The other day I was talking to a close friend and she, being a single woman, voiced annoyance about being asked when she is going to have a baby at a baby shower she was attending. Not only did it feel like a gross invasion of her privacy by acquaintances that should know, if you don’t know the answer to that question, then we obviously aren’t close enough for you to be asking that question, (Okrrrrr) BUT it brought some uninvited feelings up in her that she wasn’t trying to feel as she was just trying to live her best life at this baby shower. We all have these moments and for my friend the baby question was particularly triggering. Y’all already know I can’t stand it when people ask me if I am pregnant even when I am sometimes (get off my ovaries!). For some people it’s, have you found someone to settle down with? Have you set a date for your wedding? Are you thinking about having children? Or, when are you going to give your mama a grandbaby?
On the surface, these questions seem harmless and just people’s casual attempt of creating small talk with you to create some kind of connection since they haven’t seen you in awhile, but what they really are are microaggressions. They serve as small little reminders of the societal expectations of how we should be living our lives as women. And the moment we step out of those norms, Oh, you don’t want to have children? Oooh, you are in a romantic relationship with a woman? O, you are taking time to seek guidance and work on your own shit before getting involved in a romantic relationship? We basically get asked questions that the people who asked unknowingly can’t handle the responses to.
As we move into a new decade, we know better and should do better. There are so many factors that contribute to how people live their lives. Intimacy and companionship has evolved which is made evident by the Facebook relationship status “it’s complicated”. Miscarriages are real and an estimated 25% of women who get pregnant will experience having one. People have fertility issues, people have mental health struggles, people are taking time to figure shit out, and well a lot of people out here simply discontinued their subscription to Patriarchy Daily so questions around relationship status, baby status, housing status just don’t even make sense for their non-conformist, “I’m going to do me, so I suggest you do you” fabulous selves.
So while it is not likely that we are going to shift the habits of our Boomer aunts and uncles at family events, let’s at least start shifting things for our generation and the next. Of course we are still going to be curious but we need to just trust that the answers to our questions will reveal themselves in time if we are meant to know them. Let’s give our second cousins, nieces, play brother’s next door neighbors and friends of friends space to just be. Let’s get to know them by asking them the last movie they watched, the last book they read, where they like to go for some really good cheesy Mexican food (sidebar: Almost all of my favorite Mexican food restaurants have closed and I am on a quest to find a replacement so if you have any suggestions please feel free to comment below however, this question should work for you too, food is something that bonds people :), or where they would be interested in traveling if they had the resources to.
Let’s proceed with caution this holiday season and try to be mindful of questions that we have that are rooted in our expectations of the type of lives we think people should desire. Let’s think about the potential for our questions to be triggering for people. I am nosey by nature and really like to study people so I know this approach will be a bit of a challenge for me but it will be worth it if it means that I can avoid making someone feel like my friend felt at that baby shower or if I could avoid the guilt I felt after asking a question at a social event that unearthed some pain for the person I was speaking with. It is simply a matter of showing respect to our loved ones, “Which was what love was: unmotivated respect” ~ Toni Morrision.