A question about questions.
Q: This is short and to the point; I'm sure other folks are in this situation as well. I have been with my boyfriend for 5 years, we own a home together and are happy. Despite our current state of happiness, people continuously ask us if or when we are getting married. Some go as far as to ask us when we are having children. Why do people think this is appropriate to ask? I usually follow up with a simple answer, something along the lines of "we're happy the way things are" or "we take it day by day" but that can lead to more intrusive questioning like, "well, don't you think about it?" Why can't people respect our answers and stop asking? When we do it, they'll be the first to know.
-- Stop Asking, Revere
A: SA, the rules of small talk have always seemed odd to me. It’s taboo to ask people how much money they make, but for some reason, it’s totally acceptable to ask them why they’re not married and what they plan to do with their reproductive organs.
If you’re single, people ask if you’re dating. If you’re dating, people ask about marriage. If you’re married, it’s kids. And if you have kids, it’s, “Are you going to have another kid?”
I usually get this question from single. They feel that when they’re asked about dating, they're forced to lie to make their situation seem better than it is to make the question-asker comfortable. As in, “No, I’m not dating -- because I’m just really busy.”
It’d be great if we could answer all personal questions honestly, no matter how uncomfortable it made the question-asker. Like, “We’re not getting married because our married friends seem bored.” Or, “I’m not pregnant yet because I’m having trouble conceiving.” Or, “I’m not dating because I have a tiny rash on my behind that I’d like to clear up before I get naked again.”
I give most people the benefit of the doubt. I think most people ask personal questions because they’re curious -- and because, really, what else are they supposed to ask you about? But there are folks who ask for the wrong reasons. Some need to know that you want what they want. They need to be validated.
All you can do is answer and smile. Say, “We’ve been focusing on buying property,” or “We’re doing the Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell thing.”
It’s annoying. But I don’t see any way around it. Just try not to let it get to you. And know that at some point in your life, you’ve been that annoying question-asker without even knowing it. We all have.
Readers, thoughts on answering these personal questions? Share here.
Recent blog posts
Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.