Dear Captain Awkward,
My best friend (Willow, she/her) and her wife (Tara, she/her) are about to start a family. (I am writing to you at Willow’s request, and she has approved the contents of this letter). They are anticipating some intrusive and inappropriate questions, since this process will involve a sperm donor, and I was hoping you could help with some scripts to shut that down. Both Willow and Tara come from somewhat conservative families, who have not always been 100% supportive of their relationship, and who also tend to trample any boundaries they set. This is on top of the fact that a lot of people, even those motivated by care or innocent curiosity, seem to feel entitled to personal and medical information when a pregnancy is involved. Neither Willow nor Tara is comfortable discussing their process of creating a baby—how often are straight couples asked intimate questions about how their babies were conceived?—with family members, co-workers, acquaintances, etc., no matter how well-meaning the questioner. Having met some of their family members before, I can attest to the fact that “That is a very personal question *awkward silence*” will not work on everybody. Some of them will interpret that as an invitation to justify the question and/or ask it again in a different way. Do you have any ideas for ways to shut down this line of questioning that will make it clear that it is inappropriate without alienating the questioner?
Thank you for your help!
Concerned Friend/Future Cool Aunt (she/her)
Hey Cool Aunt,
You asked: Do you have any ideas for ways to shut down this line of questioning that will make it clear that it is inappropriate “without alienating the questioner?”
And no, I don’t. Because if someone is willing to keep pushing after “whoa, that’s personal!” or “do you ask straight couples where they got their sperm,” there is no secret set of guaranteed gentle-but-firm scripts that I’ve been holding back for a special occasion.
I think at a certain point you gotta either just keep repeating yourself until they drop it, or be prepared to say “Hey, you didn’t get the hint before when we said ‘it’s personal’, so let me be clearer: It’s none of your business and we are never, ever telling you about that. Stop making this so weird!”
Maybe also try: “I know you are excited and you mean that as a fun, normal question, but it’s okay to just say ‘congratulations’!” Sometimes telling people the response you want gives them a rope to pull themselves out of the Pit of Awkwardness they just started digging for themselves.
And if they get alienated they get alienated – hopefully at that point they leave y’all alone for a while? Tara & Willow have a long history of dealing with conservative family members who don’t really respect boundaries, this is just another step in that dance. I wish there were a single conversation where it all becomes clear and people who don’t respect boundaries learn their lesson once and for all, but, nope. It’s an ongoing thing.
Part of the dance is figuring out when to tell people who aren’t the couple and very close friends/family any information at all. In Tara & Willow’s shoes, I might hold off on giving any info to people I know or suspect will be inappropriate & nosy until there is an actual pregnancy, for example:
Tara & Willow: “Yaaaaay, we’re having a baby!”
Tara & Willow: “I don’t know, Google it! But also, a baby!”
Family/Coworker: “But did you go to a sperm bank or :waggles eyebrows: you know….”
Tara & Willow: “Ew, why would you ask that? So, back to the baaaaaaaby….”
Keeping it close to the vest might mean missing out on support and sympathy from people during the process, but if they are worried about intrusive questions, being selective about who is in on the whole “we’re trying” conversation when is a way to delay the inevitable, at least for a while. Like, it’s much harder to be “We’re thinking about starting a family & looking at sperm donors” and then be like “but we will never tell you our secrets about that so don’t ask” (even if that is a perfectly okay boundary to set!), especially with people that you know are likely to be nosy. So think about what people need to know and when they need to know it. I’m betting that nobody’s nosy-ass family changed between now and the last time they had to deal with them.
I hope everything goes as well as it can be and that your friends have very good news to share soon. ❤