I am a strong believer in self-protection, perhaps because I have little faith in others being able to be sensitive enough to protect us when we need to be protected. Even when they are well-intentioned, even when they know our stories and would never ever want to hurt us, insensitive things are said and done. I know how easy it is, because I’ve done it myself. I said something thoughtlessly in front of someone, and I know it upset her. Later that day, we had a good cry about it together, and I believe she forgave me. I still feel awful about it, and I have never done anything similar, and I’m very cautious about what I say. Others are not, unfortunately, and don’t learn.
I approach insensitivity in two ways. If they are people I think will learn, will listen, or simply need a bit of a shock, then I will tell them why they’re being insensitive. Not in detail. I don’t go into detail, because I really don’t want to share my private feelings with insensitive clods. I don’t want to give others the power of knowing how vulnerable I am. But I do speak up occasionally when I think it’s needed. My most commonly used comment is this one:
I’m not the person you should be complaining to/ showing this to /telling this to.
But I’ve also had to say this:
I’m sorry, I don’t really want to hold other people’s babies.
The second group are the insensitive clods or people I don’t know. I ignore them. I give myself permission not to respond to rude, prying, insensitive people. I feel good about that. It allows me to protect myself, and keep my dignity and self-respect.
If someone wants to ask personal questions, I simply won’t answer them. Since I’ve faced infertility, I’ve been surprised at our automatic inclination to respond honestly to questions, no matter who asks them. We need media training by the people who teach politicians never to answer questions, so when we’re asked “why don’t you have children?” we can either change the subject completely, or turn it back on them (“why do you?), at the same time avoiding giving any meaningful answer ourselves.
I’ve used this answer:
If I wanted you to know, I’d tell you/have told you.
And this one:
You’d run a mile if I told you.
But I really want to use these ones (found on a “comebacks” webpage years ago):
The cats (dogs) turned out so well we didn’t think it was necessary.
The dog’s allergic.