This week’s question: Why do we intrude on people’s right to have their life unfold as they wish, by asking (in an intruding way) when they are getting engaged, married, having children, having the next child, etc?
Why do we push these standards on people and what about the way they exclude other possibilities: infertility, an inability to “get married” because one has a same sex partner, a decision not to have children, etc.?
(And heads up: check back on Wednesday for part 2 of our dish on this topic…
Janine: I’m a 41 year old-never been married-no kids woman so you can just imagine how many times a week I get those questions of ‘intrusion’. There was a time when it did bother me slightly to have to say ‘no, not yet’ to all the above but I have since gotten over it.
I look at it like this: 1) do you REALLY care in the first place if I have or haven’t or why or why I haven’t OR are you just seeking an answer to place judgment? 2) where is it written that I HAVE to be married with 2.5 kids? 3) maybe it’s just not me, maybe I love my life like it is- husbandless and childless at 40 – something. Is there anything so wrong with a nice condo uptown, ability to travel, shop and eat out when I want. 4) I’m where I am because of my choice. Sure, I could have been married and divorced by now with a couple of kids, but I opted for career first instead.
Rosie: This might be the surest way to undo my normally laid-back demeanor-imposing one’s views and thoughts on someone else.
A few years ago, I was holding my nephew at an event when someone asked if they could hold him. “Sure,” I
said, and held him out towards the person when another woman said, “Oh no. I don’t think you should take him from her. Maybe it’ll finally rub off on her to want to have a baby.”
I had been married about four years when this happened, was in my early thirties, and I wanted so badly to look at this woman and say something horrifying to make her think twice before she said something like that again. After all, she had no idea (this was a woman who I had probably spoken to for 5 minutes total in our lives) what my reality was. But it was my sister’s family’s special day, and I felt like it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to go tough love.
In fact, I think issues around marriage, pregnancy, and parenting do bring out people’s worst behavior – their bossiest, how-I-would-do-it-is-the-best- possible way smugness.
Janine: My response to the inevitable ‘Are you married?’ And ‘do you have kids?’questions is now with a very cheery smile ‘No, I’m not married–should I be?” And still smiling I add, “No kids – and I’m good right now. However, YOU seem to have the kid thing down very well!”
Now not everyone who asks me those questions gets the same answer necessarily. Only the ones who come off condescending or belittling in some way. Its as if because I’ve never been married and am without kids I’m somehow abnormal. When in fact, its become very normal for women to wait longer to ‘settle down.’ Look at Halle Berry – not married right now but just had her first baby at 41; Marcia Cross of “Desperate Housewives” giving birth to twins at 45+; actress Salma Hayek 40 with first baby! I could go on, but you get the point!
I just think if you’re happy with your life as it is (married, not married, kids, no kids), then just be happy and not spend a lot of energy trying to condemn those who aren’t where you think they should be.
Rosie: The truth is, in the context of someone else’s life, it doesn’t matter how WE would do something. It only matters that he or she is doing it in a way that is true and right for them. If you have a legitimate concern that the person is putting themselves or someone else in harm’s way, that’s one thing
and you have to figure out a delicate way to handle that. But if the deal is simply that you prefer roses to tulips for the reception or that you think babies should never be given a pacifier – then the most appropriate thing to do is to swallow your preference and celebrate the free choice we each have. After all, the
name Emma Jane might be your favorite but it would not be nearly so quaint if every little girl had it.
Check back on Wednesday for Round 2…will all of the Fierce Women agree? Do you?