Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Whiny Wednesday: People Who Ought to Say Nothing August 22, 2012

This post was originally published on April 4, 2012.

Kathleen’s post about mistakes and well-intentioned people got me thinking about people who really ought to just mind their own business.

A few years ago, when I my glorious plans for motherhood were just beginning to come crashing down around my ears, Mr. Fab and I went wine tasting. As a rich, fruity cabernet was hitting my bloodstream and making my crappy world feel better, a woman (whose world was feeling a little too good) leaned over and said, “Should you be drinking?”

I was confused for a moment, until I realized she was peering at my belly. Admittedly, I’d put on a few stress pounds over the previous year, but I was beyond mortified that she’d mistaken my bloat for a pregnancy, especially considering that was the one thing I was truly aiming for.

I’d like to tell you that she realized her mistake immediately, but alas, she had to ask me twice – the second time for everyone around us to hear.

So, while I agree that most people are well-intentioned when they make a faux pas, in some cases, people just ought to keep their traps shut and mind their own damn business.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, ladies. Let ‘em fly.

 

Whiny Wednesday: People Who Ought to Say Nothing April 4, 2012

Kathleen’s post about mistakes and well-intentioned people got me thinking about people who really ought to just mind their own business.

A few years ago, when I my glorious plans for motherhood were just beginning to come crashing down around my ears, Mr. Fab and I went wine tasting. As a rich, fruity cabernet was hitting my bloodstream and making my crappy world feel better, a woman (whose world was feeling a little too good) leaned over and said, “Should you be drinking?”

I was confused for a moment, until I realized she was peering at my belly. Admittedly, I’d put on a few stress pounds over the previous year, but I was beyond mortified that she’d mistaken my bloat for a pregnancy, especially considering that was the one thing I was truly aiming for.

I’d like to tell you that she realized her mistake immediately, but alas, she had to ask me twice – the second time for everyone around us to hear.

So, while I agree that most people are well-intentioned when they make a faux pas, in some cases, people just ought to keep their traps shut and mind their own damn business.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, ladies. Let ‘em fly.

 

The Art (and Benefits) of Lying November 28, 2011

Dorothy sent me this article recently (thanks Dorothy) from a woman asking “Dear Coquette” for advice on what to say when people ask if she has children. Dear Coquette’s answer? Lie.

 

I had to laugh out loud when I read this, because it has never occurred to me before to lie about not having children. It’s brilliant!

 

Now, granted, if you’re talking to someone you’re likely to see again or who might otherwise find out the truth, then it gets tricky, but if you’re at a cocktail party or some social situation where you’re basically making small talk with strangers, then why not make something up? I mean really, you could actually have some fun with this,

 

I envision clipping photos of kids from magazines and putting them in one of those fold-out wallets, then when someone asks if I have kids, I’ll whip out the pictures and say, “Why, yes! I have five. This is Mai, Uri, Owen, Bea, Senise.” (Say it fast; extra points if you get it.) Then I can start in on what a horrible time I’m having because the baby has a very delicate digestive system. I really think this could work.

 

What do you think? Could you lie to a stranger? More to the point, would you?

 

Oh, and I must just say that while I think this suggestion is inspired, I happen not to agree with her suggestion that saying, “I can’t have children” will shut the person up. In my experience, it’s more likely to open a whole conversation about adoption. I think it’s much more fun just to lie.

 

What’s Your Holiday Plan? November 7, 2011

OK, even if you’re still in denial, sooner or later you’ll have to face the fact that the holidays are coming at us. Halloween is over and Thanksgiving (for those of us in the U.S.) is just over two weeks away.

 

No matter which holidays you celebrate, odds are it will mean family get-togethers, maybe including relatives you see only once a year, and holiday parties where people drink too much eggnog and say stupid things.

 

Whether it’s your brother-in-law yelling across the dinner table to ask how the baby-making’s going, or great aunt Ethel fussing over your cousin’s brood and then turning her questions on you, or Bob from accounting unfolding a wallet full of toe-haired kids and grilling you about your family, the holiday season can be a minefield of awkward questions and inappropriate comments. So what are you going to do?

 

Granted, one option is to hole up with It’s a Wonderful Life and a box of Kleenex, but I don’t recommend it. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to go out in public and it pays to be prepared.

 

We’ve often talked about how to deal with those difficult, awkward, or downright rude questions. It all sounds good on paper, but then someone catches us off guard and we end up mumbling an almost apologetic answer and then kicking ourselves later (or venting about it on Whiny Wednesday.) So, let’s get prepared.

 

Think about all the events you’re going to have to attend this season. Think about who’s going to be there, and how informed they are about your personal situation. (If you see some relatives only once a year, word may not have reached them that you’ve stopped trying, for example.) Think about the questions you might be asked and practice your answers.

 

This technique is called Mental Rehearsal. Athletes use it to visual scoring points; people use it for job interviews to practice confidently asking questions; even the military use it to prepare troops for what they might face on the battlefield. True, you can never know what you’re going to face on the holiday frontlines, but if you’ve practiced an answer to “So, when are you guys going to have kids?” or “Why don’t you just adopt?” you’ll be prepared, even if someone throws out a variation.

 

Here’s an article with some suggestions on how to practice this technique. Try it now, before the holiday madness kicks in. Maybe you’ll even get to relax and enjoy the season, instead of dreading the inevitable stupid question.

 

Bambinos September 19, 2011

If you ever happen to find yourself in Sheffield in the north of England, you might want to steer clear of Vito’s Italian restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, the food is delicious, the service is excellent, and Vito himself, if he happens to come out of the kitchen to talk to you, is charming and funny. But the place is a minefield for the childfree.

During my recent trip home, I went there with my mother and her gentleman friend to celebrate his birthday. Over the course of the meal the waiter (picture 50-ish, stocky Sicilian, with a thick half-Sheffield, half-Italian accent) discovered (from asking me) that I lived in California, was a writer, and was married to an American.

“So,” came the next question, “you have bambinos?”

“Um, no,” I said, quickly going back to my pasta.

“No?” he says. “Why not?”

There was an awkward pause while I weighed my options as to how to answer. I could grab this “teachable moment” and educate this man as to why is wasn’t okay to ask such a prying question; I could tell him the truth and risk embarrassing him, my mum, and her friend; or I could tell a big fat lie.

I chose a hybrid answer. “Too old,” I told him.

Now you think the penny would have dropped for him and he’d have walked away from the conversation, but no. Instead it went on, something like this:

“Too old? How old are you?”

“How old do you think I am?”

Sicilian shrug. “Thirty six?”

“Thanks for the compliment, but I’m 41.”

“41?! That’s not old. My sister-in-law, she have bambinos and she 50! You have plenty of time.”

At which point I think I nodded and smiled and mumbled something like, “We’ll see,” and wondered if I could have steered the conversation differently.

This occasion wasn’t the right place to set this man right. And he wasn’t the right target for a lesson. Here was a man who came from a time and culture where all women have bambinos, and so naturally why wouldn’t I?

Yes, his question was awkward and embarrassing, but the reality is that anything he asked me in a normal line of conversation could have been awkward. I could have just lost my job, just been abandoned by my husband for a younger woman, just lost my house and been forced to move back in with my mother. He just happened to ask the one question that was my personal trigger and I don’t think that reading him the riot act for his misstep would have been the appropriate thing to do, do you?