The Three Questions I’m Never Asking Anybody Ever Again

Some things it's just better not to know.

Okay, so the first question you should never ask anyone is pretty obvious, because almost all of us have done it anyway. The question is, “When are you due?” And the reason you should never ask it of anyone is in case they’re not.

Theoretically you could safely ask this of men, but given the increasingly tenuous boundaries of gender, better to play it safe and just zip your lip. Because, really, if you’re a woman and you’ve ever been asked this when you weren’t, you remember. The moment burns in your memory even if (as in my case) it was decades ago. Pregnancy is a joyous occasion. Having a gut is not. Being reminded that you have a gut really is not. So, don’t ask this question. Even if you’re pretty damned sure she’s due any minute and she’s carrying twins.

The second question you should never ask anyone is, perhaps, less obvious, because sociologically, it’s a more recent development.

The question is “How are the kids?” in circumstances when the kids you’re asking about are over 21.

Sure, maybe your kids and the person you’re asking’s kids went to play dates and preschool and grade school and middle school and high school together, were in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts together, competed on the same soccer or lacrosse or swimming or football team. Doesn’t matter. Life has just become too uncertain. Kids these days tend to take circuitous routes toward adulthood, and frequently undergo long stopovers in their childhood bedrooms or parents’ basements. I have a friend whose sons are inching close to 30 and still living with her. As Christmas approached, with its rounds of holiday get-togethers, she faced the social whirl with dread. “I just know everybody’s going to ask about Tommy and Ralph, and what am I supposed to say? ‘Oh, Tom’s still thinking about going back to community college, and Ralph’s still working nights at the supermarket’? Believe me, if anything had changed — if there was any good news — I’d be shouting it from the goddamn rooftops!” What should have been a pleasant diversion loomed ahead of her like a prison sentence, because of this question that nobody should ever ask.

And the third question? I asked it just the other day, of a handsome, articulate, well-educated, respectable, eminently eligible young man in his late 20s. The question concerned him and his girlfriend. It was, “So, how did you two meet?” The answer he gave, without a moment’s hesitation, was, “On OkCupid.” Which just dumbfounded me.

Here was a guy who had everything going for him, and he was looking for love online? Had all else failed him? His friends didn’t have any friends? He didn’t run into women he found dateable at work, at the gym, at restaurants or bars? Four years of college and six post-college in the big city hadn’t produced any suitable matches?

I should have known better, though. Because OkCupid and Tinder and and Farmers Only is where everybody meets mates these days. It’s not like in the old days, when couples who became acquainted via the faintly salacious classified ads in the back of Philly Mag made up cover stories to hide their embarrassment. (“We met at a church bazaar, Mom!”) The last six or seven young couples I’ve asked “So, where’d you meet?” have all said the same thing: “Online!”

They’re not embarrassed by the question. But I’m embarrassed at their answer. I’m happy that they’re matched up, yet I’m troubled by a generation that’s rejected serendipity. Finding a mate online is like shopping online: You know all the salient facts about that bedspread, but you can’t see or touch it. You don’t really know how it’ll look in your bedroom until you put it there.

Then again, I have a feeling question number three is somehow correlated with question number two. Student debt and extended adolescence have left young people with a smaller window in which to locate that certain someone. If you’re not on your feet economically — not to mention out of your parents’ basement — until you’re almost 30, you’re bound to be in more of a rush to find The One and get started on your life together than if you begin searching at 22. Maybe for young people today, there just doesn’t seem to be time enough to wait and see what’s lying up ahead.

Since I don’t seem to be able to get over my hang-ups about online dating, I’m just adding that question to my short list of stuff I’m better off not asking. I have a feeling it’s a list that will only keep on growing as I go through life.

Follow @SandyHingston on Twitter.