Etiquette Questions, Answered: Tricky Conversations
How Do I Cut Off Nosy Questions From Strangers?
Q. I am the mother of five-month-old twins—a boy and a girl. When I take them out in public, I am bombarded with questions:
“Were they natural?,” “Are they identical?,” and so on. Plus, people always tell me I must have my hands full. I find these
comments offensive, but how do I respond without being rude?
San Jose, California
A. First, congratulations! Hearing about another mother’s new babies always brings back joyous memories of my own daughters at that age.
And my reaction is not unusual. Catching a glimpse of your adorable twins— with their little pearly fingernails and long eyelashes and sweet smiles—no doubt makes other people happy. They probably want to connect with you and therefore comment in a way they believe is supportive. By noting that you must have your hands full with two (which, admit it, must be true), they’re actually complimenting you on how well you appear to be navigating motherhood and, say, Costco at the same time.
As far as questions go, if they’re simple (“Do you have one of each?”), then answer them. If a question is prying or requires a long answer (“Did you have IVF or some other fertility treatment?”), demur. Don’t address the question itself. Instead, respond to the concern that precipitated it. Say something like “Thank you for your kind interest,” then mention an impending “nap time” and rush off, as if you need to get those twins home pronto, before they start crying in tandem.
So maybe you can’t change your health overnight. But you can get a head start.