When I got engaged, my mom's dearest girlfriends, whom I affectionately call "The Crones," all sent me a card. On the front it said,
"Now that you are engaged, no one will ever ask you again 'When are you getting married?'" On the inside it read, "So, when are you going to have a baby?" Although meant in jest, I have found that card to be profoundly true.
Every week, I read the columns written by singles, many of whom I know and some of whom I dated, and I empathize deeply with them. For many years, I was the single girl at the wedding or family gathering. Until I got married at 38 1/2 years old, I was constantly asked, "Are you dating anyone?" "When are you going to get married?" "Have you tried JDate?" (or fill in any other "helpful" suggestion).
It's horrible. It's painful. It sometimes makes you want to cry. I wanted to tell people to butt out, but I didn't want to be rude. I would have liked to have said that I had a very satisfying life in many respects: I had an interesting career and lots of terrific friends; I enjoyed my home and my pet. But the married folks, especially older relatives, have only one thing in mind: They want you to get married. For the record, you likely want that, too, and you really don't need them to remind you.
I thought, naively, that once I did get married last May, all my problems would be solved, including the matter of nosy and painful questions from well-meaning friends and relatives. Boy, was I wrong.
First of all, marriage is tough. You don't just break the glass, kiss, leave the chuppah and live happily ever after. It is a ton of work. You have to compromise about everything. All of your quirks -- eating cereal for dinner, wearing socks to bed -- are discussed and dissected. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband and the home we have created together. But there are things about my single life that I miss. Marriage doesn't change everything. You are still you, with all your problems and issues, but now you have someone else around to point them out to you.
And then, there's still a question -- a much more personal and maybe more painful one then the dating and marriage questions. It's the "When are you going to have a baby?" question. I get it from everyone, all the time, even though we've only been married six months. We don't even have our wedding album back from the photographer.
My sex life is, apparently, an appropriate topic for conversation with anyone, anywhere. Those same well-meaning people who told me where to go to find a mate are now telling me how often and in what position to have sex to best increase our chances of conception, or suggesting herbs, acupuncture or other fertility-increasing remedies.
Recently I had a miscarriage, as at least 25 percent of pregnant women do. It's been hard on my body and hard on both of us emotionally. It feels like a death in the family. The prospective grandparents, aunts and uncles are very upset too, since this would have been the first grandchild on both sides of the family.
Apparently miscarriage is very common. Both of our mothers had one, as did many of our dearest friends and relatives. For the most part, no one told us, so we're just finding out as we shared our grief with others. Infertility is an issue among our friends, too. Our generation has waited longer than previous ones to try to start families. (Maybe they should have tried JDate.)
Every time someone asks me when I'm going to have a baby, I feel a stab of sadness about the failed pregnancy. I want to yell and scream and ask them what business it is of theirs. Or tell them that I miscarried just so I can see the look on their faces. But I don't. I just mumble something about, "We're trying" or "When it happens, it happens" to placate them.
I really think it is no one's business but my husband's and mine. We have only been married a short time and only recently started trying to have a baby. I can only imagine how hard that baby question must be on those who have had multiple miscarriages or endured painful, expensive and heartbreaking fertility treatments.
So, please, be sensitive to the single folks, who really want to get married. They don't need you to remind them that they are single. And please, be sensitive to the married folks who don't have a baby -- yet.
Jill Franklin grew up in Los Angeles and is a freelance writer and attorney living in Chicago. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.