Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Saying the Right Things

As humans we often struggle with the great power we are given: the ability to communicate. Sometimes we isolate ourselves (I work in my own office--the last one in the hall of 25). Other times we jump right into a crowd and pretend all night long that we enjoy being social. Or in fact, on that particular day we might actually feed off the group's energy.

I've been traveling for work since 1999. I work with folks I've never met until I speak to them at an event or conference. It's always been the best part of my job. It breaks up the monotonous nature of working in an office. Plus, I don't travel all year long so it's a refreshing change. Each time I go somewhere new I discover things I've never noticed before. Like in Minneapolis (for the first time this late February/early March) I realized that they are one of the greenest cities I've ever seen. Even my hotel room at the Hyatt had 3 recycle bins (3!) and my food each day was locally sourced (no food deserts there apparently, despite being in the Midwest).

One thing that never fails to surprise me is people I encounter that clearly have no sense of manners. It might be someone that pushes me in line (and nearly knocks me over because I'm carrying a bag, box, laptop case). Or it could be someone that asks me something that is not appropriate or none of their business. I remember when I was engaged to be married and a client stated "Well, I sure do hope you're marrying a nice Jewish boy." (my maiden name is Silver, so I actually got that comment several times while at conferences--and clearly while wearing a name tag).

Recently a colleague told asked me how I was going to start having kids "now, at 35 years old?" Then awkwardly she replied, "Not that it's any of my business..." I told her I was not having my own kids and that here and there we tossed around the idea of adoption. I've been married nearly 12 years and I get that question a lot. I think...I got it twice just last week from complete strangers "And why have you not had any babies yet?" I keep saying I need a snappy reply. Something better than "I don't think my reproductive choices are any of your business."

I know that people mean well. They are just making small talk. The conference attendees that inquired about my fiance at the time were just being polite. They were also being a bit close-minded and were quite shocked at my answer. The same goes for individuals that ask when a woman is due if she's not even pregnant at all. Yes, that still happens. First off, I know women that have had a hell of a time carrying a baby full term or even getting pregnant at all. Can you imagine asking someone "when are you due?" that had just lost a baby?

Please, the next time you want to ask someone (a stranger, a client, a colleague) a VERY personal question--take a step back. I'm also welcome to any type of comeback I can give to someone that asks why I'm not a Mom yet. I've thought about saying "Yes, because clearly I'm not a complete person until I have children." or "Yeah, I lost 2 babies in the past few years. It's been nothing but heart break and devastation. You probably should not ask strangers that question." (totally made up of course, and not making light of women in that situation...I just feel at this point I need a shocking reply to squash that person from ever asking that again (or implying that someone is 'over the hill' at 35).



  1. The snappy responce my wife used for years regarding kids and it shut EVERYBODY up, including her brothers: "Jeff and I keep fcuking like crazy, and I just keep accidentally taking that birth control. When will I learn?!?"

    Her oldest brother actually asked for a pencil to "poke his ears out" at that point, realizing what he just asked his baby sister, and what she replied...

  2. Jeff, that totally made my morning!! Ha!! Thank you for chiming in. :)