SOCIETY TALK

Avoid asking intrusive questions

Are we ready to hear the hard truth?

In Summary

• Sometimes the answer to a simple question could be very testing for the responder

Twitter post that prompted avalanche of disclosures on intrusive questions
Twitter post that prompted avalanche of disclosures on intrusive questions
Image: COURTESY

If I had a thousand shillings for every time I was asked if I am pregnant yet since getting married last year, I would be a millionaire by now.

Society has a way of being intrusive in people’s lives in such a way that makes us uneasy. People ask us questions because they want to know more about us. However, at some point, these questions start becoming excessively personal and extremely insensitive.

For instance, when a woman 25 years or older is not married, society feels like it is a matter of concern. Questions at family/social gatherings start pouring in. “Have you met someone yet?” “When will you settle down?” “Do you want to get married later in life, when all your eggs have gone bad?”

Oh yes, unmarried women over 30 have heard the latter question… The worst part is, more often than not, other women are the ones who ask this question.

If you finally get married and think you have shut down rude questions and whispers of your desirability, think again. This time, the same people who questioned your desirability start questioning your fertility. “Are you pregnant yet?” “What are you waiting for?” “You had a girl, why not try for a boy?” And so on it goes. Sometimes, other women start observing any weight gain so they could ask you if you are pregnant yet.

Growing up in communities where people turn these questions into everyday conversations, one thinks that asking them is a way of showing your concern on the people you care about. But, as we grow older and understand the complexities of life, we learn from our own experiences that not everything is what it seems. If we are not getting married early, it is because we haven’t found suitable mates. If we are not having children, it is because we can’t (or don’t want to). Life choices are not easy to make, but they are also harder to explain to third parties.

Perhaps the only way to deal with rudely intrusive people who ask such questions is to be bluntly honest to their faces. Ironically, people who ask such uncivilised questions expect your response to be respectful.

Twitter user Cora Harrington, @lingerie_addict, started a poignant conversation last weekend on Twitter as she posted her encounter with a random person who asked her why she didn’t have kids. Cora replied that she was infertile. When the other person replied uneasily that they didn’t expect such a reply, Cora said she looked at the stranger square in the eye and told the person to avoid asking such intimate questions if they are unwilling to hear the honest answer. The conversation picked up with women across the world sharing their own experiences on Cora’s thread.

Another user, @Rudjedet, commented that when she gets asked why she doesn’t have kids yet, she replies that it's the only thing she thinks about as she goes through an intensive IVF process. The comments, the stories, the experiences help us understand that people go through very tough times behind closed doors. Sometimes they do not want to talk about such experiences because they are extremely raw and painful for them.

Meanwhile, as an inquisitive society, we overlook the fact that most things are not what they seem. Sometimes the answer to a simple question could be very testing for the person being asked. As a society, we need to learn how to avoid asking such personal questions if we are not ready to hear the hard truth.