Dear Bitter Butch,
I am a single woman in my fifties. I’ve been married twice, and have dated a fair amount, but at this time I’m not seeking out romantic relationships.
What drives me crazy is when people — and I’m not talking about friends here — just acquaintances, ask me about my dating life. (“Are you seeing anyone? Are you dating anyone now?”)
If friends ask, I don’t mind, because they are genuinely interested in my life and we have shared emotional intimacy. But if acquaintances ask (who are inevitably married), it seems somehow infantilizing and like they’re seeking fodder for their own entertainment.
I’ve taken to responding. “Not at the moment. How is your marriage going?” trying to emphasize that they wouldn’t ask relationship questions of a married person that was an acquaintance rather than a friend. They’re always shocked and confused, which is fine by me.
Bitter Butch, do you think my response is too aggressive? Can you think of any other ways for me to deal with this? Is it ok for me to be caustic here?
(Tired of relationship questions.)
Oh my god YES. YES. It is okay for you to be caustic here. NO I do not think it’s too aggressive. And no, I cannot think of any response that could possibly be better than this. (Miss Manners would suggest asking huffily: “I beg your pardon?” and she is obviously infallible. I confess that my response here very much endorses rudeness in response to rudeness, but I believe it justified.)
Before you happily coupled oblivious joymuffins reading this squinch up your mouths into buttholes, I’m going to explain why: we live in a world where for some reason it is perfectly acceptable to ask horribly intrusive questions of people who do not fit the norm, and utterly shocking to ask people who do fit the norm the identical question back.
Unfortunately, we have a rule in our society: women have a job to do. You get married, you have kids. If for any reason you are not interested in this, we can question the system that tells us that there is only one way of doing things, or we can give individual women a hard time. It’s a lot easier to just demand of individual women why they aren’t following the script. (And men, too, but with a twist that is perhaps for another column.)
Therefore, it is all of our jobs to needle the people who are not doing What Everyone Else Expects in order to make them step in line. Or, we lack any imagination whatsoever and simply cannot imagine any sort of happiness following any path other than the conventional one, and so we demand that these people get happy the way we want them to be RIGHT THIS GODDAMNED MINUTE or at least report on their progress in this area.
This absolutely perfect response of yours does three things:
- It shuts up the nosy shits who think this is their business.
- If they have a brain they might think about it and either realize what they were doing or at the very least refrain from asking someone else this question, so you are performing a mitzvah.
- Even if they are dumb assholes who refuse to be remotely self-reflective or who refuse to generalize, they will at least never ask you that question again.
I do not see the downside. Carry on, Majestic Warrior for All The Single Ladies. Carry on.
BITTER BUTCH aka Haddayr Copley-Woods is a queer, a cripple, a nerd, a mom to two kids with neurological differences, and has a truckload of opinions on everything including sex and relationships, parenting, disability issues, family relationships, work dynamics, gender/sexuality issues, and etiquette. You can reach her with all your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Image via Shutterstock]