Sex Ed in Higher Ed

College instructor teaching human sexuality rants about the dumbing down of America, the lost art of manners, grammar and (the perfect combination of both) the thank you note. Also includes random rants about life, pet peeves, and sometimes raves about favorite things.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Just Call Me Ms. Manners

I read a lot of blogs by moms and a lot of blogs by women struggling with infertility. I am neither of these things, but these blogs are all well-written and compelling, so I come back again and again. A while back, Effected wrote about how one should or should not engage in a conversation with a pregnant woman. I was truly grateful for this PSA, and honestly I will admit that I have made many of these mistakes and will do my best to keep my big piehole shut the next time I meet a pregnant woman.

But Effected's post got me thinking . . . Perhaps some people could use a refresher course on how to speak politely to a "child-free" woman. Because I learned something immediately after I got married: People are not generally comfortable with women who do not have children. Wait - let me correct that - people are not generally comfortable with women who openly admit to not wanting children. I suppose it truly goes against the nature of the universe and that rocks people's worlds. The minute my husband and I got married, people started asking us when the kids were on the way. Seriously. I think my sister-in-law asked me that at my wedding reception. And the first 6 months after our wedding, I was stupid enough to tell them the truth. And those conversations typically went like this:

Not-so-innocent-bystander: So when are you and J. having kids?
Me: We're not.
NSIB: Oh, (smile, wink, nudge,) that will change.
Me: Um, I don't think so.
NSIB: Stranger things have happened . . . you'll see (last word said in a two syllable "I know something you don't know" sing-song that goes up an octave.)
Me (in all my ignorant stupidity and stubborn jackass tendency to try to let people know I'm right): Well, that would be impossible since J. had a vasectomy the month before we got married.
NSIB (Horrified shocked inhale): Wha, I - um - wha, wh-ho-woo-wh0. But WHY!??!
Me: A million reasons (thinking "none of which I feel like going into with you, nosy bastard.")
NSIB: But. Won't. You. Um, be sorry!?!?!?
Me: I'd rather be sorry for not having kids than sorry after I've brought another human being into the world.
NSIB: Harrumph. You'll be sorry.
Me: Okay.

Here are some of the other things people have said to me back when I was still stupid enough to be honest:
  • Aren't you afraid you'll miss out?
  • I can't believe that.
  • Who will take care of you when you're old?
  • What happens when you change your mind?
  • Vasectomies are reversible. People do it every day.
  • Are you sure you and J. don't want kids? (And to this, I'd love to answer: "Gosh, you know what? I've had 35 years to think about it and he's had 37 years to think about it, but now that you mention it, why, YES!!! Thank God you brought it up.")
  • Oh, because you hate kids. (No, I love kids. But thanks for demonizing me in your mind.)
  • Trust me, I felt the same way about kids (what way?) but it's different when they're your own.
  • Motherhood is the most amazing experience. You have no idea what you're missing out on (this said to me by my former hairdresser and one of the worst mothers I know.)
  • We'd love to have you over for dinner, but the kids will still be up. (Again, what do these people think of us? We're such loathsome creatures that we won't deign to set foot in the same room as a child? We're allergic to children? We hate them so much we might have to kill a child if we saw one cross our path?)

So, after six months of having my personal choices questioned, reviled and insulted by everyone from complete strangers to co-workers who I thought were my friends, to family members(!) I decided that the truth is overrated and if someone is going to start with me, then all bets are off. Here is how one of these conversations went recently:

Annoying-21-year-old-Ann Taylor co-worker: Do you and J. want kids?

Me: No.

A21: Why?

Me: J. has an undescended testicle and my uterus is hostile to his sperm.

A21: Oh. (Runs away scared.)

Oh - and if I really really don't like you, I'll get teary eyed and whisper something like, "It's. Just. Too-painful-for-me-to-talk-about." That shuts 'em up fast - I figure I might as well teach 'em a lesson and strike a blow for my new blog role models who are struggling with infertility. It's nobody's business, dammit!!!!


Blogger Stefanie said...

My God, I had no idea people are that bad. I have a lot of friends with no children and they are some of the happiest people I know. Having a child is hard and if you don't want one the very best thing you can do is NOT HAVE ONE. Geez. Now go get your travel on!

March 11, 2006 2:58 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Yeah, but I think that women who have been struggling with infertility probably get much worse in terms of ignorant comments. And maybe half the reason I get all this stuff is because I live in a red state. :-(

March 11, 2006 3:03 PM  
Blogger Art Nerd Lauren said...

Oh, you live in a red state? I'm sorry! ;)

No, I totally understand what you mean. I love your response now to that oh-so-personal and no-one-else's-business-but-your-own questions. Dude, we live in an apartment in my parents' house, I know about judging!

My sister in law has kids, and I'm pretty sure that she just had them because that's what you're supposed to do. That, to me, is far worse than deciding that maybe you should have had kids. And 21 year old Ann Taylor employees know nothing about the real world, I've found. Being friends with a former Ann girl myself.

March 11, 2006 3:12 PM  
Blogger MrsFortune said...

It doesn't surprise me at all that people would act like this. Unfuckingbelievable.

But I think we all know that you are probably also a homosexual cannibal satanist who regularly engages in bestiality while defecating on portraits of Jesus. You sick-o. :-)

March 11, 2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Don't forget casting evil spells on innocent puppies and kittens - that's my favorite!

March 11, 2006 7:37 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Chicky said...

This post cracked me up... hopefully that was the intended response!

The Hubby and I get similar "advice" from people when we tell them we're only planning on having one kid. I'll have to come up with some horrible story of being disfigured "down there" in childbirth and how we're not able to have more. That should send them all running!

March 11, 2006 9:24 PM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

Do I have Kids, Yes. Do I think you should have kids, Hell No. I wouldn't with the sress associated with Parenting on anyone. That would be far to cruel. As I'm sure it is with a lot of people we didn't decide to have kids we decided to not terminate them when they were concieved. That doesn't mean I love them any less they are fine children, but I can't say I wouldn't have been jast a sgood and happy of a person without them, it would just be different. Why do people asssume you need to have offspring to be a whole person, what a crock.

March 12, 2006 8:58 AM  
Blogger ColoradoCastaway said...

It pays to proofread: "I wouldn't wish the stress associatedwith parenting on anyone. That's what I get for commenting before my morning coffee.

March 12, 2006 5:09 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

Since I've gotten pregnant I have been continually amazed at what others deem appropriate to say and ask of a woman/couple about her/their life choices, so I have to say I'm not surprised by any of these comments. But then again, I'm in a red state too.

March 13, 2006 8:02 AM  
Blogger liberalbanana said...

I'm so glad you mentioned this because it's so true! Seeing as how I'm not married, I don't get it that often - most of the time I just bring it on myself. Someone says, "SO when are you and Boyfriend gonna get married??" and I say "Well, we're quite happy the ways things are, etc etc. and plus, we don't want kids, so there's not really any rush!" and then I get all those "Oh, you'll change your mind" comments. "I didn't want kids when I was your age either. You'll change your mind." Oh yeah? I will? Thanks, I didn't know you could tell the future! Now can you please tell me tomorrow night's lottery numbers?

March 13, 2006 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Heather said...

Hello Teacher Lady,

I've been (b)lurking in your blog for a little while now, and decided to read your archives this morning, which is why I'm commenting so late on this particular post. Sadly, it never ceases to amaze me how so many people think that they have the right to ask the questions that they do in the first place. To then go on and question peoples' choices is outrageous. Unlike you, the fact that we don't have children isn't entirely our choice but we did choose not to enter an IVF programme for numerous reasons. A couple of people have suggested to me that perhaps I didn't really want children 'that badly'.

For much of the time and with most people I tend not to discuss the reasons why we don't have children and have become used to people making assumptions that I'm 'selfish' or that I don't like children or whichever prejudice they happen to be serving up on that particular day. Good luck to you and your husband.

May 03, 2006 1:42 AM  
Blogger Teacher lady said...

Hi Heather!

Thanks for de-lurking. I highly recommend the "undescended testicle" and a new one I've started using - hostile cervical mucous. Shame on those nosy judgmental people! If you're nosy and judgmental then you DESERVE to hear about my cervical mucous! (Hostile or not-so-hostile.) Good luck to you and your husband as well!

May 03, 2006 9:03 AM  

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