I recently spent some virtual time with author Craig Wynne discussing his book How to be a Happy Bachelor. We talked about how awkward it can be to talk about singledom and childlessness. Especially with people who are not single or childless themselves.
Craig made the point that such conversations can be difficult because people don’t know what to say. And they often say inappropriate things as a result. Craig suggested we reduce the awkwardness by taking ownership of our single or childless status and being upfront about it.
This struck me as being a worthy suggestion. How many times have you endured this kind of conversation:
Them: So, do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend yet?
Them: Why not? Are you too picky?
Craig suggested we reduce the awkwardness by taking ownership of our single or childless status.
Or how about this one:
Them: So, do you have kids?
Us: No, I don’t.
Them: How come? Don’t you like kids?
It occurs to me that it might be much simpler to just state outright who we are. We can treat it like a personal intro.
‘Hi, I’m Steph. (‘Hello Steph.’) I’m childless-by-forced-choice.’
’Hi, I’m Steph. I’m childless-by-forced-choice.’
If they ask further questions, I can say I am childless due to medical conditions. People rarely ask for more details after that. Which is fine by me.
Of course, it depends on our personal levels of comfortability. And how raw the pain might be. If I have just passed a particularly painful day – like Mother’s Day, or Valentine’s Day – I might not be in the most talkative mood.
Still, there are easy (and short) answers to the question of having kids. Here are some goodies I have picked up:
- Sadly, I don’t have kids.
- Unfortunately, we can’t have kids.
- Nope, how about you?
- We tried, but we couldn’t.
- I am childless-not-by-choice (or, for people in my kind of predicament, childless-by-forced choice).
- We really wanted kids, but we couldn’t manage it.
- (And my personal favourite:) Mind your own business.
You can take a similar approach to questions about singledom:
- I am happily solo (thanks Craig Wynne for the suggestion).
- I am content being single.
- I don’t have anyone on the horizon right now.
- I’m not pursuing a relationship at the moment.
- No, I don’t have a girlfriend/boyfriend – and I’ll be OK.
- No, how about you? How’s your love life?
- Mind your own business.
Being upfront can save us a lot of difficult questions.
Being upfront about our relationship and parental status can save a lot of difficult questions later on. It might show people it’s OK to talk about it. It might show us how far we have come too.
Do you have a favourite go-to response for questions about singledom or childlessness? How do you approach these conversations? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.