The Three Questions All Women Are Sick Of Hearing

When are you getting married?

renée zellweger bridget jones's diary

by Holly Kirkwood |
Published on

Something every girl notices as they get older is that, despite apparently living in enlightened times, there are expectations that persist about what we actually want from life, and when we want it. Yes we can live where we want, with whom we want, yes we can choose our career and who we want to have sex with, and marry. But despite all this progress, a weird undercurrent in our day-to-day lives still measures a heterosexual woman’s success by ranking her achievements on a curiously old-fashioned scale to do with marriage and babies – just ask Jennifer Aniston – and there seems to be very little we can all do about it.

Much of this is unspoken but sometimes these undercurrents bubble up into conversation, often with people we hardly know, let alone would discuss our most intimate secrets with. We’re asked questions which are very personal, they deal with extremely sensitive subjects and they don’t come with easy answers. The perpetrators can vary from colleagues at work to an uncle who jokingly asks ‘When’s he going to make an honest woman of you then?’ at a family wedding, when you and your boyfriend aren’t talking after a three-hour fight in the car en-route.

If you don’t recognise any of these situations, lucky you. Forewarned is forearmed, after all, so here we go.

1. When are you getting married?

You and your partner have been seeing each other for over a year. You’re happy! Hooray! You might even have moved in together. Now you’re off on a proper holiday as a couple – something far-flung and exciting like a safari or a far-eastern adventure.

Well, I hope you’re not just planning to enjoy yourself over there because, according to society the fun’s over, and it’s time you got engaged. And so the question comes: “Do you think he’s going to propose?”

Now, apart from the fact the actual answer to this question is ‘How the hell am I supposed to know?’ this is awkward. Perhaps you’re not ready? Perhaps you’re not sure yet. Perhaps you’re actually dying for him to propose but the last thing you’d do is admit that to Linda from marketing at after-work drinks. And the fact is these people really don’t care how you feel: you’re a woman of a certain age in a relationship which means you must get engaged, whether you want to or not.

2. When are you having a baby?

You did get engaged! Enormous congratulations! Then you successfully held down a job while organising the wedding practically single-handed, which is a full time job in itself, and it all went well. Now you’re settling down to wedded bliss and some peace and quiet for a while. Enjoy – you deserve it!

Nope – not going to happen. Did you miss the memo? It’s time to have a baby.

It could take place anywhere. You might be innocently gazing at a toddler in the park, or awkwardly holding a newborn at a family event. It might be a distant cousin, or your best friend’s mum, or whoever. It doesn’t matter. Here it comes, and they’re just saying what everybody else is thinking: ‘Are you feeling broody yet?’

Now this is actually just off-the-chart inconsiderate. What if you don’t want children, or can’t have them? What if it’s a bit early to consider all these things, because you’re just stopping to enjoy your life for a minute? Also, of course, it’s none of their damn business. But this doesn’t matter, the only response is to smile, mumble something noncommittal and try to edge away slowly.

3. When are you having another baby?

Ok so you’re married/coupled up – tick – you’ve had your first child – tick – and that was exhausting, and life-changing and really, really hard, but you’re doing pretty well overall. You might even be back at work. Well done you! You rock! You amazing woman!

You’ll hear it before you expect to, probably, from someone you barely know, at nursery perhaps or at a random mums coffee and cake thing: ‘Are you having another soon?’ or ‘Little Timmy would be such a great big brother!’

Surely this is the last straw. ‘Haven’t I done enough?’ You want to yell. ‘I’ve done it all! Coupling up, marriage, procreation, holding down a decent job and not losing my mind and you’re asking for more? When will it end?’

Instead, of course, you go pink, and mumble something lame like ‘we’ll see’.

The thing is these people are just being plain rude – but they don’t know that. They are merely making small talk which happens to cover subjects which we wouldn’t discuss with anyone apart from our closest friends. But at the same time, it’s really not ok. We shouldn’t have to go pink and say we’ll see - we should really be able to tell them where to go. Or tell the truth, like ‘well xx and I haven’t had sex for a month actually, so another child isn’t looking likely any time soon - haha!’

Yes we are lucky, in our freedom to make choices about our bodies, our lives and our relationships, but we won’t be free from these ridiculous expectations until somebody stands up and says they’re not playing the game.

We are awkward Brits after all and making small talk is a national passtime – but can’t we think up some better questions. Preferably for the menfolk?

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