Unlucky 13: 13 Rude Questions (that should be avoided at all costs)

I've blogged on this before, but after a few recent conversations about the appalling audacity of strangers (and occasionally friends), it bears writing about again.  Here are some personal winners (and by "winners" I mean "uncouth questions that should be avoided at all costs") from the experiences of friends, family and yours truly.  Laugh, cringe and, perhaps reform any misguided ways.  :)


1.  When are you going to get married? or Why aren't you married yet?  
(I was just waiting for a charmer like you to come along.)  Subtext. Is. Everything.  Yes, maybe you meant it as a compliment (as in, "You're such a catch, why hasn't anyone scooped you up yet?")  But what it really communicates is "You clearly are not a complete person as you do not have a mate."   And, it may be a sensitive subject.  Maybe the person is struggling with single-dom.  Maybe the person LOVES being single. Ultimately it boils down to this: A person's worth does not rest in whether or not they've got a ring on their finger.  So leave that question out of your repertoire. 

2. (To a gay couple)  Which one of you is the man in the relationship?  
It hurts my heart to know that people I care about have been asked this.  What an emasculating, insulting question.  I think it's a good thing this has never been said near me.

3.  (Again, to someone who's gay) Were you molested as a child?
(Nope.  Were you dropped on your head?)  This is another question that I can only assume is born from ignorance.  But it's above and beyond horrible on so many levels.  A lack of understanding or acceptance is no excuse for such insulting behavior. 

Kids and Pregnancy

4When is the baby due?
Yes, this is an obvious one.  AND YET it seems to constantly come up.  Intentions may be good (Yay! Happy news!)  but the risk is too high.  If the person isn't pregnant, they now have to deal with the fallout of feeling overweight, ugly and/or alone.  If the person is pregnant they still might be self conscious about showing.  And, in a worst case scenario moment, a friend of mine was asked this just after a miscarriage.  Yeah. 

5.  When are you going to start popping out kids? 
This is a personal favorite of mine and one that several people I know have dealt with.   As soon as someone gets married, people are suddenly looking at your biological clock like it's their own personal stopwatch.  Newsflash: Not everyone wants kids.  Not everyone can have kids. Sometimes it's a sore spot between spouses.  There are a thousand reasons why someone might be childless but all of them boil down to: It's Not. Your. Business.

6.  Was the pregnancy planned? 
There's really no justification for this one.  It's kind of the equivalent of asking "So, did you want your kid?" (Besides, what do you expect them to say if it wasn't? "No, my significant other and I just got hammered at a party and decided to have a quickie in the car.  One month later, surprise!! We've already nick named him 'Daddy's little mistake.'") Maybe just stick to "Congratulations!"

7.  Anything related to how someone is raising a child (Do you still nurse?  You don't spank them do you?  Do you plan to *insert some random child raising nugget gleaned from the newest popular methodology*...?) 
Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has reasons for their opinion.  That doesn't make the opinion fact, it doesn't make it your concern and it certainly doesn't make it your place to insert yourself.

Physical Appearance

8. (In reference to ethnicity) What are you? 
(Ummmm... human.  Perhaps more than I can say for you.)  Seriously, this is incredibly, well, dehumanizing.  Whether or not the intent is benign, the question is out of this world wrong.

9. What's your ethnicity/Where are you from? 
While it's a solid step up on the Creep Scale, it's still not really appropriate to ask someone you don't know.  It communicates a sense of being classed and analyzed and takes away someones true individuality.  True, not everyone is offended by this, but enough people are that it's probably better to avoid it.

10.  Wow, you look great! How much weight have you lost?
Slow your roll, Chief.  Okay, the intention here is good.  But the subtext to anyone who has ever struggled with weight before is "Good job on dropping some pounds, Saddlebags!  Previously, you kinda reminded me of a bloated cow!"  Hopefully that's not at all what you meant.  But the safe way to communicate the compliment is just to stick to the first part: "You look great!"

11. Are you Jewish? I can tell by your nose... 
I wish I didn't have to say that this one came up A LOT, but alas...
First of all, assigning a specific physical feature to a group of people is not really cool.  Yes, I understand that there may be similarities in certain groupings: dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin - maybe not a terrible leap to think someone might be Mediterranean.  BUT it still assumes a generalization that creates an "Us" and "Them" feeling (not to mention there are LOTS of exceptions. I, for one, have dark hair & eyes and olive skin and am not Mediterranean).  Beyond potential stereotyping missteps, you may have the added joy here of making someone self conscious about a particular feature.  (Nope. It's just the nose I was born with.  But what the hell did that mean?)
Personal Choices

12.  When are you going to get a real job? 
Oh, how I used to hate this one.  For anyone who has struggled to make a life in an artistic pursuit, this question can be infuriating.  Whether or not you agree with someone's choice in career is moot - it's neither your place nor your right to demean someone for it.  (And frankly, many of the artists I know have to work 10 times harder than those with main stream jobs).  

13.  Don't you know that being a vegetarian/vegan/omnivore is bad for your health?
(It's not nearly as bad for my health as this question is for yours...) Again, opinions are great.  And certainly, if the subject is brought up in an open discussion manner feel free to voice your opinions.  But leave the Soapbox attitude at home.

How to Handle an Inappropriate Question:
Most have us have received at least one of these questions, or any number of other jaw-droppers.  While your initial instinct might be to retaliate in some form, generally the best approach is to remain calm and measured in your response. 
  • Intent is Everything (almost). Assess the other person's intentions: did they mean well but are just a little ignorant? Or were you a target of some form?  If the intention was good, embarrassing them might not be the way to go.  If the asker truly intended to insult, then a firmer tone may be called for, but again, a calm response from you will have more of an impact.  
  • Stay Calm. Angry words (even if they're justified) sometimes lead to a "wow, they're overreacting" reception.  
  • Kill 'em with Laughter.  If you can, inject a little humor into your response. A lighthearted but poignant turn of the tables can shut a conversation down quickly without making you look like the bad guy. 
  • Keep it Simple. A lot of times people catch us off guard with comments and leave us reeling for words.  Sure, we have a thousand brilliant comebacks 15 minutes later, but at the time? Not a thing.  So just say it straight. Take a breath, and, in an even but firm voice say, "You know, I find that question offensive.  I think it's best we change the subject." 

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