This Runner's Trials

Relatively speaking: How to deal with annoying family questions this holiday season

Talk about a case of the Mondays. I did not have a good day.

  • I stayed up way too late last night watching my team lose to a disgusting opponent.
  • My work internet connection would not work.
  • I had to cancel a date with a friend to check out a new cupcake store because I learned they had no dairy-free options :(
  • I had to back out of running and yoga plans with myself because my back is really sore from my trip down the stairs the other day.

Don’t worry about me. I showed Monday who’s boss by downing an entire batch of Diana’s spectacular dough balls in fewer than 24 hours. No lie.

Since I’m cranky and in a carb coma, you’re not going to get the holly jolly “what I’m thankful for” post I had scheduled. Instead, you’re getting this ;)

How to handle intrusive family members

Let’s face it: the holidays can be packed with just as much angst as cheer. Unfortunately, November and December are not just about gingerbread lattes, snowflakes, and glitter. There’s plenty of over-spending, travel headaches, and unwelcome questions from family members, too.

Now in my case, this is not completely the fault of said family members. I live far away from my family so I only get to see a lot of them once a year. And I don’t talk to many of them more often than that one time each year. I doubt these questions are meant to be rude. People are just at a loss for what to talk about.

You can answer these questions in a few ways:

  • Be honest. Then go complain to your significant other about the rude question.
  • Be vague or outright lie. Then go complain to your significant other about the rude question.
  • Turn it around so the questioner feels awkward. Then go brag to your significant other about how awesome you are.

I’m sure you all know which one is my favorite ;)

Here’s how I handle my most favorite intrusive questions about marriage, infertility, and running:

Q: Still enjoying married life?

A: “No uncle Jim, and I’m so glad you asked me. I’ve been meaning to talk to someone about it. Our sex life has just gotten so stale. Any advice?”

Ok, so I’ve never really said this. I usually answer:

“It’s ok. He’ll do for now until someone better comes along.” Then hang your head and walk away. Time how long it takes for your mom to ask you about your marital problems.

Q: Any human children in the near future? I get “human” because I always refer to my dog as my child.

A:I’d like them, but how does one go about getting them?”

The questioner usually throws her head back (it’s always a her), laughs, and follows up with “are you two trying?”

This is my least favorite question. Respond with something similar to “yes, I have sex with my husband. Do you have sex with yours?” This really throws them for a loop because the questioner thinks it’s inappropriate to talk about sex over turkey dinner. But somehow discussing baby-making is perfectly fine.

Q: Oh, I heard about your infertility. (there will be a sad face, a whiny tone of voice, and you may be touched). I know someone who suffered from the same thing. And guess what? As soon as they stopped “trying”, they got pregnant!

A: So maybe this is actually my most hated question. And it only warrants one response. “Ohmygosh, no way. Thank you for the awesome medical advice! All we have to do is stop trying?! Hey (insert husband’s name), aunt Carol says all we have to do to get pregnant is stop having sex!”

Q: Are you still running? (usually said with an disapproving look)

A: “Umm yeah, are you still sitting on the couch/drinking too much alcohol/ not helping your siblings care for your aging parent?” Or a simple looking the person up and down and responding “yeah, are you still not running?” works, too.

Q: I heard you did a marathon. How long was this one?

A:26.2 miles, like all the rest of them.” They often don’t detect the sarcasm in your voice because you lost them as soon as you said “26.2”.

The, the may follow up with “26.2 miles!? 26.2 miles? I don’t even like to drive 26.2 miles! I couldn’t imagine doing that.” Respond with “there was a time I couldn’t imagine doing that either, uncle Jim. It took a lot of time and determination to get to where I am today. And there’s no reason- unless a doctor says otherwise- that you couldn’t one day be a marathon finisher.” Plug the couch-2-5k program and maybe even offer to run a 5k with uncle Jim in the next few months. Being snarky is fun, but sharing your passion for your sport and recruiting another runner is much more fulfilling :)

What’s your favorite intrusive question? How do you answer it? Happy Thanksgiving!


Comments (45) Trackbacks (1)
  1. I totally understand those questions. I don’t get the same ones though because I live close to my family. Once though when we were out in California visiting friends my grandma turns to me (I wore a promise ring at the time) and declares “I know why you’re not married. It’s because you wear that ring!”

  2. My favorite is when family members imply I’m a picky eating because I don’t eat meat.

    No, not eating meat doesn’t mean I’m picky. It is a dietary choice.

    At least my cousin is a vegetarian now too so we can both deal with it.

  3. BAAHAHAHAHAHHAHA! I love this. Please video tape this convo :)

  4. Question from grandparent: Is that side dish you brought “organic”? I don’t like that stuff. I’ve lived my whole life not reading the labels.”

  5. Haha…all GREAT answers to intrusive questions. I used to be asked by my family members “So, are you dating anyone?” or “When are you going to find someone?” Now it’s more like “when are you two going to get married/have kids?” But before I had my current and first REAL bf, I’m pretty sure my family thought I was a freak of nature. Like “why can’t this girl get a guy??” Oh family… good thing there’s good food and booze that comes with these gatherings! ;)

  6. My husband’s boss regularly asks “when we’re going to sling some pups.”

  7. Hahaa, I love this post! now that we’ve been married for 3 years I think we’re bound to get baby questions when we go home for Christmas… now I have some good answers..

  8. I love it when I bring dishes to holiday parties and get sweet remarks like, “Oh – our food isn’t good enough for you?” or “I don’t know if I want to eat that. It’s probably to healthy.” Very kind.

    The marathon question is funny. Recently a lady told me that her son ran marathons all the time in high school because he ran cross country. They ran marathons 2-3 times a week. I attempted to explain that these races were not marathons, but it wasn’t worth it. I ended up with, “Your son must be a really talented runner.”

    After every party, my immediate family comes home and has a good laugh about all the silly things people have said. It makes for some funny stories in the end.

  9. Lol! Love this. You crack me up. I have a lot of family I only see once a year and I get a lot of the same questions. I need to try some new tactics this year. Maybe a post it note stuck to my forehead?

  10. Oh gosh, sorry you’ve had such a bad day!! Not the way anyone wants to start the week.

    You’re holidays with family sounds a lot like mine. I have a very large extended family but I hardly ever see them anymore any there are endless numbers of awkward conversations. Good luck this Thanksgiving! I hope you’re not feeling as achy by the weekend so you can go for a relaxing run!

  11. I love the “how long is your marathon?” question! I’ve had so many people ask that & I chuckle a little every time. :)

  12. This post ROCKS!!! Just last week I went to an anniversary party for my husbands aunt and uncle. I got the “Ohhh you ran a marathon…how long is that?” and “Are you going to stop running and have babies yet”… and “All that running can’t be good for you” and then my favorite… the drunk cousin who screamed across the restaurant, “Liz you pregnant yet, what have you been married- two years?!?!” I love all your responses Jen. You crack me up : )

  13. ugh. just reading through your questions reminded me of all the fun that i have to look forward to this week. we’re going to my in-law’s house. they are NOT healthy, nor do they understand my healthy (mostly, except for my cupcake binge today…) lifestyle. i get a LOT of grief about how much i run and why i’m vegetarian and any number of other things. oh well. such is life.

    and i always just claim that i don’t want children. more because i want the conversation to end rather than explore more into my sex life….not entirely honest of me…but whatever…

  14. I love your responses to the baby questions, it is my pet hate when people ask me “when are you having kids”. It started as soon as we got married, and personally I know people have good intentions, but I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. I make it a point to never ask the question myself, but now I have some good come backs :)

  15. Ha! This made me laugh. My favorite part is “looking the person up and down and responding ‘yeah, are you still not running?’” I loled.

  16. Haha I love this punchy-ness! I am usually not as brave and don’t respond to rude/intrusive questions like you, but my boyfriend loves coming back with clever sarcasm.
    You are awesome – maybe I’ll use some of these on Thursday ;)

  17. Love your sarcastic responses! I’m in an 11-year relationship with my boyfriend, so I mainly just get the “When are you getting married” question.

  18. Oh my gosh — this post had me laughing OUT LOUD! Although I’m sorry you had a tough day (I feel so bad about your back) and that you have to face these questions, I love all your snarky responses.

    I especially love the running ones. I’m totally used to the crazy looks — as if I’m the unhealthy one by going out and exercising. And I always try to be patient and understanding when someone asks me how long my marathon was, but seriously — they’re all the same!! It’s especially annoying when the same person who asks me how long “this marathon” was then follows up by asking me my time. Because if they don’t know what a marathon is, they’re sure going to know what a good time is.

    I don’t mean to be snarky. I love my family and I don’t get to see them enough. But sometimes I could do without these types of questions (in addition to the “so when are you getting married??” ones which pop up with greater frequency now that a younger sister is engaged. So fun.)

    And seriously — why IS it okay to talk about whether you’re trying to have a baby when it’s not okay to talk about your sex life? Do we really convince ourselves that they’re not the same thing??

    • OMG I hate when they ask your time!!! The other day at work I walked into a meeting and everyone was congratulating me on my marathon. And this girl calls out, “What was your time” in front of everyone even though I’m pretty sure she has never run a mile in her life!

  19. HAHAHA! I love this! As a newlywed, we are getting the baby question left and right. As a runner, I get the marathon question too. I love the answer “yeah, are you still NOT running?” ;)

  20. Fantastic post! It really made me laugh!
    I have quite a small family and we are really close, so I rarely get those questions. Thinking about it, I wonder why I’ve never been asked “When are you getting married?” or “When will you have a baby?”.
    But my grandma sometimes want’s to know: “Are you still into that nonsense?”, which refers to me being a vegetarian. I simply answer “Yes, granny, I am! Please pass me the salad.” ;-)

  21. Oh Sweet Jeebus- I know what you mean!!! I am simultaneously laughing and getting annoyed as I know that I will have to deal with this family stuff in a couple weeks.
    I have to say that the moment I hate the most is when my mum (who I love dearly 99% of the time) tells people about my endo – in a sad pity filled voice – and then proceeds to inform them all about it. But everything she says is wrong. I end up appearing like a crazed person as I end up correcting her – no mum it isn’t a mild diagnosis – in fact the complete opposite but whatever you think yourself.

    I would love to come back with a really smart and sarcy comment but I dont have the guts. Must order some for christmas!

  22. My most annoying question was: “Have you finished that degree yet? What exactly are you going to be?” “ohh a psychologist. I’d better walk away now because I bet you’re reading my mind…”

    I try to smile and act like this is an original and funny joke. I really do…

  23. This is hilarious, Jen! Thanks for the tips! I love it all! And by the way, I refer to my puppies as my kids, too! LOL

  24. Absolutely dying. :) My favorite is “so are you USING your culinary degree?” Nope. Just microwaving TV dinners every night – can’t you tell?

    Are you USING your bachelor’s degree in archaeology Uncle Alan?

    Give me a break.

  25. I hate the questions about babies….especially now that all of my husbands friends are having them now. I literally just walked away from a couple mid-conversation a few weeks ago because of it.

  26. ahhhaaaa! I get those all the time and usually reply bluntly! I love this. You just made my tuesday. I might print this out and post it on my shirt during family holiday events!

  27. Fortunately there will be a distraction at our family dinner, a recent engagement and the happy couple will be there! So focus will be on them and all the wedding details, not childless us. :-)

    I’m sure we will still get at least a question or two though……

  28. Bahahahaha NICE! This post is hilarious! Nicely done. :)

    Btw, glad you liked the dough balls. Wait till you try butterscotch oatmeal….nommmmmmm. lol

  29. How about “you’re eating _____? But I thought you were on a diet.” I see RED when I get that remark, especially if said person is overweight.

  30. People can be so rude/weird! I always turn things around with “I’m curious why you asked…” I’m a therapist and when I start spouting psycho babble to them, they get worried.

    PS: I can’t stand when people ask “how long is that marathon”, but even worse when they tell me that they are running a “5k marathon”. Makes me want to pull my hair out!

  31. Haha, brilliant post. I love it. Thanks for the giggle. Definitely needed that tonight!

  32. I love the, “So, when are you buying a house?” question, followed up by, “Got to start saving more!” Yeah, so we actually save 1/2 of our income, but want to be responsible.

    Are these dough balls really as awesome as I keep hearing places?

    Love your blog.

  33. I intend to print this and pass it out to clients as a script. I intend to write your answers on my hand to use at my next family function. Hilarious!

  34. This post is so funny! Since I just got married in the last year, we were always fielding questions about when we were getting married. So annoying! What if we didn’t want to get married?

  35. You are so funny and this is soooo true!!I hate family reunion … I have been vegetarian for most of my life (and I am 31), every time my father in law asks me if I “witnessed some sad animal killing or had a trauma when I was a kid”. It drives me nuts. Or when they ask you if they “pay you” to run marathon, and when you say that you have to pay and the winner gets a price, they tell you “well, you can win” . You think they’re joking but they are so serious and thinking you are doing it for the money or to win!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I get so depressed … I run my first half last week, it was a hilly course, it was freezing cold and it was pouring rain all the time. I finished in 1.48 which for me is amazing. Mom’s and husband’s comment “if it wasn’t raining you could have done better … ”

  36. Hahaha! So true! I often get “But why would anybody WANT to run, especially in the morning?”, “Why do you eat so healthy, it’s so boring/tasteless” and “Your knees are going to be completely useless by the time you’re 50″ and of course the “You’re already 30, at your age I was already a mom/married” and, best of all, since my boyfriend and I used to have a long-distance relationship: (with a sad face) “But don’t you miss him all the time? Aren’t you worried that he’s going to cheat on you?”
    My knees are fine, I love running while the sun is going up, I eat tasty food and although I love my bf, I do have a life, especially when he’s not around!

  37. Well, my family is quite small and we see each other all the time (plus, there’s no Thanksgiving in Argentina) but I see this is universal… also, why are women generally subjected to this kind of torture more than men?
    The topic I really hate is work/career/money. I think my family may be too much of the goal oriented kind but they drive me crazy with that. Or maybe it’s all in my head.
    Anyways, this post is genius!

  38. “…the questioner thinks it’s inappropriate to talk about sex over turkey dinner. But somehow discussing baby-making is perfectly fine.”

    OMG this is the best part of your whole post! Seriously! For years it was fine for everybody to ask us when we were going to have a baby because THEY were ready, but I bring up sex and there is something wrong with me. Um, what did you think we were going to try to get pregnant? My favorite innapropriate question these days is people giving my belly a worried look and asking if we were trying. I always tell them, “I was. My husband had NO idea.” And then they act like it was me that was being rude. When he follows with, “She’s been trying to trap me since day 1″ is when they get really disgusted.

  39. I LOVE the questions about work/school etc. “So what are you/did you go to school for?” “What kind of job can you get with that?” “Well, you’re not gonna make any money doing that! You should be a pharmacist.” Same questions every time. As though they had not been asked before. Especially since I see my family All. The. Time. I’ve just gotten to a point where if they ask me these questions again I just reply “Asked and answered.”

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