have said. It’s such a lesson to learn.
And it goes along with this other one I’ve been teaching myself – that my life and energy is precious, and just as no one is due my explanations, I also don’t owe anyone my time and I don’t have to waste it on people who don’t fill my soul. I don’t have to give a million chances to people who continuously hurt or disappoint me, or with whom friendship is a one way street. I don’t have to automatically say “yes” to everything that’s asked of me at work or at church or even by family and close friends. I’m learning that resentment spreads and takes over relationships. So it’s best not to let it take root in the first place.
So back to the clickbait – what do you do when you’ve said something you can’t take back?
Well, fictional time machine aside, never make that mistake again, and make sure other people learn from your errors. Also, have a wee bit of the power of reflection and ask “what kind of answers were possible/was I hoping to get when I asked that question?”
But also, I will say this: I can’t speak for the entire population of single, childless women in their thirties, but I do know, especially having lived away for five years now, that the people I keep around and let in have the capacity create a space where I feel safe to talk about those things you want to know about. The people who are your champions become more visible in your life because instead of questioning me or making assumptions about what I want or should be doing, they simply encourage. They don’t compare, they don’t overanalyze. They take the time to ask about my plans and dreams. My feelings.
My champions come from unexpected places – People I’ve just met in HK through work who I now can’t imagine a day without. Moms of students who pull me aside at events and speak in whispers. People from a church I left ages ago who keep in touch because they care and want to speak joy and promise into my life. Instagram followers from mutuals. My friends’ parents. My grandma’s friends.
Some of my champs are my aunt Dana who always tells me that while she’d never give up her kid, she loves to sit with a glass of wine and read my travel blog and live vicariously through the experiences I’ve chosen to have. My friend Seghs, who used to be my babysitter, who has sent me mail to every address I’ve ever had since I was 18, and will meet me in a shady Target Starbucks the morning before I leave the country, even though it was last minute and inconvenient, because she was wired to be encouraging. My friend Natasha’s dad Gerry, who leaves a lovely comment on nearly everything I post. We’ve never met. I haven’t even seen Natasha since 2008.
I’ve learned that lesson, too – never miss an opportunity to tell someone they’re doing something cool and should be proud. On my Christmas card last year, my dad wrote “I’d give you some advice, but I know you wouldn’t listen and I don’t think you need it anyway.” And I read that quote everyday and know someone believes in me. I’m almost certain he doesn’t agree, but I know he believes.
So, friends, let us resolve to question less, and compliment more.
Assume less, and encourage more.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to know you were someone’s champion?
Thank you to everyone who reads this who has been mine over the years.
A brief list:
KrisTEN Hali Ry Trace Krys Diana Dana Gerry Liz Gma Jackie Seghs the Sullivans Cindy Drucilla Leana Wendy Brian Gemma Laura Kristin and Kelly Hilary Mardi Gina Suze Esther Carol Victoria Cory Kel Kelsey Avery Darla Annie Penny Beth Kathy Jeannie Brie Tess Maila Danyelle Dad and Angela Ben Julie Wendy Laura Mom and Mark and always always my sissies.