My Three Most Annoying Questions

Welcome to the "On Balance" guest blog. Every Tuesday, "On Balance" features the views of a guest writer. It could be your neighbor, your boss, your most loved or hated poster from the blog, or you! Send me your original, unpublished entry (300 words or fewer) for consideration. Obviously, the topic should be something related to balancing your life.

By Constance Thomas

As an at-home working mother, I've found people repeat particular sayings that rub me the wrong way every time. Here are my three most annoying questions and comments and my answers.

1. "Do you work?"

I often bite my tongue to stop myself from responding "Doesn't everybody work?" I can count on one hand the number of people I've met in my lifetime who would categorically respond that no, I don't work. Here's my typical response..."I work at home. No, no, I don't mean I'm a stay-at-home mom. I have a full-time job. I mean a full-time paying job. I telecommute most days and travel for work occasionally. But my schedule is fairly flexible."

This response is waayyy too long, so I'm trying to answer with "Why do you ask?" Maybe the person is trying to establish if we have anything in common professionally or if I can join a particular committee at the kids' school.

2. "I just don't know how you do it."

Over the last 10 years I've balanced fairly significant parenting and professional responsibilities. As a result, I've heard this comment more than a few times and it amuses me to hear it from people juggling far more. Those who have said it include a) the mother of two sets of twins, b) a friend who basically became 'chief coordinator of the fight against cancer' for her mom, and c) my star employee who after working incredibly long hours on a project for months asked me to please confirm that he could still have next Friday off because he needed that time to make final preparations to run in his first marathon.

3. "Why did you have kids if you aren't going to raise them?"

People are entitled to their own opinions. The annoying thing about this one is that it seems to be said by unqualified people or at inappropriate times.

Example #1: I'm outside a restaurant with a friend. I share that I just got a call that day that my child could start at our desired day-care center the next week. A woman who is chain smoking and so inebriated that the valets refused to bring her car to her turns to me and spits out this comment.

Example #2: Many years later I heard this comment again at the end of a weekend that was pretty much given over to de-lousing my kids and house. If actual nit-picking doesn't qualify as raising your kids I'm not sure what does.

However, here's the puzzling thing...I find it completely un-annoying when people say this in the first person: "I won't be returning to my job after the baby is born, because if I did I'd feel we were paying someone else to raise our child." Fine -- more power to you.


Now it's your turn...what are your top three most annoying sayings? How frequently do you hear these? Can you find anything positive in these sayings? If you were ruler of the universe, would you ban them altogether or is there some perverse benefit to them?

Constance Thomas is a frequent reader and occasional poster to On Balance. She was raised in the South, began her professional career in the Mid-Atlantic and now lives and works in the Midwest. She has three children.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  September 18, 2007; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Guest Blogs
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"Why did you have kids if you aren't going to raise them?" I can't believe the number of people who say someone's asked them this. No one's ever said such a thing or anything close to me, and if they did, they'd be in for the "Come to Jesus" speech of their life.

I, too, get asked "Do you work?" but there are so many stay at home moms around here (Raleigh, NC) that I actually think this question is posed by a person who has decided he/she doesn't want to presume that someone does work outside of the house. I do recall once, when I was much younger (and less inclined to shield people from my thoughts) being asked that exact question while at a "Partners' Ball" for one of the DC firms. I think I was 27. I snorted (classy) and said something like "as opposed to doing what with my life? Nothing?"

I don't know. There aren't a lot of questions someone could ask about my personal life that would bother me. And if they did, I probably wouldn't answer them.

The "I don't know how you do it" statement made to me results in me saying back "I don't know how YOU do it either."

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 18, 2007 7:24 AM

I think Hax's response to these questions ("Wow"), along with the ensuing silence is enough.

This is not the first generation of know-it-alls and busybodies.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 18, 2007 7:37 AM

I'm a lawyer with two young kids. I work full time, mostly at home, doing contract legal work (I do the legal research and briefing for several law firms). I make court appearances 1-2 times per month, usually to argue an appeal. I am extremely good at what I do and I make more money than the average attorney in my community. Since I work at home, I can wear jeans and tshirts most of the time. The most annoying comments (and I hear these comments EVERY TIME I tell someone what I do for a living) are as follows.
Question: What do you do for a living?
My response: I'm a lawyer.
Comment 1: YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE A LAWYER.
My response: I specialize in legal research and briefing so I don't have to wear a suit.
Comment 2: OH, YOU MEAN YOU'RE A PARALEGAL?
What I say to this: No, I'm a lawyer. What I do is a little more complicated than what a paralegal does.
What I want to say: I am three times as smart as you are and I make three times as much as you do, so please quit with the stereotyping and the sexist BS.
Any suggestions on how to handle these comments?

Posted by: Quitaque1 | September 18, 2007 7:39 AM

PS. I'm thinking maybe I should just tell people "I'm a writer" which would also be true but I'd probably get a whole different collection of annoying comments.

Posted by: Quitaque1 | September 18, 2007 7:43 AM

#1 Most annoying question:

Why isn't a great girl like you married?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 7:45 AM

#2 Most annoying question:

Why is someone who is so smart "just a nurse?"

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 7:47 AM

#3 Most annoying question:

You would make such a great mother - why don't you have kids?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 7:50 AM

I dunno. Seems like someone is a little hypersensitive. Re: Do you work? Did it occur to you that maybe someone is just trying to get to know you? I'm a SAHM and I ask that question all the time. I'm trying to get to know the person and what their life is like. Maybe they work in an industry that interests me? Maybe they work with my husband?

Re: I don't know how she does it? That, I think is intended as a compliment. I have friend whose husband travels a lot and she seems to have it all together better than I do. I don't know how she does it? It means that I find what she's doing impressive.

Re: Nasty comments from strangers. Everyone has a million of those.

My advice. Keep your eye on the prize. Find your validation from within and remember, sometimes a question really is just a question.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 18, 2007 7:52 AM

quitaque1 - that sounds like a great job, maybe they are jealous...

"3 Most annoying question:

You would make such a great mother - why don't you have kids?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 07:50 AM "

My answer to that - "I will have them when there is a shortage".

Posted by: Catwhowalked | September 18, 2007 7:54 AM

The lies of a new stay-at-home mom to a 7 month old:

Q: "Does he sleep through the night?"
A: "Yes, every night."
(... sometimes ...)

C: "You should really make his food yourself rather than buying those containers."
R: "You're right."
(I'm way too lazy, and while it would be more economical, I can't imagine giving up the convenience or being able to provide the variety that those prepackaged containers do. Apricot with mixed berries, anyone?)

Q: "So when's the next one coming?"
A: "Oh, one's good."
(... as soon as we pay off the hospital from the first one...)

Good fun!

Posted by: frank_and_liz | September 18, 2007 7:56 AM

I don't see anything offensive about "do you work?" The person is, more likely than not, just seeking information, not trying to imply that you may be lazy or that there's something wrong with you. And why do you feel the need to deliver a dissertation in response to that question? A simple "yes" will suffice, delivered in a curt tone of voice if you wish to head off further questions.

There aren't many things people say that bother me. The only two I can think of happened to me a lot in undergrad, but not so much out here in the real world:

1. "But you seem like such a nice girl!" This, in response to learning that I am a feminist.

2. "I'll pray for you", though only when used in the context of someone learning that I do not subscribe to their religious beliefs. It's just so condescending for anyone to assume that there's a lack in my life because I do not believe as they do. (this should not be confused with me being offended if someone actually prays for me. That, I couldn't care less about. Just don't act like I have some terminal disease because I'm an agnostic).

Posted by: newsahm | September 18, 2007 8:02 AM

Most annoying comment from the past, Your are having ANOTHER kid? This was said when Frieda was prego with No. 4.

Most annoying current comment. You are old enough to be the grandparents of my friends. This said by said No. 4.

I probably have another but us old people are just so senile according to our sixteen year old!

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 8:03 AM

Hey, chemguy, I like your/Hax's suggestion. I can do a good "Wow" and inflect it with layers of meaning if I work at it. I'm going to practice today.

KLB, as someone who often prefers dealing with nurses to doctors, I agree that a question about why you're "just a nurse" is ridiculous. Would a stoney stare shut them up, do you think?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 18, 2007 8:05 AM

Hey, Fred, didn't you see in yesterday's discussion that a fourth kid is the new must-have accessory? You and Fredia -- such hipsters!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 18, 2007 8:07 AM

Most annoying question - when are you getting married?

Posted by: tntkate | September 18, 2007 8:09 AM

Yea, we were just the innovators! :)

(Let's all hear it now, four more kids, four more kids, four more kids!)

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 8:13 AM

When I was pregnant with #3 (#1 and #2 are girls), I got real annoyed with the question "so you're trying to have a boy?" As if that would be the only reason to do it.

Posted by: rockvillemom | September 18, 2007 8:14 AM

Hey Rockvillemom,

You just needed to go B, G, G, B like we did! But then they would say, "How can you afford such a large family?"

BTW,AF dau is back from her overseas duty, safe and sound!

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 8:17 AM

"And the best pizza in the U.S. comes from New Haven CT!!"

Posted by: LizaBean | September 17, 2007 10:23 PM

New Haven, where pizza used to be called, "apizza," as in "Tolli's Apizza." I wonder if Tolli's is still there in East Haven.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | September 18, 2007 8:20 AM

What I want to say: I am three times as smart as you are and I make three times as much as you do, so please quit with the stereotyping and the sexist BS.
Any suggestions on how to handle these comments?

Posted by: Quitaque1 | September 18, 2007 07:39 AM

Well, you might want to start by dropping the superior attitude. Perhaps you are smarter than the questioner, or perhaps your attitude brings out a latent desire in some people to put you in your place.

Most annoying questions:
When I was a SAHM, I was asked if I worked, meaning did I have a paying job. Sometimes it was a way for the obviously career-driven women to set themselves apart from the 'mommies' (who they assumed were dumb, and who watched Oprah and ate bon-bons all day). This attitude seems to have changed a lot in the past 20 years, although I'm sure it's still out there.

As an English major: What are you going to do? Be a (gasp) teacher? (at the time the answer to that was NO...obviously, I changed my mind).

After having two children in 16 months, we heard the full range of fertility/sexual prowess comments. You would not BELIEVE what some people will say to strangers -- or, for that matter, family members! Fertile Myrtle, breed like rabbits, mass-production womb...and those are the ones I can repeat. The "best" was from my obsetrician when I came in for the official pregnancy test for #2 just a few months after the birth of #1 -- 'you DO know how this happens, don't you?' Yeah, hahaha...

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 18, 2007 8:26 AM

To KLB_SS_MD, AMEN to that! Those are THE most annoying questions I have ever heard (so far...) in my life....other than
#1 When are you going to have kids? (and then after having first kid.....)
#2 She needs a sibling, you can't have just one! When are you going to have another kid?
#3 Two girls? You need a boy to balance things out! Won't your husband be sad about not having a son? When are you going to try again for another kid?

My response: GET OUT OF MY WOMB!

Posted by: changingfaces | September 18, 2007 8:30 AM

My response to why I am not a doctor is simple: I want to have a life. I work from 7:45 to 3:15 Mon-Fri. No call, no emergencies. I can plan to do something on a weekend or in the evening and know barring a national disaster or illness that I will be able to make it.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 8:33 AM

I work in an office full time and my husband is in charge of our 2-month-old and 3-year-old during the day. My annoying questions/comments:
1. Don't you wish it was you who could stay home with them? My answer: Why should I wish that? At least I get the cute stories from my husband, and he gets to experience the kids firsthand instead of a day care provider.
2. Oh, one girl and now one boy. The perfect little family. Me: Why is it that one of each makes it perfect?
3. Variation on when's the next one coming or are you all done now or you should be all done now. What I want to say: Let's talk about your birth control plan.

Posted by: editorish | September 18, 2007 8:34 AM

Three most annoying questions/comments:

1. OMG, how could you possibly have four children in this day and age? How irresponsible are you?

2. (When DW was in her SAHM days) How come you do the cooking and the laundry when your wife doesn't work? Let her take care of you.

3. How could you possibly go to church every week? You're an engineer with a graduate degree; how could you be so stupid as to believe that tripe?

Mostly, my response is just to smile and utter my favorite line: "Deal with it." Because quite frankly I really don't care in general about people who ask such things . I'll live my life; you live yours.

If I'm feeling really snarky or just want to respond, though, number 1 gets a response of "okay, which two children shall I kill? And what method of execution would you recommend as being the most humane?" That usually shuts them up. :-)

If I responded to #2 at all, it was to point out that (a) DW was doing tons of work as a SAHM; I was the one getting off easy; and (b) I like cooking - I lived in New Orleans, where food is life and cooking is living.

There's no good answer to #3, except to say that what's right for you is your business, what's right for me is my business, and we'll agree to live our own lives.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 8:35 AM

Ooh, and the other annoying question other than when I am going to add to the gene pool is the "knowing" pat on my distended tummy and the question "are you expecting?" when my only response is "no, I'm fat and still trying to lose the baby weight from the first one after nearly 10 months..."

GET THE F#@$ OUT OF MY WOMB!

Posted by: changingfaces | September 18, 2007 8:35 AM

Fred, glad to hear your daughter made it back safe.

I think you can find something positive in all three of those questions/comments that Constance listed.

"Do you work?" can be interpreted as "You seem so interesting that I want to know more about you! Please tell me about yourself."

"I don't know how you do it" can be interpreted as "I am in total admiration for what you do! You're doing a great job."

"Why have kids if you aren't going to raise them" can be interpreted as "I'm so narrowminded and insecure that I just do what everyone else does and judge people who have actually made their decisions based on what's best for their family. I'm a sad person and I'm envious of your decision-making capabilities!"

The trick is not taking offense immeadiately and assuming that people mean well. Even when they don't mean well, you can assumt that they're unhappy and feel the need to criticize. Then you can pity them instead of taking offense.

Posted by: Meesh | September 18, 2007 8:36 AM

Fred,

Well, I suppose the BGGB order would have worked but I'm not going to have a do-over. Besides, some friends who already had a boy and girl, when pregnant with #3 kept getting the "why would you have a third when you already have one of each?" So the real answer is, you just can't win.

Glad to hear your daughter is safe.

Posted by: rockvillemom | September 18, 2007 8:36 AM

"If I'm feeling really snarky or just want to respond, though, number 1 gets a response of "okay, which two children shall I kill? And what method of execution would you recommend as being the most humane?" That usually shuts them up. :-)"

That's a good one!

Posted by: changingfaces | September 18, 2007 8:38 AM

Fred,

"(Let's all hear it now, four more kids, four more kids, four more kids!)"

Umm, no, no, no and no. But thanks for asking. :-)

"BTW,AF dau is back from her overseas duty, safe and sound!"

Wahooo! Here's a rousing chorus of "Off we go" in her honor! And a big "thank you" to her and those like her who step forward to protect us and our country.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 8:39 AM

Lots of contenters for FQOTD today!

Lizabean, I believe that you are wrong about the pizza. Chicago is the answer.

Rockvillemon,

What is so bad about a do-over?

Army Brat,

Just say Bill Mulder had to make that choice and wound up with a kid named Fox!

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 8:42 AM

As the Mom of adopted kids here are mine:

1. How do you do it? [yes, I adopted them alone!] [don't ask how I do it financially]

2. Are they brother and sister?

3. What are their real parents like?

UGH!

Posted by: lbh2 | September 18, 2007 8:44 AM

I tend to try not to look to take offense at stuff. So 1 and 2 wouldn't generally bother me, unless context/tone made it clear it was snark -- I'd take it as an attempt to connect, or to express sympathy/admiration.

If it is snark, then I tend to do deadpan snark back -- why did you have kids if you're not going to raise them? Well, who else is going to clean the house and do the dishes for me? Do I work? Oh, hell no -- that's why I'm jetting off to my private yacht right now. (But it only works if you say it completely seriously)

Ok, actually those are the kinds of things I would really really like to say if I could think of them quick enough. Which happens like one time out of ten.

Quitaque1, I'm laughing, because I'm also an attorney, and I also wear jeans every day. I suspect your problem is just even trying to explain things to a doofus -- if someone says you don't look like a lawyer, just say thanks and smile. :-) If someone asked me if I were a paralegal, there would only be two possible responses: (1) hysterical laughter; or (2) oh, hell no, I don't have the patience for that kind of work.

Fred: Great news! Really, really glad to hear she's back safely.

Posted by: laura33 | September 18, 2007 8:47 AM

Fred, that's wonderful news. And thank your daughter for me, please.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 18, 2007 8:48 AM

The three most annoying quesstions for me and an explanation for why they're annoying are:

"When are you having kids?" (because we're married and have no intention of having kids), which is usually followed by "Why don't you want kids?" Huh? "Why do you WANT kids" is usually how I respond.

"Do you play any sports" (because I'm tall and used to play sports but now have bad knees so I can't)

"What nationality are you?" (because I apparently look like everything under the sun--Indian, Persian, Italian, Greek, Jewish, Hispanic, etc. and I'm really just a mutt).

I never give anyone a snarky answer, though. I always give polite answers and explanations because the majority of people aren't meanspirited and are genuinely curious. I would expect the same courtesy when I ask questions.

By the way, I never thought that it was rude to ask people about their families (like, how many do you want, how close in age, etc.). Who knew those questions could be construed in which a negative way? I thought people liked talking about their kids!

Posted by: Meesh | September 18, 2007 8:49 AM

I don't get questions as much as comments meant to show pity. The usual comment is, "Oh, I feel so bad for you that you HAVE to work. It's just so horrible that mother's today HAVE to work."

I generally tell the moron that says this that my husband is actually a mulit-millionaire and I work just to stay away from the little rug rats as much as possible. The look on the person's face is usually priceless and I get a good chuckle.

Posted by: karen_janos | September 18, 2007 8:49 AM

Oh, yes, I forgot one...I have two boys, and it's always, Don't you wish you had a daughter? STILL! The youngest is 18!!! When they were little, I used to say, oh no, boys are too much fun. When they were in middle school, I would say that I wouldn't want a 13-year-old girl in my house for all the money Limited Too makes in a decade. Now I point out that I will eventually have a daughter-in-law.
Of course, I could just do the icy stare -- and at times, I probably should have done so (I know at times I sounded snarky, but in my opinion, the comments were like the ferility comments, and not worthy of a kind answer), but it seems I'm not one to keep quiet. Why does everyone think there's something lacking if you have children of only one gender -- and anyway, last I checked, one can't control for the baby's gender (at least, not yet).

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 18, 2007 8:50 AM

Let me join the good news bandwagon.
Fred, please thank your daughter and her comrades for their dedicated service to our nation.

Posted by: chemguy1157 | September 18, 2007 8:50 AM


How times have changed!

When I was in Viet Nam, I would write letters and occasionally receive some and some packages.

When AF dau was overseas, she called us on the phone about every 2-3 days. I have a friend whose son is in Iraq (second tour) and the son calls his wife every day.

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 8:52 AM

That should be "...in SUCH a negative way?" And please ignore the other typos. It's early.

Posted by: Meesh | September 18, 2007 8:53 AM

I have two kids (9 and 11) and work full time but, thankfully, have a very low-stress job that is pretty flexible. I am able to be home with my kids Thursday and Friday afternoons and usually can work from home if they're sick or if school is cancelled because of snow. I split with my ex/their father about a year and a half ago and am recently re-married; my ex and I have 50/50 custody.

While I do get the "I don't know how you do it" comment a lot--said with condescension, not admiration--far more annoying are the questions/comments about divorce.

"I could never live with my kids only part of the time." "Why would you get remarried so soon?" "Are your kids doing ok?"

Many times these comments come from women who frequently lament about how miserable they are in their marriages, or whose husbands are virtually never around.

Another favorite is stay-home moms who have contempt for working moms because they're "abandoning" their kids yet themselves spend three hours at the gym every day while their kids sit in the childcare room. I also know a surprising number of women who are having affairs and spend an inordinate amount of time either on the phone with their, um, "friend", while their kids are around or even take their kids along when they spend time with their "friend." And I'm talking about women who have kids who are 11, 12 or even older; certainly old enough to know what's going on.

Posted by: maggielmcg | September 18, 2007 8:54 AM

I don't think we are being hypersensitive. It is one thing to field obnoxious questions from near-strangers.

It becomes far more horrible when the questions pertain to kids or your marriage -- this is personal and intimate and people, even your close relatives, should not pry.

My pet peeves:

1) I hated when people rubbed my pregnant stomach. Gave me the willies. It felt like they were sneaking a feel. Disgusting.

2) Right now I'm writing a memoir about my first marriage. All the time people say, "Wow, your [current] husband let you write about that?" As if we live in the Middle Ages and I am his chattel.

3) Lastly, and this has NOTHING to do with kids or husbands, I HATE it when people snidely say "Aren't you cold?" when one is wearing a short skirt or sexy outfit. Ahhh!!!

Posted by: leslie4 | September 18, 2007 8:59 AM

Fred, my BIL is a now retired Navy Senior Chief. On his last cruise a couple of years ago, he actually asked all of us to stop sending him so much e-mail! He was just swamped and didn't have time to respond. First time I had ever heard a military person complain about too much commo from back home.

Re: VietNam - among other things, Mom used to record all of us kids on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder and send Dad the tapes once a week. When Mom moved from LA to NC several years ago, we found all those tapes still packed away at the top of a closet. He brought every darned one of them back home! (We didn't have a machine to play them on, and then a friend whose hobby involves old tapes told us that they've been exposed to so much humidity and heat over the years that they're not playable anyway. Still, it was sort of cool to find them.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 9:00 AM

My top annoying questions is "Where are you from?" Just because I'm Asian doesn't mean I'm any less American. Second annoying question (though I get this a lot less these days; must be because of living in DC- it was bad in the south where I grew up): "Do you speak English?" or its variation, "You speak English really well." Why, thank you! Considering it's the only language I'm fluent in and I have an English teacher for a mother, I should hope I speak English well. I have two other questions that tie for third place. First is "When are you having kids?" and the second is "Your face (Asian) and your name (Italian and Irish) don't match up." Sometimes I just simply say my father is Italian and my husband is Scotch-Irish, and sometimes I will volunteer that I was adopted.

Posted by: irishgator1 | September 18, 2007 9:01 AM

mleifer:

"I also know a surprising number of women who are having affairs and spend an inordinate amount of time either on the phone with their, um, "friend", while their kids are around or even take their kids along when they spend time with their "friend." And I'm talking about women who have kids who are 11, 12 or even older; certainly old enough to know what's going on."

DW's brother found out what his then-wife was doing that way. Their 13-year old daughter stayed home from school, sick. Mommy's "friend" came over and he and Mommy spent two hours in the master bedroom. That night, the daughter told Daddy all about it. She also mentioned that she smelled marijuana smoke coming from the master bedroom.

Divorce proceedings started soon after.

And yes, he did ask his daughter how she knew what that smell was. Her response was that it was fairly common in her high school!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 9:09 AM

Seriously, you guys are one of two things:
A) too sensitive
B) liars

Some of these so called 'annoying' questions are people making conversation. God forbid somebody ask if you play sports! Perhaps they were going to invite you to join a rec league or a softball team. But no, that question is too intrusive and annoying! How Dare They!!

And seriously, somebody has actually said the words to you "You're smart. You're an engineer. How can you be so stupid to believe in religion?" I just don't believe you that somebody would say those words to you...

Posted by: doughertypks | September 18, 2007 9:11 AM

irishgator- I LOVE your story. I think we'll see a lot more of that in the next 15 years. My best friend is Chinese but was born and raised in Detroit. Her stories are hilarious. The things people say to her. The funny thing is that I notice it a lot more than she does. She's just so used to it. She sees the humor in it, which is how you deal. Oh, and I have another friend who is half Japanese and half Irish (Hiko McGinnis) who was raised in Taladega, AL. You can only imagine...

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 9:14 AM

ArmyBrat--wow! At least that husband had the sense to divorce her; I know more than one husband who knows about his wife's "friend"--including that the kids are around him--yet they do nothing. Talk about brushing things under the rug; it astonishes me to see men stare something like that in the face and act as if they see nothing. Ditto, of course, for women who do it too; my experience has been that the women who know it's going on and choose to ignore it are financially dependent on their husbands and don't want to have to give up their lifestyle and return to work.

Posted by: maggielmcg | September 18, 2007 9:15 AM

Oh, I like #3, because it tells me not to waste even one second of time on the person asking it! #1, I agree with most of the posters, is a fair question. It implies that the questioner is interesting in getting to know a bit about you.

Posted by: shandavegh | September 18, 2007 9:18 AM

doughertypks, believe what you want, but it's happened on more than one occasion.

and mleifer: being completely honest, I think my BIL sort of "knew" what was going on before then but didn't want to know. After he had been confronted with it that way, he had to address it. That may well be happening with a lot of the other people to whom you refer.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 9:23 AM

I ALWAYS ask people where they are from all the time, regardless of race. As in, so where are you from? And I typically expect the answer to be something like "Oh, I'm from Philly, but moved to DC 5 years ago." Or "I've lived in DC my whole life. Was born in Arlington."

I'm not asking what their cultural history is...I'm asking where they are from. Geesh...

Posted by: doughertypks | September 18, 2007 9:25 AM

"Do you work?"

Why is this so irritating? What's hard about responding, "Yes, I'm a (job title) for (company). Are you in the same industry?" Maybe people are tired of discussions about which brand of baby bottles is superior and want to have an adult conversation about work! Or maybe it's a SAHM who's considering returning to the workforce and wants some advice from a currently-working mom.

Posted by: newslinks1 | September 18, 2007 9:28 AM

On topic. I can honestly say I can't think of anything annoying that people ask me. Maybe I'm not sensitive or easily annoyed. It seems like there are a lot of people on the verge of losing it!

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 9:29 AM

One of the great things about becoming a single Mom is you get few of those annoying questions. No one would dream of suggesting you somehow fail as a Mother because you didn't fight for alimony that would allow you to stay at home and not to work! Culturally, single Moms are supposed to work; otherwise you're some kind of leech. As for "how do you do it?" -- I wonder that myself sometimes... but I did when I was a married SAHM too.

Not a question but definitely annoying: a male obstetrican after I'd given birth to my second child told me "you had it easy." If I hadn't been so exhausted, I'd have gotten out of bed to slug him.

Posted by: anne.saunders | September 18, 2007 9:29 AM

"I ALWAYS ask people where they are from all the time, regardless of race. As in, so where are you from? And I typically expect the answer to be something like "Oh, I'm from Philly, but moved to DC 5 years ago." Or "I've lived in DC my whole life. Was born in Arlington."

I'm not asking what their cultural history is...I'm asking where they are from. Geesh..."

I agree that this question is totally innocuous if asked the way you ask it. But when I reply that I'm from North Carolina and they reply, "No, where are you really from?" or "What country are you from?", I think they're asking and implying more than you realize.

Posted by: irishgator1 | September 18, 2007 9:34 AM

Is it so terrible to inquire after someone's cultural history? Again, I'm always interested in learning about people. I like learning about other people and places. I'm of Scandanavian descent and I'd be happy to talk about it if someone asked.

Btw, I say " I don't know how he does it" about my husband who works very hard at the office and is so present for the family at home. Its amazing to me.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | September 18, 2007 9:42 AM

Ok, well in my case, my four (couldn't eliminate one) most annoying comments in regards to my decision not to have children are as follows:

1. Why don't you want kids? It's what you do! Everyone should have kids!

Um, no, not everyone should have kids. It's a personal decision, end of story. That's a horrible reason to take on that kind of responsibility. You can think it's selfish. I don't care. I know I'd be a horrible parent so there. And, to quote a parental saying, "If everyone else jumped off of a bridge, would you do it, too?"

2. You'll regret it and you'll change your mind.

Not likely. The decision only becomes more concrete the older I get. If by chance I do get a severe case of lunacy, and decide to be a parent, I'd adopt. Lord knows there are enough unwanted children around.

3. If you don't want kids, why are you married?

This one still boggles me. Marriage and kids are not the same thing. And we wonder why there's such a high divorce rate with this mentality? I got married for love and companionship. I did not view my husband as someone who could give me a baby.

And, for the record, just because someone doesn't want children, doesn't mean they hate kids. This assumption is quite annoying. I like spending time with our friend's kids, spoiling them. I just don't want any of my own.

Posted by: jrs1978smith | September 18, 2007 9:42 AM

Most annoying questions are about why we have one child.
Don't you like kids?
Aren't you afraid she will be selfish?
Aren't you afraid she will be lonely?
Why, did you want to save your money?

I usually ask people, what do they do? That seems generally more upended and it is a way to get to know people.

As far as asking about people's nationality that is hard one. I think people are generally interested and don't mean to be rude. I know that I have asked people what country of origin to see if they were Vietnamese or another Asian race. Most of the time people ar pretty nice about it. People ask me all the time. I just tell them the truth.

Posted by: foamgnome | September 18, 2007 9:47 AM

doughertypks, you're right that they're silly innocuous questions. Which is exactly why I always answer politely, and which is why I wrote that people are just being friendly.

The questions are only annoying because I hear them about once a week. The "how tall are you," "do you play basketball" and "you must be great at sports" questions get a little old.

It's the same with the nationality questions. I get them on a very regualr basis. I'm sure these wouldn't be annoying to someone who doesn't hear them very often.

On the other hand, the "are you a model" questions NEVER get old :)

Posted by: Meesh | September 18, 2007 9:53 AM

To those of you getting difficult questions about "how you can work when you have kids" - my answer, which is true, shuts people up immediately - because my husband died. Also shuts up those who ask "are you divorced?" when they hear I am a single mom...

Posted by: jjtwo | September 18, 2007 9:55 AM

People, get over your selves. 99 percent of this is simply people making small talk and using a drunk person as a source of an "annoying question" is just plain silly.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 9:58 AM

doughertypks,
Disbelieve if you will. Why would we make this stuff up?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 10:00 AM

We have an interesting "ethnic" last name (and my husband has an interesting "ethnic" first name). We have TWO favorite stupid questions:

Q1. "What kind of a name is that?

A. It's an American name. America's a pretty diverse place, you know. It has lots of people in it and they're all Americans. Hey, look. You have an American name too!

Q2. Where are you from?
A. Oh, me? Boston.
Q2. No, really. Where are you FROM?
A. Oh, you know Boston well? Well, it's actually more of a suburb of Boston. Let's see, it's kind of near Somerville. Do you ever take the red line . . ?
Q2. No, really. I mean, where are you parents from?
A. Oh, they're from Boston too. You see, you take the red line, and then you switch to the bus. . .
Q2. No, really. I mean where did they come from?
A. And I keep trying to tell you, they come from Boston. Every time they visit.

And so forth.

We had three kids really close in age and I always hated "Are they all yours -- or do you do daycare?" Never figured out a good response to that.

Posted by: justlurking | September 18, 2007 10:04 AM

And seriously, somebody has actually said the words to you "You're smart. You're an engineer. How can you be so stupid to believe in religion?" I just don't believe you that somebody would say those words to you...

Posted by: doughertypks | September 18, 2007 09:11 AM

Oh, I don't doubt for a minute that someone would say that. Hard-core atheists are about as rabid as hard-core evangelicals, and every bit as annoying. Extremists tend not to be very tolerant of differing viewpoints, and I would think that an extremist would make that kind of comment instead of adopting a 'live-and-let-live' attitude.

We had three kids really close in age and I always hated "Are they all yours -- or do you do daycare?" Never figured out a good response to that.

Posted by: justlurking | September 18, 2007 10:04 AM

I used to get that too (two boys 16 months apart) -- sometimes I'd say, oh no I borrowed one, because ONE in diapers just isn't exciting enough. They'd also ask if the boys were twins. Of course, most of the time these comments got folllowed up with a fertility 'compliment', like I was some superwomb or something.

Posted by: educmom_615 | September 18, 2007 10:16 AM

I had a good friend who had twin boys (identical). When they were infants she and I would take them shopping, out to dinner, etc because her husband worked theevening shift.
We would each carry one into the restaurant in their identical car seats. One day a woman asked if they were twins. We had heard this many times before and this time my friend was ready. She looked the woman right in the eyes and replied "The have the same father".

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 10:21 AM

I guess what questions annoy you depend on circumstances and what you're used to. I generally regard the "Do you work?" question as similar to the standard "so, what do you do?" You're in a social situation, it's an icebreaker and gets the conversation started - it's not meant as an insult.

I've always regarded the "I don't know how you do it" thing as a compliment - when I've used that I've intended it that way.

Those don't bother me at all. On the other hand, the three I listed earlier really do annoy me, while they might not bother others.

And yes, I was taught to always be polite, especially to an obnoxious questioner as it tends to throw them off guard. But sometimes, it's just more fun not to give a snarky answer. I know, it's not right, but it's fun.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 10:22 AM

"Lord knows there are enough unwanted children around."

With a statement as ignorant as this one, I encourage you to stick with your decision to remain childless.

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 18, 2007 10:24 AM

Annoying question number 1:

It must be nice to work from home, you must be able to get all your housework, errands, etc, done. Not to mention cut back on your child care bill.

Answer:

Yes, I manage five people, write procedures, attend meetings and watch my three year old all while cleaning and cooking. Smile

Annoying question number 2:

I bet you are so excited to be having a boy finally?

Answer:

Yes, we had originally planned on giving the girl back, but they were all out of boys. Thank God this one is a boy. No Smile

Annoying question number 3:

Why isn't your name the same as your husbands?

Answer:

Oh, I am an Irish American and I like my name.

Blank look from rude question poser. Puzzled look from me because doesn't everyone want to be Irish and have a cool name?


Posted by: Irishgirl | September 18, 2007 10:24 AM

My three most annoying questions

1. Is that all you do, swim around all day?

2. Sushi again? You need to eat a more balanced diet.

3. Do you know the Great White Shark?

Posted by: nonamehere | September 18, 2007 10:30 AM

"Lord knows there are enough unwanted children around."

With a statement as ignorant as this one, I encourage you to stick with your decision to remain childless.

Um, so you have adopted little ones yourself then? Good for you! You're such a wonderful person for doing so! I was simply trying to point out that I don't need to have children of my own. And last time I checked children who were put up for adoption were, for whatever reason, unwanted by the masses who insist on having their own kids.

Posted by: jrs1978smith | September 18, 2007 10:32 AM

"And last time I checked children who were put up for adoption were, for whatever reason, unwanted by the masses who insist on having their own kids."

No, they were just unwanted by their biological parents. They're also very expensive and very hard to get. You're defensive and possibly insane.

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 10:35 AM

Damn, I hate to do this but I am going to back pedal on my post. There are some really stupid people out there asking rude, stupid questions apparently.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 10:38 AM

My least favorite is also "Where are you from?", usually preceeded by "I detect a slight accent...".

WHY do Americans do that? I haven't been able to figure this out in years. Is it simply excessive curiosity? To me, it's off-putting, but, possibly, they don't mean anything by it.

Posted by: Bertrude | September 18, 2007 10:38 AM

"No, they were just unwanted by their biological parents. They're also very expensive and very hard to get. You're defensive and possibly insane."

Um, ok. Just proves my point that they are unwanted. Wasn't trying to be defensive, I really have nothing to defend. And why am I possibly insane? Because I didn't make the same life choices as you?

Posted by: jrs1978smith | September 18, 2007 10:40 AM

My three most annoying questions

1. Is that all you do, swim around all day?

2. Sushi again? You need to eat a more balanced diet.

3. Do you know the Great White Shark?

Umm another might be

1. oh my god am I going to die? A shark bit my leg off!

I'm sure the screaming and hysterics of your victims gets quite annoying.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 10:41 AM

Asking someone where they're from is now "excessive curiosity"? GoodNESS. When they say "have a nice day," do you accuse them of telling you what to do?

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 10:41 AM

WHY do Americans do that? I haven't been able to figure this out in years. Is it simply excessive curiosity? To me, it's off-putting, but, possibly, they don't mean anything by it.

Most people mean nothing by it and it is a way to break the ice if you are meeting someone new. People always know I am from the North East Ohio/PA area because of my accent. I guess they are just happy to find another person from that area.

Posted by: Irishgirl | September 18, 2007 10:41 AM

No, they were just unwanted by their biological parents. They're also very expensive and very hard to get. You're defensive and possibly insane.

Posted by: atb | September 18, 2007 10:35 AM


Wow, it's weird to defend someone I don't even know, but last I checked, there were plenty of older children and children with disablities who need to be adopted.

Infants are the only ones who are expensive and very hard to get.

Saying "Lord knows there are enough unwanted children around" doesn't seem to qualify for insanity to me.

Posted by: klynnwilder | September 18, 2007 10:43 AM

It just seems unusual to me to ask somebody where they are from within a minute or two of meeting them. It just seems kind of personal; they are many other ice-breakers you could use. Nice weather, good party, whatever.

Posted by: Bertrude | September 18, 2007 10:44 AM

"Um, ok. Just proves my point that they are unwanted. Wasn't trying to be defensive, I really have nothing to defend. And why am I possibly insane? Because I didn't make the same life choices as you?"

You accused people who have their own kids of rejecting kids up for adoption. By that logic, I accuse you of rejecting them, too.

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 10:46 AM

"You accused people who have their own kids of rejecting kids up for adoption. By that logic, I accuse you of rejecting them, too."

Ok, well that's fine. It's really no secret that most people would rather have biological than adoptive children. I suspect you're upset over this because I've pointed this out. Why, I am not sure. But, please, if it makes you feel better, accuse me of hating all children, no matter where they came from.

Posted by: jrs1978smith | September 18, 2007 10:52 AM

My most annoying two questions to pregnant women:

Are you having amnio, (if yes) why?
(If not)why not?

Posted by: Emily | September 18, 2007 10:55 AM

hmmm, I always think it is rather boring to ask about the weather. I would have never guessed it would be offensive to ask someone where they are from.

I guess you could ask them why they would ask that or scream stalker really loud. That would get the party moving.
.

Posted by: Irishgirl | September 18, 2007 10:55 AM

"Saying "Lord knows there are enough unwanted children around" doesn't seem to qualify for insanity to me."

OK, I could go for offensive, stupid and extremely insensitive..., kinda goes along with today's blog topic.

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 18, 2007 10:57 AM

I have an annoying question/comment!

I really hate when people accuse me of rejecting all the orphans in the world by having my own biological children! They say things like there are plenty of older, disabled, special needs children you can choose from. You don't need an infant, and to want one shows what a horrible person you are. It would be much better for you to adopt a special needs kid who may have attachment disorder.

You are a parody.

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 11:01 AM

As a paralegal for nearly 15 years, my most annoying question is usually along the lines of: 'you're very bright/capable/knowledgeable, why didn't/don't you go to law school?' As if I'm wasting such intelligence by being "just" a paralegal.

I do legal research and briefing. I also draft and assist in negotiating commercial contracts, most with sophisticated intellectual property allocation and licensing. Sure, I cannot appear in court, and must have an attorney review my work before it is presented to the client; I too am very good at what I do. And complicated? Perhaps; but not so complicated that this paralegal (cue "hysterical laughter") can't handle it.

Forgive me my defensiveness, but I bristle at the notion that a paralegal can't handle complicated legal work, or that I'm less than three times as smart as an attorney.

Posted by: kate07 | September 18, 2007 11:02 AM

And how could we possibly forgotten the jewel of all jewels: "Are you breastfeeding?" Followed by judging you in some way.

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 11:06 AM

I heard on the radio the other day that the most annoying question is "What's for dinner?"

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 11:07 AM

1. You are so good at that, you must have natural ability! No, I work hard at writing my parodies. For every one I posted, 3 go into the can!

2. You should write for TV, commercials, etc. Maybe I do but I might have a confidentiality agreement.

3. When is your next song? Oh, I like that one. It will be about noon with a special dedication.

Posted by: Songster | September 18, 2007 11:08 AM

About a year and a half into marriage, the most annoying is the version of this comment made to my husband in front of me "Oh you better watch out, soon she'll be asking you for..." and insert either house, baby, jewelry, whatever.

Its just so sexist and condescending, and it boggles my mind. I am a professional, dh and I have similiar salaries, and we make decisions TOGETHER. I refuse to deal with salespeople who address him, but not me. Now if I can just convince family members that enjoying playing with nieces and nephews is not the same thing as desperately wanting a child.

Posted by: sabiba | September 18, 2007 11:08 AM

KLB: Or, "what have you been doing all day?"

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 11:08 AM

"My least favorite is also "Where are you from?", usually preceeded by "I detect a slight accent..."

I get this one too...it's so annoying. Especially coming from someone with an accent (usually southern)!!!

I also get the "so, when are you going to have kids?" a lot.

Posted by: MV_78 | September 18, 2007 11:09 AM

"My least favorite is also "Where are you from?", usually preceeded by "I detect a slight accent..."

I get this one too...it's so annoying. Especially coming from someone with an accent (usually southern)!!!"

Would it be OK if they had an English accent? Or are only middle Americans with "no" accent allowed to ask that question? Note to self: people who speak English with an accent do NOT liked to be asked where they're from.

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 11:14 AM

I got annoyed with the "so when are you going to have kids?" when people were asking at my wedding. A friend (supposedly joking) actually gave me a baby name book at the bridal shower. I was so not in the kid place at the time. C'mon people, one step at a time.

Posted by: rockvillemom | September 18, 2007 11:15 AM

"1. You are so good at that, you must have natural ability! No, I work hard at writing my parodies. For every one I posted, 3 go into the can!

2. You should write for TV, commercials, etc. Maybe I do but I might have a confidentiality agreement.

3. When is your next song? Oh, I like that one. It will be about noon with a special dedication.


Posted by: Songster | September 18, 2007 11:08 AM "

Some more....

1. Don't you know you can't sing here on this subway platform?

2. Do you mind if I make change from your hat? (on the sidewalk in front of Songster)

3. I know you, you're YANNI right?

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 11:15 AM

Most recent annoying question...
So...since you don't have any kids..you're going to move back to where your family is from when your husband deploys?

My response, "No, I chose to move to DC on my own before I met my husband."

What I am really thinking, "Why do people always assume that a young military wife's life and identity revolve around her husband's career? I moved here for my career well before I met my husband...it wouldn't make much sense to pick up and move home just because he is going to be gone for a period of time."

Posted by: 123inDC | September 18, 2007 11:16 AM

"Would it be OK if they had an English accent? Or are only middle Americans with "no" accent allowed to ask that question? Note to self: people who speak English with an accent do NOT liked to be asked where they're from."

Atb you seriously need to calm down...you're adding 1 +1 and getting 5. I don't mind when people ask me where I'm from (I say I'm from NJ since I was raised there :-)), I even ask people this question! What bothers me is when it's said in a condescending tone, almost telling you that you're inferior because you have a slight accent.

Posted by: MV_78 | September 18, 2007 11:17 AM

change from the hat!

way too funny!

Posted by: Songster | September 18, 2007 11:18 AM

I really hate when people accuse me of rejecting all the orphans in the world by having my own biological children! They say things like there are plenty of older, disabled, special needs children you can choose from. You don't need an infant, and to want one shows what a horrible person you are. It would be much better for you to adopt a special needs kid who may have attachment disorder.

You are a parody.

Posted by: atb | September 18, 2007 11:01 AM

Wow.

So you take the statement that there are children to be adopted (which is a fact),

and someone's personal decision to adopt one of those children instead of having their own children, and turn it into a personal accusation?

No wonder you are annoyed.

Posted by: klynnwilder | September 18, 2007 11:19 AM

mv- I'm undercaffeinated today. We ran out of tea and I can't go get a coffee, because there is a fine line between over and undercaffeinated for me. I happen to agree with what you just said, but just stop for a minute and imagine you have a Southern accent in a northern town. It doesn't matter if you just won the Nobel prize in physics, they'll think you're stupid.

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 11:22 AM

klynnwilder- You must be new. None of this is personal. I was just going after her for the intentional use of the word "INSIST." As in I INSIST on having my own biological children. Come on. I wanted to have a child with my husband. Sue me. Or just judge me. Whatev.

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 11:28 AM

"Why aren't you having kids?" (Alternative: "When are you finally having kids")

"Aren't you going to have another child?"

"Aren't you through having children?"

Obviously, these haven't been *all* said to me! I've heard the first often enough, and the others are from friends. However, they all feature the same point. The speakers believe there is a "right" number of children that every woman must have. Too many, too few, or none at all are not acceptable options. I'm sure if there were perfect and non-abortive ways to select the sex of the baby, it would be a "right" number of boys and a "right" number of girls too. News flash: This is none of your business. In fact, I can't think of much that would be less personal.

Posted by: lyria2 | September 18, 2007 11:32 AM

'klynnwilder- You must be new"

I love when newbies come here and get righteously indignant. This place is not for the faint of heart who can't take confrontation.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 11:33 AM

For some reason, if I strike up a conversation at the nearby parks (it's rare I can even get anyone to talk to me), I'm frequently asked if I'm my son's nanny. Is this a judgement of my appearance or something? True, I'm not the most well groomed lady there, but then what can you expect when I've just been rolling down a hill with my kid?

Posted by: brady | September 18, 2007 11:33 AM

"mv- I'm undercaffeinated today. We ran out of tea and I can't go get a coffee, because there is a fine line between over and undercaffeinated for me."

I understand :-)

"I happen to agree with what you just said, but just stop for a minute and imagine you have a Southern accent in a northern town. It doesn't matter if you just won the Nobel prize in physics, they'll think you're stupid."

My guess is that that person will also be annoyed with the question if it's said with a condescending tone. The tone is the issue for me, not the question.

Posted by: MV_78 | September 18, 2007 11:33 AM

pATRICK,
Don't go giving out our secrets now, ok?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 11:34 AM

I happen to agree with what you just said, but just stop for a minute and imagine you have a Southern accent in a northern town. It doesn't matter if you just won the Nobel prize in physics, they'll think you're stupid.

Posted by: atb | September 18, 2007 11:22 AM

It happens all the time. It's rather fun to be underestimated by people with whom you do business, particularly when they make no bones about the basis for their inaccurate assessment.

Posted by: MN | September 18, 2007 11:35 AM

ATB:

Ok, if it was simply my word choice, I wish you would have said as much in the first place. Experience has taught me that this is a valid attitude toward adoptive vs. biological children. I am truly sorry if the use of the word "insist" really bothered you that much. I certainly didn't mean anything personal by it.

Posted by: jrs1978smith | September 18, 2007 11:38 AM

atb - I get your point on the use of "insist". My husbands' and my love created our child, and if we can have more I'd be estatic. But I'm not following Isquirtlikeoldfaithful's logic. Is he riled by the "insist" or is it that he doesn't believe that any child can be unwanted?

I do think the celebertities adopting babies because its the new purse trend leads a lot of people to believe that adoption is simple and is a back up in the event they decide at 40 to have kids and physically can't.

Posted by: 1and1becomes3 | September 18, 2007 11:40 AM

brady- That's an easy one. Don't you know that all SAHMs are VERY VERY rich? Too rich to play with their kids at the park! They have tennis lessons with hot young instructors and massage and manicure appointments to get to.

Posted by: atb2 | September 18, 2007 11:41 AM

I forgot a really good annoying question.

Husband asks, "Where is X?"

X could be scissors, the car key, milk gallon, his toothbrush, etc. Which are almost always in their regular places. He just doesn't like to take two seconds to look.

Men, please explain why it is so difficult to LOOK FIRST and then if you can't find it, ask where it is!!!

Posted by: leslie4 | September 18, 2007 11:45 AM

Gee pATRICK,

you just gave me my next potential parody.

Don't sing in the subway darling
Don't write in the pouring rain

Don't sing in the subway daring
the words will echo and will you be ashamed

(or something like that!)

Posted by: Songster | September 18, 2007 11:46 AM

"I got annoyed with the "so when are you going to have kids?" when people were asking at my wedding."

At my first wedding, my FIL asked me when I would be giving him grandkids during the wedding reception. I jokingly told him I wasn't sure yet, but it could be in another 7 or 8 months. He never asked again.

Posted by: Emily | September 18, 2007 11:47 AM

"Men, please explain why it is so difficult to LOOK FIRST and then if you can't find it, ask where it is!!!"

Okay, Leslie, since I'm an engineer I'll take a crack at this one. (Simply playing devil's advocate, of course; not that I'd ever do anything like this myself. :-)

Consider the "cost" to the man:

Choice 1: look for it; ask for help if you really can't find it. Cost in time: 15 seconds if it's where it belongs; 1 - 2 minutes of looking if it's not and then you ask. Assume it's where it belongs 75% of the time (that's high if you have kids, but just go with it for now). Total expected cost: (.75 * 15 seconds) + (.25 * 90 seconds) = 34.25 seconds.

Choice 2: just ask where it is. Cost in time: 1 second; maybe 5 at the most. Yes, there's a cost for you, the wife, but that's what's referred to as an "externality"; it's a cost I don't have to bear. There may be an additional cost in having to listen to the lecture about it being where it belonged and I could have found it if I'd only looked, but do you honestly think that a husband pays attention to that after about the 3,000th time? The additional cost is trivial.

And the wife, after locating the item, may say something like "okay, I've found it; if you want it it'll cost you a kiss." Oh, darn, that affects my cost/benefit analysis!

So - and again, I'm just playing devil's advocate; I wouldn't really do this in real life :-) - the man does the cost/benefit analysis and concludes that he can look for it himself at an expected cost of 34 seconds; or he can just ask the wife at an expected cost of 5 seconds and maybe a kiss, and it's not a hard choice to make.

(And yes, men do apply such detailed analyses in determining appropriate behavior. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 11:57 AM

Songster, do you suppose Gene Weingarten would stop to listen if you were singing in the subway? Do you think he'd try to make change from the hat?

Posted by: mehitabel | September 18, 2007 12:00 PM

"Husband asks, "Where is X?""

And the equally annoying answer is: "If it was up your ass, you would know where it was."

Trust me, 5 times with that answer and he'll quit asking that one.

Posted by: ISquirtLikeOldFaithful | September 18, 2007 12:02 PM

ArmyBrat - While it annoys the bejeebus out of me when my husband asks where every little thing is - I gotta give you mad props for your math skills today. (See "On Parenting" for further evidence)

Posted by: RiverCityVA | September 18, 2007 12:03 PM

My three annoying questions:

1. When are you going to be done with your thesis? (It turns out that science research can go very wrong and very long)

2. When are you moving back home? (Well, actually, after being here for four years, this is my home. And there are no jobs in my field near where my parents live, so it's not an option.)

3. So is this guy actually going to stick around? (I was HEARTBROKEN when my last boyfriend moved 8000 miles away after we were together for two years, unilaterally, to somewhere I couldn't even visit him... do you really want to ask that question?)

Posted by: mlsm01 | September 18, 2007 12:03 PM

"Men, please explain why it is so difficult to LOOK FIRST and then if you can't find it, ask where it is!!!"

It would defeat the purpose of having a wife!

(now that y'all have executed me for that comment)

I will asked Frieda where something is at. She will reply (a) behind the "at" and (b) when I find it, I will staple it to your (senstive place).

Ouch!

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 12:04 PM

On today's topic, I agree with those who have observed that tone of voice can make a difference in how a question is asked.

I'd add that the social status of the asker vis-à-vis the recipient of the question can make a difference in how one handles it. All other things being equal, it's probably ill-advised to tell the boss's spouse to go perform an unnatural act on him/herself, no matter how much s/he deserves that response.

My best tip for handling annoying questions, regardless of who's asking, is to answer as minimally as circumstances permit, then CHANGE THE SUBJECT ASAP.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 18, 2007 12:05 PM

Army Brat, I'm certainly not calling you wrong, but my husband is just plain too lazy to go looking for it himself, and too lazy to do a cost/benefit analysis in his head.

I like to tell him someplace completely wrong but incredibly specific (like when he asks where his basketball is I say in that envelope on top of my dresser with the butterfly sticker on it, not the one with our return address on it). Of course, this bites me in the a$$ later on when I need to know where something is.

Posted by: Meesh | September 18, 2007 12:13 PM

1. When I get the "where are you from" question, and I respond with "South Carolina", I almost always get a quick retort - "you don't sound like you're from South Carolina!" I suppose people find it hard to believe that not all South Carolinians are tobacco-chewing, Nascar-watching rednecks with hard-core accents.

2. When I get the "what do you do question" and I say "I'm a lawyer", people often respond with "you don't look old enough to be a lawyer"! Well, I'm pushing 30 and I still get carded all the time, so I guess that's a good thing and I just take it as a compliment.

3. I had an annoying male-obgyn comment too - minutes after I gave birth to my (only) child, he said, "wow, that looked so easy, I'm sure we'll see you back here in eighteen months or so!" HA! She's thrree years old now. And still an only child.

Posted by: plawrimore1 | September 18, 2007 12:14 PM

This is dedicated to my special friend. She knows who she is and why I wrote this.

To the tune of "Closing Time" by Semisonic


Discussion time, we open all the blogs
And invite you to come in
Talking time, so turn the screen on
Over every desk and chair
Talking time, one last call for know-it-alls
So finish your sentence and then cheer
Discussion time, you don't have to be at home
You can talk from here

I need some advice from Hax,
I know Dirda has the newest in the stacks,
I know Pokie wants to talk some TV,
Talk some TV

Talking time, time for you to find out
'bout the subjects you're interested in
Talking time, this room will be open
So have your brothers and your sisters come on in
So pick up your packets of lots of obscure facts
And sent them in
Talking time, every new subject
Comes from some other subject's end

I know Kim likes to cook at home,
I know Warren likes to drive alone,
I know Stacey has a baby at home,
Baby at home

Talking time, time for you to speak out
About the places you've been

I know Howie has some very secret sources,
I know Gene loves cats, dogs and horses,
I know Sally likes a healthy plate,
Healthy plate

Discussion time, there is a new one beginning
as another one ends


Posted by: Songster | September 18, 2007 12:19 PM

Enjoyed reading some of the others. I haven't scrolled through everything, so I hope I'm not duplicating. Here's mine:

Now that my sister's getting married, I hear "When's your wedding?" and "Why haven't you found yourself a nice guy yet?" I borrowed from a good friend, and answer "Well, no plans yet, but some things are worth waiting for."

I get the "Do you want kids" frequently, too. That usually happens while I'm out with my dog, because he loved kids and is always up for saying hello to them. Since I don't want children, I'll usually answer "I'm not planning on having any," which is neutral enough to avoid a long conversation with someone I don't know.

But the comment that gets me, if I'm asked while with my dog: "Your dog is so well behaved, you'd make a great parent." Cracks me up. As I'm sure many of you know, dogs are not at all like kids. Just because I can teach my dog to sit, come, and bring me my wallet, doesn't make me parent material. But... dogs aren't kids, as we all know.

Hope everyone's having a good week.

Posted by: Sitka1 | September 18, 2007 12:24 PM

I'm enjoying reading your list of questions/comments.

My theory is that there is a small group of people who tailor their questions to the circumstance. So they ask the childless person why they don't want children. And they ask the parents of an only child when they will be having another. And they ask adoptive parents why they didn't have a biological child. All the way up the spectrum to asking some parents why they have so many. And the way they ask these questions ensures that they've annoyed everybody. Oh, I almost forgot these are the same people who ask single women (and men) when they're going to get married. Well, that's my theory anyways.

I wrote this guest blog just to express my point of view and how I respond (internally or externally) to these questions. It is equally as interesting for me to read what people have said to you and your responses.

Posted by: constance | September 18, 2007 12:37 PM

Last night, my friend and I were sitting in the living room and I said to her, "I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that ever happens, just pull the plug."

She got up, unplugged the TV, and threw out my wine.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 12:38 PM

to the tune of "Don't Sleep in the Subway", an oldie from Petula Clark

You write around and go all over town
When you don't see the verb or the syntax
You walk out on me when we both disagree
'Cause to take suggestions is not what you care for

I've heard it all a million times before
Use that noun, my love, cuz it's closer than before

CHORUS:
Don't sing in the subway, darling
Don't write in the pouring rain
Don't sing in the subway, darling
The words will echo
And put you to shame
Words will come
If you write when there's no rain

You try to write smart then you take it to heart
'When I tell you your words are inflated
You don't realize that there is no grand prize
And the prizes are so overrated

Grammar means nothing when it's all for show
So, why pretend to rhyme when you haven't before?

(chorus)

Posted by: Songster | September 18, 2007 12:42 PM

KLB SS MD, that's the funniest thing I've heard all day. Fred, this has to win QOTD.

Posted by: Meesh | September 18, 2007 12:42 PM

Meesh, It was actually KLB's dog who performed the intervention.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 18, 2007 12:47 PM

mehitabel,
It wasn't an intervention - it was assisted suicide/murder.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 12:49 PM

Hmmmm, KLB, how much are you leaving to the dog in your will? Maybe he heard that Leona Helmsley left her pooch $12 million.

Posted by: mehitabel | September 18, 2007 12:53 PM

The dog gets nothing (shh - don't tell him).

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 12:55 PM

I just thought of something that annoyed me tremendously. I was at a bat mitzvah recently, and a SAHM neighbor announced to the table that she'd gotten a job and was returning to work. She was clearly very excited about doing so. I started to congratulate her, but was interrupted by two of the husbands (both of whose wives are SAHMs) at the table congratulating HER HUSBAND on making his wife return to work. I was totally incensed. Obviously, there are issues in these other homes with the wives continuing to stay at home, but how dare they take away from her accomplishment.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | September 18, 2007 1:06 PM

"Men, please explain why it is so difficult to LOOK FIRST and then if you can't find it, ask where it is!!!"

Recently, I was looking for my little screwdriver set, which is generally in the junk drawer in the kitchen, to fix my wife's favorite reading glasses. After pulling apart the whole drawer and even looking in the cabinet underneath to make sure it hadn't fallen behind the drawer somehow, I asked DW where it might be. "Oh," she says, "I was taking batteries out of the toys we were going to donate/store so that they wouldn't leak and ruin the toys."

Still haven't found my screwdriver set.

Regardless of the cost/benefit, nothing in our house is ever in the same place twice. So, if she's seen it, it's a lot easier than looking for it and vice versa.

But in the previous discussion about the ice cream for the party, Leslie, your husband knows you will have the answer and he would prefer to get it right the first time. Same thing applies here. He's only trying to please you.

Posted by: WorkingDad | September 18, 2007 1:08 PM

I work with mostly men. We have a refrigerator in our conference room (where we eat lunch together while watching the news most days). We also have a cabinet where we store plates, cups, etc. They can just stand in front of one or the other with the door open - looking. When I ask what they are looking for they say "nothing".
Happens almost every day.
Maybe they do it to see if I will get tired of asking?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 1:11 PM

kate07 --

Ok, just to clarify: the hysterical laughter response isn't for when someone asks whether you're a paralegal -- it's only for when someone asks you if you're a paralegal AFTER you've already told them you're a lawyer. Also works the other way round -- actually, I think it's much better as a response to "are you a lawyer."

Posted by: laura33 | September 18, 2007 1:17 PM

"Men, please explain why it is so difficult to LOOK FIRST and then if you can't find it, ask where it is!!!"

Ok, not to beat the same old drum, but I don't think this is strictly a men vs women issue. In our house it's me who is always saying, "Have you seen X?" A good friend of mine who I lived with for a while used to always respond with, "Open your eyes, not your mouth!" My husband sometimes pulls that one out too, but a lot of times he has moved whatever I'm looking for or used it last, so asking is a lot easier than looking all over the house. Especially because he and I have different ideas about where is a logical place to put a lot of things.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 18, 2007 1:27 PM

"Men, please explain why it is so difficult to LOOK FIRST and then if you can't find it, ask where it is!!!"

I will start doing that when you ladies stop standing next to the trash and calling me from upstairs, across the house to say 'HON, can you take out the trash?"

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 1:32 PM

pATRICK,
You wouldn't want us smelling up and dirtying the dress we just cooked your fabulous 3 course dinner in with that dirty old trash now would you? And it is dangerous to walk to the trash can in high heels in the dark.
;-) lest someone think I am serious.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 1:35 PM

I will asked Frieda where something is at. She will reply (a) behind the "at" and (b) when I find it, I will staple it to your (senstive place).

Ouch!

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 12:04 PM

LOL! I use that with my students (naturally, I don't threaten to staple anything to the sensitive place). It takes a while before they get it...with the students, the two most annoying questions:

"Can I (get a drink, go to the bathroom etc), to which I reply, I don't know, can you?
"I don't get it" which I tell them is a complaint and I don't want to hear them complain!

And I bet I can guess why Brady gets asked why she is her child's 'real' mom -- she must look younger than 40! I think we even had that discussion recently here -- how many people put off childbearing until 30 or so.

Posted by: educmom__615 | September 18, 2007 1:37 PM

pATRICK,

My husband would be mortified if the other guys in the neighborhood saw me taking the trash out. He considers it a slight on his manliness. Perhaps you are so secure that you are past considering your reputation among your peers as the Hunter-Trash-Taker-Outer, but your wife could be looking out for your reputation - you know, just because she loves you, LOL.

Posted by: MN | September 18, 2007 1:40 PM

How about some kid favorites?

1. Dad, can I get a different sister?

2. Dad, can I get a toy? (even if going to buy a set of camshafts from a junkyard)

3. Dad, why can't I get a (insert your favorite killing item here i.e real sword, nailgun,numchuks,bb gun, iron glove etc)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 1:42 PM

2. Dad, can I get a toy? (even if going to buy a set of camshafts from a junkyard)

3. Dad, why can't I get a (insert your favorite killing item here i.e real sword, nailgun,numchuks,bb gun, iron glove etc)

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 01:42 PM

For #2, substitute ice cream...

and there have been plenty of days when I desperately wanted to say YES to #3, provided they played outside!

Posted by: educmom__615 | September 18, 2007 1:45 PM

I get the "When are you having kids?" question a lot, which actually doesn't bother me. I don't guess people are trying to be annoying. I usually reply "We don't plan to, ever." And they either usually look at me like I've just grown an octopus limb out of the top of my head or maybe say knowingly "Oh, you'll change your mind." That's all fine and well...

It's the people who just can't let it drop at that. They *have* to keep going to convince me that children are the answer I've always been searching for. Well good for everyone who's had kids, but it ain't for me. I look forward to being an aunt some day, I don't HATE children, I just don't want any of my own. Please understand that. And if you want to quietly believe I'll change my mind some day, FINE. But don't keep arguing the point with me.

In regards to accent/geographical locations, I do pity whoever it was that said she was from the south and was tired of people underestimating her intelligence. Well I don't have an accent, but minute I mention I'm from California to someone out of state or in another state they think I'm a gay/hippie/liberal/freak. And maybe I am one or two of those things, but I'll argue that prejudice against Californians (though for different reasons) is equal on the level to prejudice southerners may deal with.

Posted by: _Miles | September 18, 2007 1:52 PM

As an adoptive mom, the most annoying question (from near-total strangers) is: What do you know about the biological parents? Geez. Why in the world would I tell you?

Someday I'll have the presence of mind to say either "why do you want to know?" or "tell me about yours first."

Posted by: gottabeanon | September 18, 2007 1:53 PM

My top three

1) When are you planning to give DD a sibling? (we're not)

2) When are you moving out of your condo (we're not)

3) How come your daughter is so good at following directions? (I made it a priority so we could get past it and have fun)

Posted by: shdd | September 18, 2007 1:58 PM

Kids questions:
Are we there yet?

Why can't I (fill in the blank)? Mary's parents are letting her.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 1:59 PM

Kids: not a "question" per se, but:

"Well, one time Mommy let me (fill in the blank)"

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 2:14 PM

Most annoying and hurtful question: When are you going to have children? Asked while we were desperately trying...

Runner up: Was your second child planned? (they're 17 mos apart) Not that it's any of your business, but since it took such a long time to conceive #1, we started trying for #2 pretty early on... we just got lucky I guess!

Posted by: ktcat99 | September 18, 2007 2:21 PM

1. Daddy can I go do.... (something)
"Uh yeah I guess"


When mommy has said no, over her dead body

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 2:22 PM

Most annoying thing my kids say when I ask them to put away their shoes, set the table, turn off the tv:

"In a minute."

Which means, in five minutes when you bug me again I might do thinking about doing it.

Posted by: leslie4 | September 18, 2007 2:26 PM

When mommy has said no, over her dead body

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 02:22 PM

Is the child standing there with a bloody knife?

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 2:27 PM

What's the point of pointing out that the woman was drunk and smoking? Does that have anything to do with her rude comment, or are you just trying to vilify her even more?

My least favorite questions:
1. When are you going to have kids? Usually followed up with the ever-popular "you're not getting any younger, you know."
2. Don't you want a little version of you? (Please. The kid would be half white and Asian. It's not going to look like me. Even if it did, I don't think that's a very good reason to become a parent.)
3. Are you going to work after the baby is born? (I haven't received this question because I'm not pregnant, but I'm sure I will if I ever become pregnant, because every pregnant woman I've ever been around gets asked this.) No, I'm just going to sit around and wait for motherhood to magically pay off my undergraduate and law school loans.

Posted by: Monagatuna | September 18, 2007 2:33 PM

I think I get the most fun out of different variations of a single question from my two-year old:

Q: "Can I have marshmallows for dinner?"

A: "You can have have two, AFTER dinner."

(After dinner and marshmallows.)

Q: "Can I have more marshmallows?"
A: "No."
Q: "Can I have more marshmallows?"
A: "No."
Q: "Can I have more marshmallows?"
A: "No."
Q: "Can I have more marshmallows?"
A: "No."
Q: "Can I have more marshmallows?"
A: "No."

Q: "Why can't I have more marshmallows?"

A: "Because I'm having too much fun telling you 'No.'" (smile)

Q: "Well, can I have a cookie?"

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | September 18, 2007 2:34 PM

Father of 4's top three annoying questions:

1. Do you need help? (Yeah, professional help!)
2. Do you know where you are going? (No, but when I get there, I'll know where I'm at)
3. And the response to the question, "Where is X", when someone points there finger and says, "It's over there"

You would be surprised at how many drivers will notice a blind person with cane and dark glasses at an intersection and try to wave him through only to get annoyed that he won't move. Duh! He's listening to the engine, waiting for it to clear the intersection before he thinks it's safe to cross.

Posted by: SpiritOfFo4 | September 18, 2007 2:34 PM

This has been an interesting string. My husband and I both have albinism, a genetic condition that affects the skin hair and eyes. The majority of people with albinism don't have major health issues, although vision is a problem. We lead "normal" lives and view albinism as an inconvenience. We knew if we chose to have kids they would be affected.
My #1 most annoying question came when we announced we were engaged. One woman who has a son with albinism looked me straight in the eye and said (right in front of her son)"You're not going to have kids are you?".
For the record, we have 2 and both were wanted and planned.

Posted by: Laughlin | September 18, 2007 2:35 PM

Posted by: Laughlin | September 18, 2007 02:35 PM

As Hax would say "wow".

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 2:39 PM

"Husband asks, 'Where is X?'
"X could be scissors, the car key, milk gallon, his toothbrush, etc. Which are almost always in their regular places. He just doesn't like to take two seconds to look.
"Men, please explain why it is so difficult to LOOK FIRST and then if you can't find it, ask where it is!!!"

Posted by: Leslie Morgan Steiner '87 | September 18, 2007 11:45 AM

Most famously, "X" could be the butter. "Rachel Samstat," a character in Nora Ephron's "Heartburn," answers Leslie's question much better than I can:

You know what a Jewish prince is, don't you ?
(Cocks her eyebrow)
If you don't, there's an easy way to recognize one. A simple sentence. "Where's the butter?"
(A long pause here, because the laugh starts slowly and build)
Okay. We all know where the butter is, don't we?
(A little smile)
The butter is in the refrigerator.
(Beat)
The butter is in the refrigerator in the little compartment in the door marked "Butter".
(Beat)
But the Jewish prince doesn't mean "Where's the butter?" He means "Get me the butter." He's too clever to say "Get me" so he says "Where's."
(Beat)
And if you say to him -
(Shouting)
"in the refrigerator"--
(Resume normal voice)
And he goes to look, an interesting thing happens, a medical phenomenon that has not been sufficiently remarked upon.
(Beat)
The effect of the refrigerator light on the male cornea.
(Beat)
Blindness.
(a long beat)
"I don't see it anywhere."

If either my wife or I *really* want to know where something is, we ask our son, Dewey. He knows where everything in the house is. A few years ago, when Dewey was in school six thousand miles away, his mother asked him, ¿where is such-and-such?, and he told her.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | September 18, 2007 2:47 PM

Fans of Mesoamerica will recall that the ancient Maya Indians
played a "ball game" where players tried to knock a ball
through a goal formed by a stone ring. The game was played
for keeps: losers had their heads cut off and stuck on a
set of pilings called a Tzompantlí. Here's a shot at the
kind of ballgame fight song that fans on the sidelines
might have sung.

Note: Copán, Acasaguastlán, Yaxchilán, Dzibilchaltún,
and Xcalumkin are places in Maya-land. The rest of the
unfamiliar words, plus "Men," "Fire" and "Pop," are the names
of Maya hieroglyphics as found in J. Eric S. Thompson's
"A Catalog of Maya Hieroglyphs." The letter "X" is
pronounced, "sh".

Tune: "Bulldog," by Cole Porter, Yale 1913.

Verse:
Marching ever onward to the goal,
Men of Copán, Acasaguastlán,
Imix, Manik hand, Lamat and Mol
For the glory of Yaxchilán!

Fiery Sacrifice will celebrate
Our victory! Etznab, Cimí!
We'll Pop our foes into Ik Chicchan Hel
In the name of the great "god B"!

Chorus:
Akbal! Xipe! Quincunx, Yax,
Caban, Kin!
Ahau! Cauac! Muluc, Pax,
Our team is sure to win.
Let a cheer go up from Dzibilchaltún
Out to Xcalumkin!
Akbal! Xipe! Quincunx, Yax,
Caban, Kin!

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | September 18, 2007 2:50 PM

matt

maybe you should ask dewey where is the terseness?

Posted by: anonthistime | September 18, 2007 2:54 PM

Kid question: Why? Why? But Why?

I can't think of any consistent ones from adults. Of course there are jerks who manage to say everything in the most condescending way possible. But most people I figure are well intentioned even if they are not particularly tactful or artful with their words.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 18, 2007 3:14 PM

PROUDPAPA, one day I wrote NO with a sharpie on an index card and carried it with me. I flashed it at the kids for most of their questions. It was quite funny

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 3:17 PM

Most annoying phrase ever: "work outside the home." Drives me nuts to hear it.

Posted by: Jayne | September 18, 2007 3:30 PM

The why questions kill me. My daughter ask me the other day why some people were bigger. I told her it was impolite to point that out. What could I say? She has also asked me about handicapped people and people with birth defects. She never asks me about people who are other races though.

Posted by: Irishgirl | September 18, 2007 3:30 PM

My son is in the stage of asking things like why is it a shovel? Why is the car blue? And all of those questions to which the only answer is: It just is!!! Which of course is completely unsatisfying to toddler and adult alike. Augh!

Posted by: LizaBean | September 18, 2007 3:34 PM

Most annoying phrase ever: "work outside the home." Drives me nuts to hear it.

Posted by: Jayne | September 18, 2007 03:30 PM

I'll take the risk of annoying you over offending a SAHM who doesn't know me but is aware of my job and might interpret, "do you work?" as a slight.

My least favorite questions, now that we're done with all the reproductive questions:

1. "When do you get to see your kids?"

2. "Who do you work for?" (Forget the grammatical error, in my world, this questions means the speaker assumes I am a secretary -- NTTAWWT -- and is seeking to identify to which attorney I report).

3. some version of the question Army Brat raised earlier: "how can someone smart like you believe in religion or God", or, in the alternative, imagine wide eyes and dropped jaw, "you spend your Sunday mornings in CHURCH???!?"

Posted by: MN | September 18, 2007 3:40 PM

My son asked a friend of ours some very hurtful questions, but he meant it pretty innocently. He was only 6. She had just adopted a child, and he wanted to know where she got the baby. She explained that the baby was adopted. Then, he wanted to know why she would take a baby away from the bio mother. She explained that the bio mother could not raise the baby because she was young and poor and had no resources (in words that a 6 year old might understand). So then he asked why she couldn't just give the bio mother some money instead of taking the baby, so that the bio mother could raise the baby. For some reason, my son was really offended by the concept of adoption at the time, even though we had tried to explain it to him and thought he was okay with it when he met the baby. Part of me just cringed at his questions and I of course apoloized to my friend afterwards, but I think the damage was already done.

Posted by: Emily | September 18, 2007 3:43 PM

Thanks Laura. The hackles are down...

Posted by: kate07 | September 18, 2007 3:44 PM

Oh Emily, it must have hurt your friend's feelings, but kids are going to ask those kinds of question because they don't know any better.

I'm sure your friend understood.

Posted by: Irishgirl | September 18, 2007 3:46 PM

or, in the alternative, imagine wide eyes and dropped jaw, "you spend your Sunday mornings in CHURCH???!?"

LOL, MN. I get the direct opposite. Wide eyes and dropped jaw "You don't go to church on Sunday?!!" Like that somehow equates to us being heathen cannibals or something.

Posted by: Emily | September 18, 2007 3:47 PM

in the alternative, imagine wide eyes and dropped jaw, "you spend your Sunday mornings in CHURCH???!?"

Here's one along those lines. My wife will be out of town and my mom will say" You're taking the kids to church and she's out of town?" As if the only reason we go is because my wife makes us go. Very insulting in a way.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 3:49 PM

Diffusing kid "why" questions: be the geek of their nightmares. When my son was three he asked "why is the sky blue?" So, the ol' physics major pulled out the discussion of the light spectrum, and there's really all different colors of light, but because of differences in wavelengths they get reflected and refracted differently, etc. etc. Didn't get a "why" question from him for a month - I think he was afraid what answer he'd get next.

On the other hand - on oldest DD's high school physics final exam was the question - "Why is the sky blue?" She aced it!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 3:53 PM

For the longest time, when I was in my mid to late 20s, people would ask me where I went to high school. As in the present tense: Where do you go to high school? It used to really tick me off. Now, I wouldn't mind so much. These days, people are asking me why I don't dye my hair. In comparison, the high school question seems much nicer.

Posted by: Emily | September 18, 2007 3:53 PM

When I was growing up my 4 year old sister said to my mom's black friend " Do you get dirty and have to take a shower?" My mom's friend graciously replied, yes sweety I do. My mom was horrified and probably wanted to be swallowed up by the earth.

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 3:53 PM

She never asks me about people who are other races though.

Irish Girl -- How old is your daughter? I don't think kids interpret different shades of skin or eye shapes as a different race for awhile.

One of my favorite Kid Quotes came when DD was about 4 or 5. I need to preface this by revealing that we are white. Very White. It was Martin Luther King Day and we were watching something on the news about the 60s, race riots, "separate but equal," etc. DD is watching intently. Then, she turns to me and asks, "Mommy, are we black?"

Posted by: vegasmom89109 | September 18, 2007 4:05 PM

Oh yeah, and I forgot another annoying pregnancy question:

What are you having, a boy or a girl?

A girl.

Is that what you wanted?

Umm. Sure. I'll take her. At least for a trial period. We can always put her up for adoption if we don't like her.

Posted by: Emily | September 18, 2007 4:08 PM

ArmyBrat, I have tried that strategy with some of the Why? questions but after the long explanation there's a pause, and then he says, "But why?" It's mostly a game for him right now I think.

Emily, I feel for you, that must have been so uncomfortable. It's funny though, I remember having very similar reaction when I was a kid the first time I learned about adoption, although I don't think I had the opportunity to question any adoptive parents over it :). I hope your friend got over it.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 18, 2007 4:11 PM

Come on -- do you really think that people who ask "do you work" are presuming you spend your time eating bon bons and lying on the couch? I suppose they could ask "do you work for monetary compensation," or "are you a wage earner and if so how do you earn your wages?" or even "are you employed," but would that really make a difference? We all "work" in the sense that we all have things we do in our lives that we do without compensation. We're a society where "what do you do" is a standard icebreaker. I'm not arguing it should be, just commenting that it is. You can either come up with a brush off, a straight answer, a joke or ignore it. But to presume it's an insult or a dig -- well, come on.

Posted by: rdaszkiewicz | September 18, 2007 4:21 PM

Vegasmom that's hysterical.

As a mixed family, I'm sure I'll get that question in a few years.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | September 18, 2007 4:23 PM

That's why I tend to ask "what do you do?" or "what do you do for a living?" I think that lets the person explain how they want. Sometimes if the person is currently a stay at home mom, I am curious about what they did before that, or if they plan to go into something else later on. If they do any kind of work at home, or have any particular passion that they pursue, I'd be curious to know that too. However, I don't think I'd ask any of these questions unless it was someone I planned to get to know better, wouldn't ask a stranger or someone I'd likely never see again.

Posted by: _Miles | September 18, 2007 4:28 PM

"Diffusing kid "why" questions: be the geek of their nightmares."

ArmyBrat -- that's my husband's approach, for sure. My daughter could recite pi before she was 2. Alas, the approach tends to backfire when the geek genes are strong: the geekier my answer, the more interested she gets, and she peppers me with follow-up questions until I run out of answers. When we go to the library, she chooses more books from the science section than the kids' area. :-)

My least favorite kid question is "how much longer." To which I answer, "2 minutes less than the last time you asked." Then I make her do the math to figure it out herself, which buys me another minute or two (like I said, very strong geek genes).

Posted by: laura33 | September 18, 2007 4:33 PM

"My least favorite kid question is "how much longer.""

Laura, I still get that one. This weekend I was driving to a big gathering; I had gotten detailed directions from Google Maps or Mapquest; I forget which. The 16, 15 and 10 year olds were in the car. The 15 year old made the mistake of asking "how much longer?"

My response: "From here, it's 8 more miles on this highway. Then it's six miles up the next highway. Then we get off; the directions say it's 5.8 miles on the state route. Then we turn right and go half a mile, and we're there. And as far as I can tell, there are 7 traffic lights; I don't know how many will be red. We're currently going 65 mph; you figure out how long it will take."

The 10 year old turned to her big sister and said "please don't ask him that again!"

By that time, of course, the 15 year old had it figured out - she's the one who wants to major in Comp Sci, unlike her college-student sister who's majoring in English.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 4:48 PM

Regarding the "what do you do" question, a salesman once asked me if I was a domestic engineer, and it took me a good long pause to realize he was asking if I was a SAHM. I could not decide if I was amused or annoyed by the fact that he didn't just ask me what I do.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 18, 2007 4:50 PM

ArmyBrat, that's funny. My husband is trying to teach our 6-yr-old how to read the TomTom from the back seat, so she can just look at the [bleeping] display instead of driving her parents nuts. But the latter is clearly MUCH more fun.

Posted by: laura33 | September 18, 2007 4:52 PM

Emily and pATRICK - that's just so wrong. I find it especially so wrong when the same perpetrators handle the same topic in the same way over and over . . .

"Come on -- do you really think that people who ask "do you work" are presuming you spend your time eating bon bons and lying on the couch? I. . . You can either come up with a brush off, a straight answer, a joke or ignore it. But to presume it's an insult or a dig -- well, come on.

Posted by: rdaszkiewicz | September 18, 2007 04:21 PM

rdasgeezIcan'ttypeallthis, Let me put it in perspective. It's not the initial question: "do you work?" as much as the familiar dance that follows the answer --like a train wreck you see happening in slow motion, and you are riding the train.

Step 1 is the question: "Do you work?" Step 2 is the answer: "I'm a stay-at-home-mom OR teacher OR nurse OR secretary OR Wal-Mart greeter" OR anything else that may not sound sufficiently prestigious to Cream of the Crop and her ilk. Step 3 is either a follow-up question (yeah!!) or look of sudden disinterest, combined with looking over my shoulder for someone with a perceived-to-be more interesting answer to "do you work?". Step 4 is trying not to slap the asker for communicating his or her disdain so clearly.

I have an answer now that gets a positive reaction from the average asker, but that has not always been the case. This do-you-work dance gets very, very old when the majority of askers are bored by your response. So perhaps people who have had bad experiences with being asked to dance would rather not be asked to dance any more. That's understandable, in my opinion.

Posted by: MN | September 18, 2007 5:02 PM

When my kids used to ask Why? Why? Why? and I got frustrated I would ask THEM -- "What do you think?" Very effective. Works every time.

All the stories about mortifying things kids say reminded me of a few years ago. I was on a bus in Chicago and sat next to an African American woman and her very young son. He looked at me and asked his mom, "Is she white?" I think I was the first white person he'd sat next to. It was an honor in a way. Then he surreptitiously reached over and touched my forearm as if to see what my skin felt like. It was sweet. Not offensive.

Many things that we would find horribly offensive in adults are totally fine coming from kids. Sometimes when adults do obnoxious things I try to imagine what they looked like as kids. Helps a lot.

Posted by: leslie4 | September 18, 2007 5:07 PM

to Matt InAberdeen
yes Tolli's is still there on main st in east have

Posted by: dsparrell | September 18, 2007 5:08 PM

MN,
The "do you work" question, as you describe it, sometimes reminds me of the way some people ask the "where did you go to school" question. During my first marriage, my then husband and I met some people that we soon discovered were very interested in having friends from the right "colleges." We met them through some college friends of mine, so they already knew where I had gone to school, but during a dinner, the quizzed my husband on his background, where he worked, where he had grown up, and of course, the asked him where he went to school (pretty much in that order). He was on to them, and his response was "Well, there was a school right down the road." [referring to the elementary school in his hometown]. "No," they answered, laughing. "We meant COLLEGE." He smiled at them. "I know what you meant." I always smile when I remember that exchange. They were so intent on getting the details of his "pedigree" and he just wouldn't play. Instead, he had fun toying with them and answering their questions in ways that they did not expect.

Posted by: Emily | September 18, 2007 5:19 PM

oh, Emily, I've been there with that exchange as well. Kudos to your husband for torturing the academic-pedigree-social-climbers. There are way too many of these people, and they all seem to want to live in DC for a certain period of time in their lives. Ugh.

MN Not Yale '83

Posted by: MN | September 18, 2007 5:24 PM

"This do-you-work dance gets very, very old when the majority of askers are bored by your response."

MN, nice description of the dance - I guess what makes all the difference is that line. If you don't find that the majority of askers are bored or hostile or rude, but actually just want to know what you do, it doesn't seem like such an insiduous question. I've been lucky and have only had to deal with a few of those (or perhaps I am just oblivious to people's reactions, LOL) and so the question itself doesn't tend to set me off. Though I do prefer the "what do you do" variety as it seems to allow for a wider variety of answers.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 18, 2007 5:25 PM

So, how do you ask women who have kids if they work? I run a business from home. My girls are in school and my son goes to daycare. I see other women at the bus stop and I want to know what they do if they work from home. We are at a new bus stop this year, so I'm meeting new people, so this comes up. I think "do you work?" is better than "what does your husband do?" Asking "do you stay home with your children or work outside the home?" sounds too PC. I try to just mention in conversation that I work from home to get the conversation going. I guess that is the way.

I also hate when my husband and I meet a new person or couple and nobody asks what I do. I wouldn't care if they didn't ask what my husband does as well, but they usually do.

So, what is the right way to ask this anyway?

Amy
Mom to 3
I stay home but my kids don't. Ha.
www.sofiabean.com

Posted by: amy | September 18, 2007 5:31 PM

"I stay home but my kids don't. Ha"

Amy, that's an awesome line - we're in the same boat. My husband and I both work from home, our son is in preschool until 3:15 every day. Works great for us!

I think starting with what you do is a good idea, or maybe just "so what do you guys do?" referring to the couple? I would hazard a guess based on the discussion here though that your level of genuine interest and how you respond to the answer is more important than how you phrase the question.

Posted by: LizaBean | September 18, 2007 5:34 PM

Hey, Kate07 - I'm not suggesting paralegals are dumb. I agree with your comments -in my experience, paralegals are as smart as lawyers (sometimes smarter), they just prefer not to deal with the hassle of practicing law. But the people who ask me the stupid questions aren't paralegals. It's male attorneys or clueless people from outside the legal profession, usually sexist types who think that women can't be lawyers. In fact, here's another annoying comment which illustrates the problem perfectly. A couple months back, I was in court wearing a navy blue suit and carrying a briefcase. The judge instructed the attorneys to sit in the front row of the courtroom. I seated myself in the front row with the other attorneys (all male) and the courtroom deputy came up to me and said politely, "Ma'am, you can't sit here, this row is for the attorneys only."

Posted by: Quitaque1 | September 18, 2007 8:07 PM

Hey, Kate07, I agree with you, paralegals are NOT dumb, they are just people who didn't want to be lawyers. But the annoying comments I get never come from paralegals, these comments come from male lawyers (and really clueless nonlawyers). My impression is that these people make these remarks because they don't want to accept women attorneys. Here's another example of a really annoying comment in the same vein. Three months ago, I was in court wearing a navy blue suit and carrying a brief case. The judge instructed the attorneys to seat themselves in the front row of the courtroom. I walked forward and seated myself with the other attorneys (all of whom were male) and the courtroom deputy came up to me and said politely, "Ma'am, you can't sit here. This row is reserved for attorneys only." GRRRRR!!!!

Posted by: Quitaque1 | September 18, 2007 8:10 PM

Speaking of annoyingly sexist comments ... For many years, the law librarian in our community was a man. One day, I was in the law library (this time wearing a charcoal gray pinstriped business suit) and the librarian was also in the library also wearing a suit. A male attorney who was apparently from out of town walked into the room, walked straight past the librarian without a second glance, made a beeline for me, and said brusquely, "Bring me the most recent copy of the Federal Pattern Jury Charges." I was overjoyed to be able to reply politely, "I don't work here. I suggest you ask the librarian for assistance. The librarian is that gentleman over there."

Posted by: Quitaque1 | September 18, 2007 8:43 PM

Now on to the Fred's Quote of the Day Featurette

(All humor, all the time division)

Many good quotes today so in no particular order:

My answer to that - "I will have them when there is a shortage".

Posted by: Catwhowalked | September 18, 2007 07:54 AM

Q: "So when's the next one coming?"
A: "Oh, one's good."
(... as soon as we pay off the hospital from the first one...)

Good fun!

Posted by: frank_and_liz | September 18, 2007 07:56 AM

(Note from Fred, does that include college costs also?)

"You are old enough to be the grandparents of my friends."

From Fred's younger son

"okay, which two children shall I kill? And what method of execution would you recommend as being the most humane?"

Posted by: ArmyBrat | September 18, 2007 08:35 AM

"Well, I suppose the BGGB order would have worked but I'm not going to have a do-over."

Posted by: rockvillemom | September 18, 2007 08:36 AM

"The have the same father".

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | September 18, 2007 10:21 AM (great story!)


"Damn, I hate to do this but I am going to back pedal on my post."

Posted by: pATRICK | September 18, 2007 10:38 AM

(pATRICK admits he was wrong about something WOO-HOO!)

I think we will stop at this startling admission!

Many, many more good ones today but the Creepy Van (tm) is already overloaded!


Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 9:49 PM

Side note to all your lady lawyers out there who are mistaken for paralegals, secretaries, librarians, etc.

Whenever I am in Home Depot, Wally World or some other mass merchandiser, I am mistaken for a person who works there. Must be my honest face or something. I cannot begin to tell you how many people I have sent to lingerie when they are looking for a loaf of bread!

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 9:53 PM

BTW, I hope that at least one person appreciated my reference to "The X-Files."

Posted by: Fred | September 18, 2007 9:54 PM

Quitaque1, I have that experience all the time (front row of the courtroom). At docket callings, attorneys can sit in the jury box. In one court, all women were asked to produce their bar cards; none of the men were. I complained to the clerk's office about that one. In another court, men are regularly ushered in to the courtroom without searches; it took me several years of going and producing my bar card to get the same courtesy. Recently, I was challenged by a deputy for sitting in the front row and the clerk piped up "Are you kidding? She's been an attorney in this court for over 10 years!" None of the men were challenged, of course. Whenever I hear "I thought you were the legal assistant," I usually reply "I'm not smart enough for that." Sexism is alive and well and thriving in the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Posted by: Jayne | September 19, 2007 8:27 AM

Quitaque1 and Jayne,

This is not a problem limited to Virginia. When my husband accompanies me to a work-related social event, it is always assumed that I am the trailing spouse of the lawyer. Ugh.

Posted by: MN | September 19, 2007 10:42 AM

Sexism seems to be alive and well. I notice the SAHM's and women who've chosen traditionally female professions (e.g., the nurses and paralegals) are also getting hassled for their choices. But at least we've gotten some help on this blog. In future, my answers to the questions quoted above will be the following, which were suggested above:
YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE A LAWYER.
Thank you very much!
YOU MUST BE THE PARALEGAL.
Thanks for the compliment but I'm
not smart enough to be a
paralegal.
In connection with the second response - I have a friend who's a lifelong paralegal. Her firm offered to pay her law school tuition and the cost of taking the bar if she would enroll in night classes and complete her law degree. She responded firmly, "Thank you but I've never wanted to be a lawyer. I prefer to be a human being."

Posted by: Quitaque1 | September 19, 2007 2:08 PM

"My top annoying questions is "Where are you from?" Just because I'm Asian doesn't mean I'm any less American."

What's the big deal? It's perfectly reasonable to be asked where you are from if you look foreign? I get asked all the time and never give it a passing thought.
You should be proud of your heritage and ready to share it with others.

Posted by: lvacher | September 19, 2007 5:25 PM

"My top annoying questions is "Where are you from?" Just because I'm Asian doesn't mean I'm any less American."

Isn't the answer "New Jersey," "NYC," "Kansas," etc.? That's how I'd answer . . .

Posted by: Jayne | September 20, 2007 8:24 AM

I love this question! I have 5 girls and the most annoying question I have ever gotten (and it has happened more than once) is "You do know how it happens, right?"- are people trying to imply that each of my children was an accident? Or that I am simply an idiot? My response has become "No, we just can't figure out where they all keep coming from- do you know?"


Posted by: michelewilson | September 20, 2007 10:06 AM

That ubiquitous question, "When are you going to have that second child?" It's not just annoying to me, it's also painful, because as much as we'd desparately love to have a second child, I can't carry another baby. I try to remember that people don't intend to be hurtful, it just sometimes works out that way.

Posted by: kali | September 20, 2007 11:01 AM

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