During my first three years of marriage, everywhere I went, people’s eyes migrated to my unchanging waistline. And it was everyone. Not just friends and family, but the eye doctor, the dental assistant, the bagger at the grocery store. And all of them felt entitled to ask.
The strangest inquiry had to have been from my yoga teacher: I drove across town once a week to take this class because I loved the teacher, a hip young German woman with a thick accent who’d play Tina Turner music during the sun salutations. She was the kind of funky that made you wish you had a tattoo. Something small and tasteful but a little bit bad. Because she hadn’t fully grasped the language yet, she was often unintentionally poetic when speaking to all of us. My favorite was, “you are lifting the Springtime of your heart to the flowers in your skull.”
I was resting in savasana pose, on my back, when she knelt down near my ear and whispered: “Your ovaries are ripe, yes?”
I opened my eyes and looked up at her. “My who?” Surely she meant something else. Eggs? Omelettes? Oranges? Or maybe this was some sort of German lesbian come-on line?
She whispered again: “Your ovaries, they are bright and ready for the babies.”
I pulled my legs to my chest, as if this could somehow block her x-ray vision into my pelvis, and stared at her, confused. Who was this woman and why was she tracking my ovulation better than I was? How could she tell? Was I bloated? And did she have to interrupt my peaceful resting pose, the one chance I had per week to fully relax and reflect?
I didn’t stick around after class to clarify, and my ovaries and I never went back.
On our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, a mere month after Stephen and I tied the knot, my Great-Uncle Marvin focused on the area just below my waistline and said, “Oh Carrie! I see a little paunch! Is somebody expecting?” His eyes became googly and he sounded like he was talking to a puppy. He didn’t go so far as to poke my paunch, which was fortunate since I would have broken his fingers.
“No, Marv,” I said. “I just finished eating Thanksgiving dinner, just like you.” I stopped short of asking him when he was due.
Why do people feel entitled to ask? Did they see the wedding band and connect marriage with procreation? It was obnoxious: For all he knew, I couldn’t have kids. For all I knew I couldn’t have kids, as I had not yet tried. But imagine if I had submitted to all kinds of treatments, only to come up empty-wombed. Imagine how painful this line of interrogation would be. Stephen thinks some people ask because it helps them validate their own choices. But he doesn’t truly understand how infuriating it is, and that’s no doubt because nobody badgers men about procreativity with the same frequency.
Was there a more personal question than the equivalent to: “So! You and the hubby having lots of unprotected sex lately?” How would they feel if I looked at their wrinkles and grey hair and said: “You look older every time I see you. You planning for your funeral yet?” or “You’re menopausal, right? How’s the dryness?” Sure, maybe they were just making conversation, but when I thought of ice-breakers, birth control didn’t spring to mind.
Perhaps childfree couples should all carry a printed card in their wallets, with this list of possible responses to the dreaded “when are you having babies?” question:
- “I had two this morning. They were delicious.”
- “Actually, I can’t have kids. I’d managed to go a few hours without thinking about it, but thanks for reminding me.”
- “Well, we had one. You must not have read about it, but long story short, don’t hire an English nanny.”
- “We’re not. We’ve decided to clone.”
Hopefully that will shut them up.
Carrie Friedman lives and writes in Los Angeles. She has been published in several publications, including Newsweek, and in a couple of anthologies, including Cassette From My Ex. Her website is www.carriefriedmania.com.
Win a copy of Carrie’s brilliant book, PREGNANT PAUSE. Just leave a comment on this post and we’ll draw a random winner next Saturday. The book is also available on Amazon.