Visiting family? Here’s how to avoid intrustive questions … sort of.

Posted on
Jan 5, 2010

During my last visit to California, there were inevitably a lot of questions from my family members about my life.

Or rather, there was one question, but it was asked roughly 400 times.

“When are you having kids?”

I swear to holy god, next time someone asks me that, I am going to punch them in the esophagus. As long as you’re asking questions that are none of your goddamn business, why not be more graphic about it? How about, “When are you going to allow fertilization of one or more of your eggs by your hubby’s sperm?” Personally, I can’t understand why questions about when we’re going to have kids are acceptable, but questions about someone’s sexual mechanics aren’t. It’s the same damn thing.

Besides, my husband clearly hates children:

See? Theyre killing him.

See? They're killing him. It's awful.

This is my husband and my godson. And no, it does not make my heart hurt. Not one bit. Nooo ...

This is my husband and my godson. And no, it does not make my heart hurt. Not one bit. Nooo ...

But while the whole frustrating experience ignited a flame of violent rage inside of me, it also got me to thinking about what’s the best way to handle such questions. My cousin found an advice column on the subject of how to answer invasive questions by family. In response to the “When are you having kids?” question, the columnist suggested something like, “Wow – you sure ask a lot of questions! Are you auditioning to be the next Barbara Walters?”


“Christ,” my cousin said, putting down the newspaper. “You’d be crucified in our family for giving a response like that.”

He’s exactly right. Since many of us travel to see family, I thought it pertinent to share a few of my replies to those oft-asked personal questions that family members like to ask. There are several approaches one can take – shocking your family into silence, blaming them for your flaws, deflecting attention onto a weaker family member. All of them have the potential to work. I’ve listed examples of each below. I wish you luck, and knowing that your family is probably less crazy than mine, a lot of success.

The Shock-Them-Into-Silence Response


Question: When are you having kids?

Answer: When “having them” doesn’t entail me pushing something the size of a watermelon out of my vagina.

This usually works for more uptight, properly-behaved families, and consequently it’s pretty ineffective amongst my own relatives. If your home situation is the former, I would proceed with caution, as you might end up hurting someone’s delicate constitution. In my case, I literally gave the above reply, and without missing a beat, they replied, “So, you’re going to adopt?”

The Openly Hostile Response


Question: Have you gained weight?

Answer: Fuck you.

This is actually really, really effective in my family, and, I assume, any family where something as personal as someone else’s weight gain can be discussed at the dinner table. While too much hostility can breed hurt feelings (I’ve found some of my relatives can dish it out but can’t take it themselves), it really does let people know that the topic is off-limits.

The Guilt Trip


Question: Why didn’t you finish your degree?

Answer: Because you didn’t hold me enough when I was little.

This sort of blame-game works well in any culture in which guilt plays a critical role (so in my Italian-Catholic family, it’s a winner). Particularly useful if you know that deep down a certain relative or parent truly feels that, when you were a kid, they didn’t spend enough time with you/hug you enough/buy you that toy you really wanted.

The Our-Family-Is-Whack Reply

Question: When are you two getting married?

Answer: When the thought of being related to all of you stops giving him/her night terrors.

A softer alternative to the The Openly Hostile response, this answer blames your dysfunctional family as a whole, which is something usually everyone can get behind. After all, they all have to deal with crazy relatives, and they can sympathize, rather than acknowledge the fact that they’re one of the crazies.

The Kidding-on-the-Square Response

Question: Are you going to buy a house anytime soon?

Answer: Well, I would like to, but someone has decided to be selfish and not submit themselves to euthanasia. So the inheritance will have to wait.

What better way to deflect open hostility than to pretend you are joking? Of course, when my aunt called me a “beech” a few visits ago, she hadn’t perfected this technique. You’re supposed to giggle while you’re insulting the person in question. Not immediately after. She just ended up sounding like less-friendly version of Cruella De Vil.

The Deflection

Question: How’s the job hunt going?

Answer: Better than my brother’s acting career.

(On a related note, my brother’s glorious bit part in H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds – NOT THE TOM CRUISE VERSION – can be seen tomorrow night on the SYFY channel. He gets devoured by aliens in the first 15 minutes. It’s awesome.)

Face it: no matter how bads things are in your life, someone in the family has done something more deserving of criticism (thank god I have a cousin who voted for George W. Bush … twice). Gently bring them up, and the focus will soon shift off of you, and on to the Republican, exotic dancer, or Chapter 11 bankruptcy filer. And don’t feel any guilt about it: they’d do it to you if they had the chance.

Remember, folks: happy families are all alike. Dysfunctional families are each unique in their own way. So my techniques might work for some, but not for others. What are your methods for visiting intrusive, there’s-no-such-thing-as-boundaries relatives? Whether it’s forcibly induced vomiting or public drunkeness, we want to hear from you! Share your tips in the comments section below.

In the meantime, I’ll keep reminding my family that my husband doesn’t want kids. Right, Rand?


Dude, you arent helping me make my point.

Dude, you aren't helping me make my point.

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