The human species is a strange one. On one hand, we talk about empathy and ‘humanity’, while on the other hand we end up hurting others around us – sometimes due to thoughtlessness and sometimes willfully.
I have had many such encounters that make me wonder about people and what goes on in their top floor (brain or lack of it).
I have been married now for 20 years. I don’t have children. From well-meaning relatives and friends to people looking for gossip, to random strangers I just met, I have been asked this question soooo many times after I tell them I am married – “how many kids do you have?”
A recent incident prompted this post – during the rehearsals for a community dance that I was part of, a couple of ladies I had just met were discussing how it was difficult to manage dinner and the next day’s lunches, etc due to the rehearsals. Then came the million-dollar question – how many kids do I have? I replied “None”. They gave me a very pitying look and asked me “Why?”.
Other times, I have had relatives refer me to gynecologists or even discuss my ‘case’ with theirs and then tell me to go consult them for a resolution. From IVF to special pujas to adoption, over the years I have got some ‘wonderful gems’ as advice from people. And most assume that there is a problem and it is with me, so I am the one who is subjected to most of these pieces of advice.
I understand the need for some to procreate and keep their ‘lineage’ alive. I also know the joys of parenthood – I am a mom to an extremely cute and naughty Dalmatian. I adore and am adored by my nephews and nieces. But my reasons for not having children are private – it could simply be a choice or a medical issue. It is nobody’s business except mine and my partner’s.
Whatever the reason, people should learn to stop offering unsolicited advice or trying to satisfy their curiosity on some matters that are private.
- Asking people about their weight – either loss or gain
- Asking a woman if she is pregnant (or worse – congratulating her)
- Asking when someone is getting married
- Asking when someone is giving ‘good news’
- Commenting or telling people to make purchases to spruce up their house
- Asking if the house you stay in is rented or owned
- Asking if a piece of jewelry is ‘real’
- Asking someone how much money they make
This list can go on…
The bottom line is that we must learn to accept people’s privacy even if we are very close to them. Unless the person initiates a conversation on the topic, it is better to keep opinions to yourself than feed your curiosity.
It does not take a top school or college education for one to learn to show empathy and common sense. An illiterate person can still be an educated one and someone with a top-notch degree or from ‘high society’ can be crass.
Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves if we would like to answer a question before we put it to someone. Being sensitive to another person’s choices and needs can go a long way in making us ‘human’.