It seems as though as soon as you hit the 6 month monogamy mark, it’s open season for everyone around you to ask personal questions about the state of your union that are absolutely none of their beeswax (ok maybe this is fair game for the latest hubba-hubba celeb couple, but for us regular folk, sheesh already!).
Does the lady who waters the plants in your office do the exaggerated “anything new?” on your ring finger (ie, craning-of-the-neck/eyebrow-raise/head-shake/tut-tut/sigh routine) every other week? Do you find yourself wanting to toss your coffee in the face of the next person who tells you that paying rent is just throwing your money away? And when you call your parents with big news, have they ceased even trying to hide their disappointment when it’s about your next step up the corporate ladder and never about an imminent grandbaby?
These insensitive personal space invaders can cause spikes in your blood pressure that will take precious years off your life. And worse, a snarky response is easily misinterpreted as sensitivity about the topic and the impression that you dearly wish you were already Mrs. Barefoot-Pregnant!
So here are some tips for shutting down the intrusive, once and for all:
Prying Question #1. When are you getting married?
John Mazerolle, author of the ‘He Says’ column for Metro Canada puts it best: “… getting married is like getting an engineering degree. Engineering degrees are awesome (but) they’re not for everyone, and there’s no shame in not getting one. And if you forced everybody to get one a lot of bridges would collapse.”
The Trap: If Nosy Parker is married but you are non-traditional, she may be offended if you tell her that you think marriage is an outdated convention with no real significance in today’s society. If Nosy Parker is not married, she may be offended that you are leaving the independent women’s club by choice to be locked into in a lawful union where you essentially amount to a man’s property.
The classy response: “I guess that’s something we’ll decide together at some point.” Remain nonchalant and simply redirect the conversation back to the task at hand, or to its conclusion: ‘Well, it was great seeing you, I really should get to my (emails, meeting, bus, appointment).’ This subtlety indicates that when the conversation veers towards the personal, you won’t be sticking around to overshare.
Prying Question #2. When are you buying a house?
The majority of the questioning in this case will come from home owners themselves. They are only too happy to rave on about how quartz is the new granite, and wonder obnoxiously how they ever survived without central vac. But try making plans with them for Friday night drinks or booking a last-minute trip down south and you’ll hear a very different story. This one is a frightening tale of the unexpected furnace burnout that cost $5000, sky-high utilities bills and flooded basements. Of course they can’t be throwing away money on $7 beers at the pub anymore and all-inclusives are out of the question when there are mortgages to pay. Sure, long-term they have made a great investment, but should you have to defend yourself if you’ve chosen to have a life instead?
The Trap: This brand of Nosy Parker has an ulterior motive – they just can’t stand to hear about your freewheeling, landlord-calling lifestyle while they toss sleepless in their beds worrying about the cost of a new roof and fluctuating interest rates.
The classy response: “That’s not really a priority for us right now.” Then directly follow up with a change of subject: ‘Hey, I’m considering that 30-day yoga challenge, are you enjoying it?’ This response is gentle, but firmly suggests that you are enjoying the light conversation and any attempts to go deeper will be similarly blocked.
Prying Question #3. Do you want kids? or When are you having kids?
This one is especially tricky because there is so much room to offend and be offended. When you’re on the receiving end of questions about the status of your womb, you’re going to be defensive – with good reason.
The Trap: Is the Nosy Parker asking the question with one baby balanced on his hip and another tugging at his corduroys? Or does he have the infamous Macleans “The case against having kids” cover blown up to poster size, framed, and hung in the most prominent location in his office.
The Classy Response: “Oh, I don’t know.” Deliver with a slightly confused smile as if you have never heard of children, and immediately change the subject to a neutral topic: ‘Did you see Inception? I am obsessed with reading the alternate ending theories online!’ This gets the point across that there will be no further discussion, and distracts from any awkwardness by segueing smoothly into another (less personal) theme.
So remember, just because they ask doesn’t mean they deserve an answer, but remember to always take the high road.*
*Exception: Wisecracks about expiring eggs, spinsters or cats should always be met with an immediate kick to the groin.