You can tell whether somebody is a well-mannered person by observing if they know when to keep their mouth shut. In life there are situations when saying nothing is totally out of place, yet there may be equally many circumstances in which the ability to hold one’s tongue and resisting the temptation to speak one’s mind is appreciated. Usually one can point up their good behaviour if they hold back from either commenting or from asking questions. In the context of the former, it is enough to remind that in embarrassing situations silence is golden. When it comes to the latter, over the years I have compiled a list of questions I believe should not be ask and which as a matter of principle I resist to ask.
When are you planning to have children? / When will you finally get pregnant? / And the likes.
Maybe if such question is asked by closest relatives, it does not come out as inappropriate, yet I never ask it. Firstly, because the decision whether to have children, how many and when is a couple’s business, not mine. Secondly, with plague of infertility and other disruptions thwarting millions of couples’ dreams to have a child, such questions can cause unnecessary pain. Finally, some couple are not cut up for raising children, so maybe it is better if they do not have them.
When will you finally get married? / When will you finally get engaged? / Is he going to pop the question or not? / And the likes.
Formalising a relationship definitely has some practical aspects and by tying a knot two people officially confirm they want to be together theoretically until the end of one their days. But whether people wish to have their relationship officially legalised or want it to stay informal and keep away from registry office is their business. Indeed it takes more effort to break up when you are married, but for a really determined person if they really want, they will find a way, if they do not, they will find an excuse!
When will you finally find a boyfriend / girlfriend?
It still boggles my mind what the point in asking such questions is. Some people might prefer to be single and feel well about it. Others are out of luck in romantic relationships. There are also individuals who have been hurt once so badly that they are afraid of starting over a new relationship. At best such questions might f*ck someone up, at worst they wound.
When will you stop partying every weekend? When will you find a permanent job? When will start putting aside money? And the likes regarding lifestyle.
Unless these questions by somebody who lives under one roof with a reckless kidult or sponsors their pleasures, they are also out of place. Each human has the right to pursue happiness their own way, as long as they do not hurt nor harm others. A better way is to persuade such people to change their ways by cutting them off money or force them to become self-supporting.
When will you get a pay rise? When will you get promoted? When will you lose some weight? When will you learn (something)? And all questions pertaining to stuff that might be beyond one’s control.
What one achieves in life is a combinations of one’s ambitions, hard work, determination, but also circumstances, opportunities and skills. The three latter factors might not be dependent on an individual, since someone might lack inborn talents. Sometimes the price to pay for something might be too high. A good piece of advice seems to be to think twice whether when one being asked the question is the only one who holds his fate in his hands.
The autonomy of an individual is the value we should all cherish and stand up for. Silly or importunate questions only undermine it (but will not break it). I believe another human’s autonomy or freedom should be the main limit of one’s choices, although mature humans take heed of circumstances and other people’s feelings when they decide how to arrange their lives.
The next post is due in early February. Next weekend I am heading to the south-western edge of Europe to take a break from the winter!