For every age there are a set of standard questions that you are asked. When you are little, because adults (having given up their child-like spirit) don’t know how to relate to you, they ask—did you have fun? And that, perhaps, is a fair question. You say yes and maybe mix in a cute smile or tell the story about how you visited your grandmas farm and fed the cows.
Once you’re in high school—to avoid the real questions like how depressed are you really? and how misunderstood do you feel?—they ask what are you going to do after high school? And you don’t know anything. A couple over-achievers say that they want to take chemistry or physics, but they are assholes (for making me look bad) and a lot of them won’t make it through their first term.
Once you’re in university or working, everyone wants to know what you are going to do with that? And while I have and continue to ask that question, I try to do it in such a way that doesn’t make it seem like I am asking so that I can compare our lives and feel superior. Yes, I have an English degree. What are you going to do with that… teach? You know how many times I have heard that response. I have even got that response from people doing an BEd. They know I’d have to do a BEd to teach, but they still ask. If only I could go back and punch those people right in the face. The questions just get more annoying.
So you find yourself in a relationship and—of course—when are you getting married? LIKE I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH PRESSURE ALREADY. And I just want to say I’m just here for the ice cream. Leave me alone. But if you date someone for ice cream it makes you look bad. So you say Oh, you know, some day, maybe.
So you get married. Hopefully to the right woman or man. Then we get to babies.
We ask and ask and ask all these questions to reinforce the myths we (want to) believe in. It’s good to work. Good to go to school. Good to be monogamous. Good to have babies. So when are you having babies?
And this is where I am at. If people misunderstanding an English degree makes me want to punch you in the face then I think we can agree we won’t examine my physical reaction to this question. Usually, the people who ask, are already parents. Or they are your parents. And you don’t want to offend them and say—I don’t want kids. I am happy for you and your baby having—and I agree they are cute—but I don’t want them. Not now, at least. It’s an ongoing discussion
But let’s say, you answer the question honestly. No, I don’t want children. Not babies at least. Babies scare the shit out of me. Could I just adopt a normal 12 year old? They say—oooh you’d be a great father. If there is one thing you can be sure of about it’s that I don’t lack confidence. I have spent more time with children than most people my age. There are just a lot of questions I need answers to like—do I really want to shape another human being to be like me? Does the world need more people? Would my hypothetical child be good and normal or get mixed up with gangs? How pedestrian will my life become? When will babies stop scaring the shit out of me?
Then you either have babies and then people start recycling the same questions you’ve been asked all your life except now you have to answer it for your child. What’s little Rhys (that’s my hypothetical son’s name) doing these days? Oh, sniffing glue and robbing convenience stores. Plus he hit his mother again so we kicked him out of the house. Oh, I think I left a peach cobbler in the oven, I better go.
And if you don’t have children. Well I don’t know what they would ask, maybe… When are you going to die? But frankly, I think that’d be the most honest question yet.