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Awkward Questions: Cut Down or Conversation Starter?

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I always thought when I got married the awkward questions people ask would stop. I have news single gals: It doesn’t. When I was twenty-three and celebrating Thanksgiving with my clan, Uncle Johnny wanted to know why someone like me didn’t have a boyfriend. “You’ve got to find yourself a potential husband,” he would say in his South Carolina drawl. Never mind, I had just broken up a five-year relationship with my high school sweet heart and wanted to see the world. Traveling didn’t count for anything. So through the years, as a single woman and now married, I’ve had my share of awkward questions and as innocent as they seem, I can’t help but question the motives behind them.

Personally, if I know something is a little awkward I don’t ask it and wonder why others don’t play by the rules. For example, my cousin Mimi and her husband have been married ten years. Kids are not in their future but that doesn’t stop other people asking, “So when are you going to hear the pitter patter of little feet?” “Never,” Mimi says politely, “I can’t have children.” Then there’s the famous question, “When are you having another baby?” This question is usually three months after delivering the first-born or sooner. When I was asked this after being in labor for forty-eight hours I wanted to rip the persons head off.

I think, speaking for myself, that these intrusive questions are secretly interpreted as “You don’t have enough so when are you going to do XYZ”. This is the reason many of us take offense with them. I have started and stopped nursing school twice so when I last saw my step grandmother at the bagel shop and she asked me, “still in school?” I was seething. It some how implied I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing and it ruined my whole morning.  My mother said, “Oh she’s just trying to start a conversation”. How many times have we heard this statement when venting about said awkward question? I know personally that if I think a subject is touchy I avoid it like a rattle snake. Grand Mom could have started a conversation in a number of lovely ways sans the implication of my lack of motivation. It’s a beautiful day. I like your shirt. How is your daughter? Is she doing well in kindergarten? How’s that book coming along? Instead, “Still in school?” As if my work, my writing, my life with hubby and daughter were blazed in neon letters—INCOMPLETE PERSON pending nursing certificate hung on wall.

I’ve found that it’s this accumulate stuff society that perpetuates a state of doing rather than being. As in SARKS Succulent Wild Women book, “You are enough, you have enough, you do enough”. I have to admit my favorite awkward question of all time usually comes right after I’ve had a haircut and I’ve run into a quasi friend colleague in the hallway at work Before I even get her thoughts on the new do she’ll say, “So do you like it, is that what you wanted?”  “Yes, I do believe it is thanks!” I say enthusiastically as I fill up my coffee cup. Then I wonder if that was in some way a non-compliment.

There’s one more awkward question, I must address. This usually comes after complaining about your significant other to your best friend for hours on end. Then she says, “So when are you leaving him?” I think to myself, what gives her the right to ask that, never mind I bended her ear for five hours about the scum bag. In that instance, I think awkward question is okay.

There is an arsenal of awkward questions that can be asked in any given day and unless you have the good fortune of living in the EU you will have to be ready to answer them. With a little confidence and some secret weapons anyone can win the awkward question. Here’s how: 

1.)  Look question asker in the eye, smile

“Are you still in school?” 

“Yes and it is lovely, you’ll be the first to know when I’m done. Thanks for asking.” 

“No, I put it on hold while trying to find a literary agent for my book. Thanks for asking.” 

2.)  Make your comeback answer swift and to the point and assume the best not the worst. 

“Do you like your new hair do?” 

“Very much so, I picked up one of his cards for you. You will love him.”  

3.)  Remember that the other person initiated the awkward situation bounce it back to them and don’t take ownership. 

  “Are you still smoking?” 

  “Are you still eating?” 

4.)  Play it up. 

“Why don’t you have a husband?” 

“Oh truly uncle Johnny there’s not a man out there right now that could keep up with me.”


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