CHENNAI: Imagine this: You’re at a social gathering, debating whether to have a second helping of that amazing kulfi when a well-intentioned ‘older’ person sidles up to you and demands to know ‘So, do you have any good news for me?’ If you’re a married woman of a certain vintage you’ve probably played the role of ‘woman at the dessert cart’ on multiple occasions and know that ‘good news’ can only equal being pregnant.
I was never particularly good with acerbic or witty repartees to these probes. I was too polite to do little else than smile, say ‘Soon mami’ and then make a beeline for that second kulfi. Even when I was aggressively interrogated about contraception. I would always regret my reticence later.
So it’s particularly satisfying for me now, two kids later to see that women are no longer being polite and saying ‘Soon mami’. They’re giving it back.
‘I’m not pregnant’ Jennifer Aniston wrote in the Huffington Post, ‘Just fed up’ before going on to lambast tabloids for the intense scrutiny placed on women around motherhood.
Some people might say, ‘What’s the big deal? It’s just a normal question. She’s a celebrity she should be ok with it’. Just do an image search for ‘Jennifer Aniston pregnancy rumours’ and see how the tabloids have reduced a talented, bright woman in the prime of her life to little more than incubator. It’s deeply depressing.
Apparently even if you’re the number 1 doubles tennis player in the world, you don’t get spared of unclejis masquerading as journalists asking you when you’re planning to settle down. Sania Mirza’s response to Rajdeep Sardesai got her an immediate apology, but the fact that it even passed his brain-to-mouth filter and was deemed appropriate beggars disbelief.
I’m a naturally curious person. I love meeting new people and asking them about their lives. But the one question I never ask is ‘Do you have kids?’ It doesn’t matter if I’ve known you 10 minutes or 10 years but I operate on the simple belief that your children have no impact on my life, unless they’re peeing on my rug, and you not having children is none of my business.
Parenthood doesn’t make a person more interesting (if anything it can turn the most interesting person into a crushing bore who wants to convince you that attachment parenting, midbrain activation and pureed broccoli are the way to go), accomplished or responsible.
Our desire to know if and when women are going to become mothers stems from our need to label them for our own convenience, so that they don’t seem threatening. They make us question our own decisions, the reasons behind them and perhaps reveal grey areas we don’t want to venture into. So we become defensive and throw back statements about ‘selfishness’ and ‘regretting’ it. Women who don’t wish to have children throw our well-ordered notions lovingly nurtured by societal norms in to disarray.
While we think nothing of asking women when they plan to settle down, we don’t seem to feel the need to question men about matters of reproduction. Sir Mick Jagger just revealed that he’s all set to be a father again at the age of 82. Perhaps someone would like to ask him when he plans to stop settling down.
(The writer’s parenting philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me)