Persephone Birthday

Best of P-Mag: Childfree or Die Hard: Snappy Comebacks to Inappropriate Questions

This is one of two nominations from our beloved commenter and supermoderator, Freckle.
So, you’ve decided not to have children. I know from experience that a decision like that takes lots of consideration and thought. I hate to break it to you, but once you make this decision, you’re going to get a lot of stupid and inappropriate questions from busybodies who think your business is their business.

It’s good to be armed with some idea of what sort of nonsense you’ll be encountering, and to have a few stock responses ready to go. My answers vary depending on who’s asking the questions, but I usually tend toward the sarcastic response. Keep in mind that these are all real, actual questions that I’ve been asked at some point. Some of them may seem improbable, but trust me, I couldn’t make this shit up if I tried. Here are some of the questions I’ve gotten, and some of the answers I’ve used in the past:


1. “When are you two going to start a family?” “We are a family.” Short and to the point, and it’s not rude exactly, just challenging the questioner’s idea of “family.”

2. “Why did you get married if you aren’t having kids?” Generally, my responses to questions like this tend to be non-verbal. A slightly quizzical look and complete silence really tend to leave the question hanging out there, maybe even making the asker realize how inappropriate it was. Of course, people who say things like that often never realize how inappropriate they are. Silence is a great tool, though, for the really ignorant questions.

3. “Accidents happen, you know!” This one is tricky, and my response depends on the person I’m talking to. If it’s someone I know well, or someone who’s really pissing me off, they get, “Accidental pregnancies happen. Accidental births don’t.” If it’s someone who I need to be nice to, like a client (and, yes, true story), they get the more vague, “Oh, in this day and age, it’s really easy to be very careful.”

4. “So, are you trying?” (and all of its variations). This one applies even if you aren’t childfree. I know a lot of people who want kids who are constantly asked about the progress of their attempts to conceive (or, in my case, attempts not to). This one pisses me off more than most, so it usually gets one of my rudest responses:

Me: “When was the last time you gave your husband a blow job?”

Questioner: *shocked look and/or gasp*

Me: “Oh, I thought we were asking each other detailed questions about our sex lives. Aren’t we?”

I’m also a big fan of, “Well, we keep trying, and trying, and trying “¦ I mean, we tried six times this weekend, and no baby. Maybe we’re not trying hard enough.” (Or maybe all the birth control has something to do with it.)

5. “Who’ll take care of you when you’re old?” “Whoever I pay to do it. At least that way, they’re guaranteed to do their job, instead of dumping me in a substandard nursing home to rot away like adult children usually do. How’s your mom, by the way? Still enjoying Shady Acres? When was the last time you visited her?”

6. “Is it that you don’t want them, or are you infertile?” Ugh, this one. What if I were infertile, and not by choice? What if I wanted children more than anything and your question were to send me into a depressive spiral? Who asks this shit? Plenty of people, unfortunately. In response, they get, “Oh, I can’t bear children.” It’s true on all the levels, but depending on your inflection, the resultant guilt trip may make the questioner think twice about ever asking this question again.

7. “Don’t you find life unfulfilling without children?” and, similarly, “What do you do with your time?” “No,” and, “Anything I want.” Hmm. Let’s see. I have free time, discretionary income, and no demands on my schedule (except for the dogs; they’re a little needy). What do I do with my time? Whatever I feel like. This question is always asked with a certain level of hostility, and when my answers generally involve naps , going to the beach, and more naps, I get the feeling that the questioner can’t understand how I could possibly be fulfilled without soccer practice, PTA meetings, and juggling four or five people’s schedules. Trust me, I manage.

8. “So, you hate kids?” “I don’t want to be responsible for the care and feeding of a llama; doesn’t mean I hate them.” Although, a more honest answer would be, “Some? Sometimes?” I mean, I really dislike some adults. I just dislike some people, regardless of age. And kids do a lot of annoying stuff. I don’t hate them, necessarily, I just don’t generally enjoy being around many of them. There’s this pressure for the childfree to be quick to reassure people that they love kids; they just don’t want any of their own. You know what? It’s OK not to love kids. You shouldn’t have to reassure someone who’s asking you inappropriate personal things.

However you decide to handle these questions, it’s your life, it’s your decision, and you don’t have to justify it to anyone. And, when all else fails, a well-placed Miss Manners-esque, “Why would you need to know that?” is always appropriate.

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