Most of us have that elderly relative who puts his foot in his mouth asking an inappropriate question. We roll our eyes, laugh it off and keep going. Someone usually says, “Oh, Uncle Sal, you can’t ask questions like that.” Someone else says, “Yeah, Uncle Sal, it’s not the 1950s, anymore!” Then we pass some more wine, and all is forgotten until the next family dinner.
Except that now, it’s not just Uncle Sal who constantly says the wrong thing or asks inappropriate questions. That’s because everything is inappropriate.
Article after article discusses how such topics, quite frankly, aren’t anyone else’s business, despite them being the prime topic of conversation for the entirety of our nation’s existence (and quite possibly since the dawn of humanity).
At last check, the following topics are currently verboten:
– Asking a single person when they are getting a boyfriend/girlfriend/life partner
– Asking a couple when they are “finally going to make it legal”
– Asking a couple of any length of time when they are going to have kids
– Asking anyone with a baby when they are having another baby
– Asking anyone with three or more children if they are “ever going to stop having kids”
– Musing over whose last name the baby will have
– Wondering aloud whether or not the child will partake in any significant religious events
– Suggesting that a boy play football
– Suggesting that a girl not play football
– Suggesting that any boys are “such a boy” or that any girl is “so pretty”
– Mentioning the nutritional value of breast milk
– Asking about different brands of formula
– Attempting to pronounce any child’s name
– Commenting on the challenges of being a stay-at-home parent or a working parent
– Talking about your kids at work
– Unless, you’re a dude, in which case, talking about your kids makes you appear “well-rounded” and “relatable,” and people love that
To be safe, perhaps we should skip talking about relationships (including upcoming or anticipated milestones) or kids (including birthing, feeding or entertaining them)?
Why all the ruffled feathers over these topics? I’ll give you three words: You don’t know. You don’t know whose relationship just crumbled. You don’t know who is struggling with infertility or who has chosen, for any number of reasons, not to have children. You don’t know which mother is terrified that her son will crack his head open in a football game or who hates hearing your strange pronunciation of a name they spent months or years developing. You don’t know any of it.
But you can’t not talk about it either. It’s your chronically single coworker who had another horrible date, and you’re dying for details. It’s your best friend who’s finally joining you in the mommy club, and you’re dying to talk about epidurals and night feedings and blowouts, but she’s overwhelmed at the mere thoughts of pregnancy and parenting and just can’t even with that right now.
So, wait. Wait until they bring it up. Wait until they ask you for advice (which might never happen, and then you simply move on). Wait until they introduce you to the baby with the interesting name (or like, my child, the three-letter-name that people still mangle) and pay attention to the name. Stop with the barrage of questions. Have a real conversation not an inquisition.
Or just switch topics. Maybe try politics. Because that’s bound to be free of controversy.