In my home culture there are topics of conversation that are seen as impolite–politics and religion, to name a couple. And there are definitely questions you never ask, even to good friends or family members. But here in Asia, there doesn’t seem to be a topic or a question that is considered too intrusive…especially when asking a foreigner. I am asked questions regularly that seem nosey and rude by my American perspective.
I think I have stumbled across the perfect way to deflect unwanted questions. Vagueness. The first time I was asked where I was going, I felt the need to tell them where: “to the mall” or “to my friend’s house.” When asked when I would be home, I felt the need to tell them when. But now I know I can just tell them I am going “out” and I will be home “later”. I answer the question, but, I don’t really answer the question.
Lets run a few scenarios to let you practice the art of vagueness. I’ll set the stage. You are at the store buying some snacks (oreos, because that is the only familiar thing in the store) and you strike up a conversation with the (male) cashier.
Cashier: Where are you from?
Cashier: Oh, where do you live?
You: Here, in this city.
Cashier: Can I get your number?
You: Here, (looking at your phone) I can give you my husband’s number.
Diversion. No real information given.
And here is another situation. You just moved to a new area and into a new house. You are outside chatting with your neighbor while your children play around you.
You: Hi. It is so nice to meet you. We are so happy to be here in this neighborhood.
Neighbor: How much do you pay in rent?
You: Oh, just what the owner of the house asked for.
Neighbor: How much do you make?
You: Thankfully enough.
Neighbor: Are all these kids yours?
You: Yes. (I guess I have to be clear on this question.)
Neighbor: Do you use birth control?
I. kid. you. not. That is the single most-asked question I receive. Do I use birth control? Hello, stranger. Maybe you could ask my name first before you question me and my husband’s family planning methods. At first I would get annoyed (ok, so I still get annoyed) but I find humor is the best way to deflect that question. I laugh and make a joke ’cause there is no way I am going to go into those details with you while standing in the middle of the street. And also because…I don’t know you.
So maybe humor and vagueness is the way to deflect unwanted questioning. How about you? What is the craziest question you’ve been asked?