Ask Minda Honey: How To Handle Nosy Relatives

Ask Minda Honey is LEO Weekly’s relationship advice column. Write MInda with your dating, love and relationship questions at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @MindaHoney

Last week, a close friend sent me a frustrated text message. She’s tired of family members asking her when she plans to get married. Marriage isn’t one of her priorities. So, this week for readers traveling to Louisville or traveling away from our city to spend time with family, I answer the question:

How Do I Handle Nosy Relatives During The Holidays?

Y’all, I could cure cancer and break an Olympic record in the same damn week and there’d still be a relative standing by to say, “Yeah, that’s great, but when are you going to have a kid?”

As a childless, single woman in my 30s, I’m frequently made to feel that none of my accomplishments matter unless a man is taking my hand in marriage, or my uterus is expelling a new life. I’ve been pressed with these types of questions from my granny, family friends, and my mother’s brother even had the audacity to ask me, “But aren’t you tired of being alone?” Like I can just magic up the man of my dreams with a blink and a nose wriggle.

Aside from the sensitive feelings these questions can stir up, it’s wild that family members who haven’t chatted with you enough to even know basic things about you like your fave color, or what you do for a living, suddenly feel entitled to the inside track on these deeply personal decisions.

A lot of it comes down to pure and simple nosy behavior. But I think some of it is relatives wanting to put your life into a neat little box that they can check off. For them, seeing you married with children is shorthand for a happy, fulfilled life. But we all know that life, and the choices we make in life, are never that simple. Life is inherently messy. Not all marriages are happy, and not all children are a blessing. Not all unmarried people are unhappy, and not all childless people feel less-than. Women are often treated like simplistic creatures brainwashed by Disney movies to expect a happily ever after. But could it be this supposed desperation is actually a result of relatives trying to force a fairytale ending on our lives?

The heteronormative blueprint for a happy life has never been a good guide for everyone. These days, there are more alternate paths than ever to lead you toward a life you love. Take one and don’t look back, even when relatives call out to you to return to the straight and narrow. You don’t have to reroute your life to validate the choices they’ve made in theirs. Just keep making the choices that feel right for you.

So, what do you do at family functions? Relatives often still see you as the small child trained by your parents to politely answer their questions. You gotta remind them you’re grown now. Call me petty, but I am a big fan of putting the discomfort back on the question asker. If you make them feel as uncomfortable as you feel every time they ask you when you’re going to have a child, eventually they’ll stop asking. When aunt Jo asks, “So, when you having kids?” Look her dead in the eye and respond with as short a response as possible, “I’m not.” Then just maintain eye contact until she changes the topic. If she persists with follow-up questions, keep each response as short as the first, and let the mounting discomfort be her cue to move on to grilling someone else.

Some people are dense though. No matter how uncomfortable you make it, they’re going to continue to pester you holiday after holiday. For those types, nothing works like directness. When uncle Ray asks you when you’re going to get married, tell him, “I’m not interested in talking about that. So, how’s work going?”

Yes, these tactics are going to ruffle some feathers. But change rarely comes easy. When I was a kid, I had a cousin with an embarrassing family nickname. When he got older he insisted everyone call him by his birth name. Some people were stubborn about it, but he held out. He refused to answer to that nickname and gave out a lot of dirty looks. After awhile, the relatives gave in to his wishes. That was decades ago. If he hadn’t endured several uncomfortable interactions with family members, he’d be grown man in his 40s still going by Stink.

If all else fails and the questions really bother you that much, opt-out. I hear Bali is lovely this time of year.