Tag Archives: relationships

Did you really just ask me that?

Or, How do you answer inappropriate questions?


near Fairhaven, Maryland


I like to think that I’m fast on my feet; quick to retort; ready with an answer. I have, after all, spent about 11 years going back and forth with the idea of going to law school. But sometimes I’m caught off-guard and my best answer to a question gets stuck in the recesses of my brain leaving me, five minutes later, thinking: why did I say that? I didn’t need to answer that question.

Being seven months pregnant lends me to a lot of unsolicited advice, comments, and questions. This weekend, a person I had only known for about 20 minutes asked me, point blank, “if the baby is a boy, are you going to circumcise it?” I blinked twice and answered. Five minutes later I was mentally kicking myself. That is a personal question that not even my family or closest friends have asked me. Yet I answered this stranger. And, maddeningly, I came up with twenty different responses I could have used, had my quick thinking not failed me at the time.

So my question is: how do you respond to inappropriate questions, comments, or advice? I’m sure Emily Post has an answer or two–most likely along the lines of “thank you for your concern/interest but I am not ready to share that information yet.” A third grader would be more direct and say: “mind your own beeswax.”  What is the middle ground between those two? Sure, I could be polite, but part of me also wants to tell respond by saying: hey, back off!

America is the land of political correctness. I would never call an overweight friend “gorda” (fatty), like they do in the Dominican Republic, or “flaca” (skinny), nor would I call out to the blonde woman who just dropped her glove in line in front of me at the post office “rubia” to get her attention. I would simply say, ma’am.  The generic address of ma’am, while more socially acceptable and polite, is imprecise and boring. But it is politically correct and it will not offend, heaven forbid.

PC-ness goes beyond the labels we use to refer to other people–it is ingrained in our daily interactions with strangers, colleagues, and acquaintances. When is the last time you were completely honest with someone without beating around the bush? And how did that go? Did it require an apology, clarification, or further discussion? Or did it make your relationship more open and honest? I’ll guess the former. But what if we were a little less PC and a little more straightforward? I think our relationships would be more honest, more open, and more real.

So the next time someone asks me an inappropriate question, will I refer in a way in which Emily Post would approve, or will I point out the inappropriateness of the question and decline to answer? (Or, will I answer and then kick myself later?)


not spaghetti again!

1980s pop aficionados remember the song by Paula Abdul, ‘Opposites Attract.’ And those who also watched MTV will remember the video of Paula Abdul playing a give-and-take game with a cat dressed in a sideways hat and high-top sneakers. Oh the 80s!

Opposites attract; the ying and yang of relationships, complementing personalities-it is a common belief that it is good to have a little diversity in a relationship. After all, it would get a little unhealthy if two people who lived together both liked spaghetti so much that there was no counterbalance – no grilled portobello sandwiches, no noodle stir-fry. Just spaghetti night after night. Hans and I embrace our differences – our opposites:
I like to stay at home; he likes to go out.
He likes to eat meat; I like to eat veggies.
I subscribe to ‘good enough’; Hans is a perfectionist.

Over the course of our many years together, we have learned to make these differences work to our advantage. If I were alone, I would probably spend most Saturday nights at home, alone, reading. If Hans were alone, he would subsist on meat and potatoes until he developed scurvy. Even when we’re not together, our differences still impact my life. Last night Hans was at a bachelor party. I had plans to lie on the couch and get engrossed in the third book of the Twilight series. My phone rang at 8:30: friends asking if I wanted to meet up for some beers. I hesitated….but then thought ‘of course I’ll go out, it’s Saturday night.’ I had a great time and was glad I didn’t spend the evening alone on the couch reading. Going out was not my natural inclination, but I have been conditioned by Hans to go out when friends invite; to go out on a Saturday night.

Of course, Hans and I also have many many more similarities than differences. The one that causes us to butt heads most often is what I’ll call the ‘leadership trait.’ We both want to be in charge all the time. When we were sailing on Whisper it was a problem. When we’re driving somewhere new and need to determine the route, it’s a problem. We work around it, one of us steps back, we smile, laugh and appreciate the confident, take charge streak that we both have.

Relationships are all about the give and take. Step back, step forward, listen, learn. Appreciate the differences and the similarities and learn how to make them work together.