“What are you thinking, in the baby timeline?”

And thus “Love Is Blind’s” Vanessa Lachey topped off an already decidedly awkward reality show reunion hosting gig by becoming that person: the one who can’t stop asking people if and when they’re going to have children. Sure, there’s obvious interest in the next steps of contestants willing to date, fall in love and get married on camera. But Lachey’s failure to get the hint that the couples wanted to change the subject and calling herself “Auntie Vanessa” was triggering to those of us whose real-life aunts, uncles, co-workers and random ladies encountered in the produce aisle don’t get the hint, either.

“It’s amazing to have this societal expectation that what’s going on with your body should be public knowledge,” said Dr. Lindsay Cirincione, a psychologist and director of outpatient operations of Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Pediatric Psychology Consultation Service.

And yet, that expectation exists. “It’s so invasive. They’re really out there doing this, asking about the function or dysfunction of your various organs,” said award-winning author and essayist Meg Elison, 40, who lives in Rockville. “When someone asks, ‘Do you have children?’ and I say, ‘No,’ the answer is not satisfactory. They need to know where that ‘no’ comes from. They want you to supply a personal enough answer, until you realize that they don’t want an answer — they want you to apologize for existing.”

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Lynn Filusch, 53, a communications marketing strategist and former Silver Spring resident now living in Toronto, said she and her husband didn’t feel “burdened in the way other people are with these really intrusive questions, but we did receive an email from one of our parents that if we didn’t provide them with a grandchild, they would have nothing to live for. We were just enjoying each other and it was like, ‘Wow.’”

The kid question is universal: Single people get asked when they’re going to get married and start having kids. Newly married couples, like the “Love Is Blind” cast, get asked when they’re going to start trying. At my sister’s wedding, seven months after my own ceremony, a relative said, “You look fat. Are you pregnant?” Every single part of that question was shockingly rude, and you never really know what’s going on with people. Maybe they’ve tried to get pregnant and can’t. Maybe they’ve had miscarriages; Filusch and her husband had four before conceiving their son. Maybe they just don’t want kids.

And none of it is any of your business.

Lauren Gold, 48, a lawyer in Takoma Park, said she has “never been somebody who really wanted kids. I have always known I’d be fine without them. Had I found the right partner in my 20s or 30s, I may have. But I didn’t. It’s just random people that you meet who would say, ‘Oh, are you going to have kids?’ And when the answer is no, it’s ‘Oh, why not?’ That leads you to have to explain this, and that has persisted.”

Many of the folks I talked to said the questions are especially persistent from those who already have children. Amanda, a 46-year-old married Baltimorean who asked me not to use her last name for privacy reasons, thinks that “certain individuals who have children think that having children is a responsibility that many of us have to society, which is a ludicrous concept to me.”

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I’m sure everyone has parts of their personal lives they are sensitive about, so why would anyone think this sort of invasion of privacy is OK? “I like to assume the best of people, and sometimes those questions are rooted in care, and sometimes the interest is coming from more of a selfish place. I think people just ask questions about anything. And that one can be hurtful,” said Cirincone, who has counseled parents “who have either children with medical conditions or have lost a child. They get, ‘Well, are you gonna try again? Are you afraid to try again?’”


Sometimes, people don’t have kids because they just don’t want to have them, ever. Frank Strovel, 60, a former broadcaster who’s now in the culinary field, survived what he calls a “tumultuous childhood” that included divorces, isolation and instability. “I kind of made a conscious decision not to be a father,” he said. “I had to take care of myself. I certainly did not want to be responsible for a child. However, you go to the family reunions, or talk to your aunt from Michigan, and it’s all, ‘When are you getting married? Your mom’s been sending me photos! Who’s this girl?’ People say the most brazen things.”

I admit I had assumed that mostly women get this question, but Strovel said he’s talked to his close male friends “about what this means for us. When I get that question, it’s like an accusation that I’m doing something wrong, like I’m selfish. It’s the complete opposite. I think I made a very wise choice.”

Teddy Rice, 40, a data analyst turned artist from Baltimore, agrees that men “get the same pressure, but we don’t talk about it. I’ve been getting that pressure since I was 18.” Although he may have nipped that line of inquiry in the bud. “The last time someone asked was about five years ago, at an Outback Steakhouse. My uncle said, ‘Teddy, I see you’re getting older, with no kids.’ And I said, ‘Charlie, I see you’re old, and you’re not dead yet.’ No one’s asked me since.”

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That’s one way to do it! You just want people to back off. “I’m willing to cheerfully say, ‘I’ve had a really painful journey wanting children and not having any, thank you very much!’” Elison said. “They don’t like that at all.”

So how do you deal with these questions, besides wearing a sign that says “Stop asking me about having kids,” which would probably invite more questions? Cirincione said that sometimes it’s helpful to have a scripted answer, or to “say something as simple and direct as, ‘This is not something I’m interested in talking about right now.’ You are in charge of what other people know about you. It is never our job to educate other people. The best way we can show up as the best humans we can be is to understand that other people’s personal choices are not your business.”

And all the would-be uncles and aunties — including you, Auntie Vanessa — have to be OK with it. Or not. That’s your problem.