There are certain questions that are either too personal or can be perceived as hateful although, it is usually a case of overactive curiosity. I am going to list some of the questions that I have been asked or that I have heard someone asking, and I am doing it for two reasons. I hope the people who regularly ask questions like this might think twice before asking them again because these questions are not only an invasion of privacy, but they can also hurt someone’s feelings. The other reason is for the people who have been asked these questions. I hope you will realize you are not the only one who has been asked any of these, and that it is ok the next time someone asks you to calmly tell them that you consider that a private matter. It also helps to keep a sense of humor about it. I will tell you two stories at the end to illustrate my point.
Why don’t you have children, or when are you going to have children?
I know this one doesn’t need much explanation about why you never should ask this but imagine if the couple cannot have children. Be sensitive to the situation.
Are you pregnant?
I know most people would put this at the top of the list of questions not to ask, but it still happens. I was in a store last week and an older woman asked a younger woman if she was pregnant. The young lady said, “No, this is just from Covid. The older woman said, “Well you look very healthy.” She then scampered away.
Are you tired today?
This translates to “You really look awful. Are you o.k.?”
How old are you?
There are plenty of times when this is an appropriate question, but when you are asking it in disbelief, as if you cannot believe someone a certain age would do that, then it becomes hateful.
Was your child an accident or were you an accident?
I had my youngest when I was forty-three and she was not an accident, but she had a classmate ask her if she was, and I have had several adults ask me. One even followed that question with did I have her with the same husband.
You’re retired? What do you do all day?
I’m busier now than when I worked full time. There are so many more interests and activities to do besides work, so don’t assume all retirees are sitting around eating bon-bons.
You’re not still working, are you?
If this doesn’t make you feel as old as dirt, nothing will.
Are you anorexic?
My oldest was very tall and skinny growing up. Besides being called chicken legs, she was also asked frequently if she had an eating disorder.
Wow, how many kids do you have?
I have heard this many times, and I always wonder why someone else thinks her ideal family size has to fit someone else.
Where do you have your work done (plastic surgery)?
I cannot even imagine asking this question.
What are you wearing?
This one must be asked with the sense that you made a bad fashion choice. A student asked me this once, and then turned to the class and said, “I haven’t worn a dress like that since I was nine.” I was mortified.
There are more, but I’ll stop the list there, and leave you with two stories. These stories are not really about questions, but they both are about saying something unkind, and not even realizing that what is being said is inappropriate. I hope we all work a little more on having a filter that tells us not to say certain things.
We were at breakfast and had just been given our coffees. I am allergic to hazelnut and that was the only type of creamer in the bowl. My husband asked the waitress, “Do you think we could have some plain creamer?” She replied, “Oh sure, my parents are old too. They don’t like the fancy creamers either”
My friend Sally and I were looking at the placement monitor at a race. A young woman next to me didn’t understand how to read it, so I explained it to her, and then turned to Sally and said I loved the song that was playing. The young woman said, “You love this song?” I said, “Yes, don’t you?” She said, “I love this song.” I asked, “Then why did you ask me if I liked it like I was weird?” She paused and then said, “I find that as I get older, I like younger songs too.” At that point Sally said, “Oh, look at the monitor, both of the old ladies beat you!”
Ask kind questions.