Social Graces…

or the lack thereof.

What is it about family building efforts or the raising of the little 2 legged creatures that result from it that seems to remove the social inhibitions of friends and strangers alike? I am sure each and every one of you has either been the victim of the prying comments or actions or has inadvertently committed one of these social faux pas yourself. I know I’ve been on both sides of the fence.

It all starts when you reach either the age or the situation which society equates with becoming a parent. It is never ever ok to ask a pubescent child, “So, got any hair down there yet?” But, the same people who would be horrified at that question think nothing of asking a newly married couple whether or not they are pregnant yet or asking a single woman in her 30s whether or not she’s going to have kids.

Friends, family, and strangers seem to think nothing of reaching out and rubbing a pregnant woman’s belly but those same people wouldn’t be caught dead attempting to touch any other physical deformity on a person that catches their eye. Yes, a hugely pregnant tummy is not the norm and catches a persons eye. Yes, unlike other physical deformities, a pregnant tummy is seen as a miraculous and beautiful thing. But come on, since when does something catching your eye become the equivalent to wearing a large touch me sign?

I know I’ve been guilty of asking someone I barely know “Is he your only child?” but I would never ask the same person “So, is that your only parent?” if I saw them out and about with an elderly parent. Both questions have the potential to evoke either joy or pain. Why is one question ok and the other isn’t?

I know there are tons more examples of peoples fall from social grace when dealing with all topics family building and child rearing. What are some that you’ve heard and why do you think people think they have a free pass in this area?

14 Responses to Social Graces…
  1. Dora
    April 29, 2009 | 9:52 am


  2. rocket.queen.
    April 29, 2009 | 9:59 am

    When I was preggo, people rarely touched me, but maybe that was because I glared at people who looked like they might be considering it..

    and I did have that shirt that said “Touch me and lose the arm”

  3. Sheliza
    April 29, 2009 | 11:07 am

    don’t make me have to think! lol but I totally get what you are trying to say. Great post~

  4. princessoftides
    April 29, 2009 | 11:46 am

    Sooooooo true. Love the “hair down there” analogy. perfect.

    Other than the ones you name, the ones that come to mind for me lately have to do with adoption:

    – (to an adoptive parent) How much did s/he cost?
    – (to an obviously, i.e., transracial, adopted child) Where are you from? How long have you been in this country? Were you sad to leave?

  5. Beautiful Mess
    April 29, 2009 | 2:15 pm

    My kids are 6 years apart and I’ve had to field questions and comments about it since I was pregnant with Zilla. My usual answer is something like “yeah miscarriages will do that to ya”. Because if they are going to ask a loaded question or comment then I’m using the same damn ammo against them. It may be “uncouth” but I’m offended by the question or comment. Although the last instance was at a birthday a party for a friend of Zilla’s. She asked if he had a sibling and I said “yes, he has a 11 year old sister.” I knew what was coming. Her reply was “oh that’s a large age difference!” I didn’t use my normal reply as there were little ones around so I just shrugged my shoulders and said “things happen”. I have ALWAYS done my best NOT to put my foot in my mouth, but I am guilty of it and I feel horrible when I’ve done it. Great post! I love it!

  6. becomingwhole
    April 29, 2009 | 8:03 pm

    Just yesterday, after noticing a family with a large number of children, I asked how many they had, I was answered that they had “x of their own, and they adopted y.” Grrrr. How are the adopted ones not “their own” now? I DID call this person on it, though (in a nice way), and it started a conversation about the way we define relationships (“real” brother, etc.).

  7. becomingwhole
    April 29, 2009 | 8:04 pm

    Oh, yeah. The person I asked was NOT the mother of the kids, it was another person. (!!!)

  8. rys
    April 29, 2009 | 9:28 pm

    You know this is my peeve…LOL Git out the soapbox! People who think they have a pass in this arena lack class and tact. Then they think that because they asked the question, you’re obligated to answer it.

    While I was very pregnant standing in a grocery checkout line, I had a stranger grill me as to whether I was going to breast or bottle feed. I refused to answer, because what I do with my boobs (or not) is none of her business.

    I also had a rude woman ask me if my children were ‘from the same father’ since one of them looks vastly different from the others. Since we were standing in the line at the post office, I wanted to say, “No, this one is from the mailman!”

  9. Cara
    April 30, 2009 | 7:22 am

    I have completely discontinued use of the “Is this your only child?” inquiry.

    It was hard at first, but I’ve transistioned to “What a beautiful child you have there…” If there are others they will tell me.

  10. meresa1991
    April 30, 2009 | 1:05 pm

    Being pregnant with our 3rd child I got a lot of, “Oh, was this an accident?”
    Umm, NO. She is not an accident. We actually wanted a 3rd child!
    Mind you now that we have three kids all I can say is EEK!

  11. A Mom in Jacksonville, FL
    April 30, 2009 | 5:18 pm

    Well stated!

    My bro and sis-in-law have twins and have had people ask them if they were “natural” or “fertility drugs” babies. Like it’s any of their damn business either way!

  12. intricatelycomplex
    May 1, 2009 | 11:43 am

    i completely agree with everything you have said.
    I do want to add though, as intrusive and tactless as some of these questions can be, some of the questions (ie. is this your only child?) most likely aren’t posed to offend or be invasive. in fact, these type of questions can act as an ice-breaker, something that can produce a stimulating conversation with a stranger. In fact I’ve been asked (many, many times) and have asked this particular question (many times). I’m not great at meeting new people, I tend to clam up and be shy, but this topic is something I feel i can actually have some kind of meaningful contribution too. it certainly makes me feel a little bit more comfortable to talk about something like that…
    Just wanted to put that out there.

  13. Little Miss Flossy
    May 2, 2009 | 12:22 am

    We get all sorts of dumb twin comments, I mostly smile and say nothing. The one that still cracks me up is when people ask if our boy/girl twins are identical… “Um, one has a penis, one doesn’t, what do you think?”

  14. Meari
    May 5, 2009 | 11:39 am

    While I would never (and have never) reach out an touch someone’s PG belly… I am the type of person who will ask questions out of curiosity and my wanting to know about people. LOL @ asking if there is hair down there… I wouldn’t ask that. But I see nothing wrong with asking if he/she is your only child. It’s just conversation in my book.

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