Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ask an Offensive Question…

There are some questions that people should never ask perfect strangers. I was asked one of those questions today.

In the middle of a discussion about whether we were enjoying the current weather, the clerk checking my groceries asked, “Have you gone through menopause yet?” 

Highly inappropriate, right?  

Though it didn’t really bother me that she was asking a much-too-personal question given our “relationship,” I was completely insulted by the assumption she was making about my age. It left me feeling old and, worse, feeling like I looked old.  

Am I old enough to have gone through menopause?

Maybe at the absolute youngest end of the spectrum, but that’s  not the point. She was making an assumption based purely on my appearance. A very bad idea for exactly the same reason you should never ask someone you don’t know if they’re pregnant. In either situation, if you’re wrong you’re probably going to offend the person by basically telling them they look at least 50 years old (in the former situation) or fat enough to be carrying a child (in the latter). And if you’re right…well, take those guesstimating skills to The Price Is Right because nobody here is much impressed with them!

I was initially surprised by the woman’s question. As I made my way to my car, I felt hurt. By the time I got home, I headed straight for my computer to vent my overwhelming anger. Fortunately, as with all emotional pieces of writing I plan to make public, I waited several hours—and made several revision passes—before posting it. And so…

Instead of continuing to harbor any ill will against this woman—who, for all I know, was going to pass on a very helpful menopausal tip—I choose to think of this unpleasant event as a learning experience. I see it as a reminder to think before I speak, to not let the words of a random person ruin my day, and…well…to motivate me to continue my New Year’s goals of exercising more and eating healthier!

What questions have you been asked (or asked someone else) that should be added to our list of things you should never ask a stranger?


  1. Hah! That is so funny! But I can see how it would be terribly upsetting, too. Actually, the incident itself isn't so funny, but your treatment of it here in this post had me laughing out loud!

  2. Thanks, Leslie! That helps take a bit of the sting out of the experience for me.

  3. Hi Lisa,

    I've heard all about you from my daughter (Michelle from Diary of a Late Bloomer. You two have so much in common it's uncanny! So what is a "Late Bloomer's" mom to do but start reading this Late Bloomer blog as well. I have been enjoying it.

    I had to chuckle out loud when I read this one. Yesterday I was at a friend's house who is a Mary Kay consultant. Her manager was there. They were figuring out what all of us who were there needed for our skin routines. The manager looked at me and just assumed I needed the one for over 50. Well of course I'm all of that but it would have been nice if she had at least pretended that she didn't know. I thought of you immediately because I had read this particular blog day earlier that day.

    BTW, I can't figure out how to get an ID for here. Any suggestions?

  4. It's so nice to meet you, Michelle's mom!

    I can tell from your comments on Michelle's blog that you are very young at heart...which makes your recent Mary Kay incident that much more vexing. My folks love getting senior discounts but, like you, they don't appreciate it when people just assume they're "mature" enough to qualify for it. My pet peeve is when people call me "ma'am." I can't tell you how excited I get (and how long that excitement lasts) when someone calls me "miss." What are we gonna do?

    As for an "ID"...if you have a Google account, you can create an ID for yourself. If you sign in as "anonymous" though, I think you're just anonymous. Let me look into it and see what more I can find out. Or if anyone reading this can help, that'd be great.

  5. Thanks Lisa. "ma'am" is the worst!