4 Personal Questions People Seem to Think Are Small Talk

#2. "How's Your Love Life?"

This intrusive question is a classic at the Thanksgiving dinner table, and is most commonly delivered by an uncle with a history of head injuries.

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"Obamacare means now I can smell numbers."

You can sort of see why Uncle Concussion here might think this is a safe topic of conversation. Family gatherings are basically all about relationships, and if you want to avoid yet another conversation about Aunt Brenda's hair loss, why not ask the person of a relationship-forming age what's new? Especially for a relative who doesn't know you well enough to ask about your actual hobbies and interests, asking who you're fucking seems a safe bet. Everyone's trying to fuck someone, right?

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"Your Aunt Brenda is insatiable."

That said, it's unlikely the person asking this question is going through that reasoning; it's just an idiot being idiotic. In this case, it's someone who has forgotten how intensely awkward the process of forming relationships is, an experience all sorts of packed with humiliating setbacks and false starts.

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"Thanks for asking, Uncle Terry. My new boyfriend's great, actually. He's, uh, robust. He has good legs.
He's a little oaky. And he goes well with meat."

Even when you do have a love life, with a boyfriend/girlfriend/both, talking about how it's going is often the last thing you want to do. What if it's not going well? That can hurt even to think about, much less discuss. And worse, what if your love life is going really well? Like acrobatically well? What kind of crazy person brings that up at Thanksgiving?

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"Afterward there's just hair everywhere."

#1. "When Are You Having Kids?"

This one is another favorite of idiot uncles, but unfortunately it doesn't stop there. When talking to someone newly married, almost everyone thinks this question is in bounds. Typically within about 10 minutes of getting married, and then every 10 minutes thereafter until you and your partner are knocked up, someone will sidle up to you and with a conspiratorial grin ask, "So, when are you having kids?"

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"It's OK. I know how they're made. We can talk openly."

Again, we can sort of see why people would think to ask this. It's pretty traditional for people to have kids after getting married. (If you do it the other way around, they will become the Antichrist.) Asking someone about a reasonably foreseeable event in their future doesn't feel that strange, not much different from asking what they might have planned for a long weekend.

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"Gonna drink eight or 20 beers by the lake, then have a couple kids. You?"

But oh shit, is this ever not the same thing. For example, if someone is trying to have kids but it's not working so good, asking them how it's going (even if you don't know) is about the most humiliating and painful thing you can do to them.

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"Yeah, it turns out I have a condition called imploding testicles, so the kids thing might have to wait. Thanks for asking, though."

And then we have people who have decided they don't want kids. This isn't unheard of, but it's still probably not a common choice, which means that these people are very likely to have their decision questioned, derided, or dismissed every time they bring it up. What seems a pleasant little piece of small talk to you is for them starting an argument that they're tired of having.

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"Why would I want to bring someone into a world with people like you in it? Why, Tim? ANSWER ME, TIM."

And of course this question is just loaded as hell when it's directed at women, and again, among co-workers it's potentially illegal. But even among friends and family, there's a lot more going on in this question than it might seem. The prime child-having years are also the prime career-building years, and doing both at the same time is difficult and likely to involve compromises in both. Consequently, it's not unreasonable for a woman to delay having children a few years while she's trying to establish her career. And yet there will be a significant number of people in her life who think (and are eager to tell her) that she has made the exact wrong decision. Again, our seemingly simple little question is opening a door into a land of fury, full of arguments that the person you're talking to is tired of having.

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"No, Mom. I've told you before. The only 'children' I'm interested in supporting now are my career and my opiate habit."

So please, please please, don't ask anyone ever when they're going to have children. Ask them about their day, ask them about their weekend, ask them if they'd like to fight. Even ask them about the fucking weather.

Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and is sorry about what he said. Join him on Facebook or Twitter to express your outrage in person.

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