Photo by: @Khaparazzi
I’ve got a story for y’all…
So a few weekends back, my spouse, myself, and our son are by our pool grilling. It’s Memorial Day weekend so lots of folx are out enjoying the weather and water.
I’m minding my business, getting my grill-master on and feeling pretty damn proud of myself considering it’s the first time I’ve grilled by myself. Guy walks up to the grill area, gets something out the fridge, says “hello”, and starts talking…
Guy: “how you doing over here? Looks like you got a lot cooking”
Me: *nodding* “I’m good, and yourself?”
Guy: “Good. it’s a beautiful day. I was talking to your husband over there… he really loves your son… he’s adorable… it’s great to see Black families, you know..? Is that your first? Second?”
Me: *pausing to decide whether & how I feel like answering this question*
First off, why are people like this?! Why are people so consumed with the reproductive history of others ESPECIALLY when they really don’t want to know (unless it’s positive)?!
Let me tell y’all something – my fellow angel parents feel me on this – we are generally choosing between three ways of responding to questions about how many children we have:
Option 1: I GOT TIME TODAY!
This is the “clutch your pearls” response because sometimes this means you will leave people gasping for breath. You are blunt, brutally honest, and unapologetic. Often, you’re actually going for the throat-punch reaction because you’re frustrated, annoyed, offended, or simply don’t have the bandwidth to care about anyone else’s emotional reaction to YOUR potentially traumatic experience.
Option 2: Respectability Politics
I’ll call this one “the appropriate” response. I’m going to tell you the truth in hopes that you have a better understanding of how I CHOOSE to count my children, while raising awareness about perinatal loss. It’s like educational honesty.
Option 3: I just don’t feel like it today…
This one is “the people-pleaser” response. This option basically means I don’t feel like dealing with whatever emotional response you have about my loss so I’m going to tell you the answer I think you want rather than the actual truth. In these cases, you don’t have the energy needed to get into any discussion so you may be attempting to end the convo as quickly as possible.
Which option did I choose? Let’s find out…
Guy: “…is this your first? Second?”
Me: after pausing, “he’s our first living. We lost twins a couple of years back.” *staring him straight in the eyeballs*
Guy: “ahhh Sis…. damn why you gotta hit me with that?! We by the pool… aww man…”
Me: *still staring* “You asked me a personal question and I answered you. Now if you didn’t want to know that, then maybe you shouldn’t ask those types of questions.” *still staring as he’s looking almost everywhere else but in my damn eyes*
Guy: “ahh…. You right, sis. I respect that and I’m sorry for your losses. That’s a really tough thing to go though…” *reaches to give me a pound as he continues to say he respects my answer”
Me: *pounds him firmly to drive home my stance*
Guy: “alright sis, let’s enjoy this good day”
Me: *gives the one-nod instead of multiple nods as he walks away*
I’m thinking that was a combination of options 1 & 2. It was both direct as hell, checked him about his potentially intrusive line of questioning followed by positioning himself as a victim, and it was honest and factual. I tend to walk this line more often than not. I can remember going with option 3 once, and I personally felt horrible about it. Ultimately though, I’m certain there will be times when I just don’t feel like it and I may go with that. That’s as much my prerogative as is anyone else’s.
I share this story with y’all because a) for fellow angel parents, I want you to know that I empathize, see you, and know the mental gymnastics we go through sometimes to determine how to respond when society is so focused on the reproductive rights of others, and b) I want non-angel parents to better understand the potential position you put people in when asking these kinds of things. Somebody might “have time” that day, and yes, you might be offended by their response. Sorry, not sorry *Kanye shrug*.