I am at the age, or rather time in my life, where what I am going to do next in life is somewhat of interest to other people. But I don’t mean the countries I plan on visiting or the career progression I would like to take. Oh no, the question on everyone’s lips, whether it is spoken or not, is: So when are you going to get married?
I hasten to add that I am not currently engaged. So this doesn’t refer to whether we have a wedding date or venue set, both valid questions if I was indeed with ring. This is a query laden with the underlying statement: Isn’t it about time?
Let me be clear. I have no problem when the question is thrown around in jest or I am gently made fun off. In fact, I’ll often make a quip about it myself. My issue is when it is asked completely genuinely. Rather than holding a conversation about, for example, my career or our upcoming trip to New Zealand and Australia, (which personally I find are both much more worthy topics to talk about) there are people who instead feel the need to reduce you to certain life stages. Finding a partner. Moving in together. Getting married. Having babies. And that’s your lot.
And I struggle with the excuse that people are ‘just trying to make conversation’ because there are so many other avenues there to explore, as above. Topics that will make neither party feel uncomfortable or have to wrack their brains for an answer that isn’t considered rude. More to the point – is it any of your business?
Funnily enough, it is most commonly asked by people who know very little about me. As if I’m going to answer to someone I barely know: ‘Well you know what Helen, I’d like to know the same thing myself! What’s a girl to do eh? It’s just not on!’ Where I stand on the matter is completely beside the point and unless brought up by my boyfriend or I, is a question I believe shouldn’t even enter your brain.
But this isn’t just about me, obviously. This is about everyone who has experienced one of ‘those’ uncomfortable questions. Anyone who is single for whatever reason and constantly asked if ‘they’ve found anyone yet’ or the married couple who find themselves having to dodge queries about starting a family. These huge life milestones rarely have cut and dry, yes or no answers. A lot of the time, there are conversations or even disagreements that have been had, difficulties that have occurred and quite frankly, it is not anyone’s place to bring up something that is actually incredibly personal. Imagine how upsetting it is for a couple who are struggling to have children and who want nothing more to do so, to then be asked at a family wedding ‘so when can we expect a baby?’
I truly don’t think there are any malicious intentions behind these questions. My concern is why in 2018, it is still considered acceptable. Asking questions is a great thing, truly. They show we care and that we are interested in the other person. But there are just some questions that you do not ask. Sometimes personal questions are asked as a way of making small talk but good god, very rarely do those sort of enquiries inspires lengthy conversations. If anything, they are simply awkward and lead to stilted dialogue. Now ask me about Donald Trump or Brexit and then we’re good to go.
I wonder sometimes, is it because that person is measuring up your life against where they would want to be or were? Maybe. ‘Well I was married with three kids by 25, why isn’t she?‘ There’s no doubt that traditionally, a certain path is followed in life and indeed, a lot of us do go on to follow that. But we’re all different at the end of the day and that’s what makes us all individually so interesting.
This post hasn’t been written to provide you with a comeback for those annoying questions (though read some cracking responses here if so) because realistically, I know despite how much they annoy me, I will continue to be terribly British, fake a laugh and desperately move the conversation elsewhere. I just hope that these occasions become less and less frequent as time goes on because we will have all experienced the sheer awkwardness ourselves and not want to place that on some other poor soul.
And for the record, Helen, whenever I do get married, you certainly won’t be invited.