I haven't found Mr. Right yet; help me get my relatives to stop bugging me
December 24, 2004 5:09 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my relatives to stop bugging me about why I don't have a boyfriend yet? (mi+)

I'm looking for a polite but firm way of letting them know at least one of the following:

a) It's none of their business.
b) I haven't found Mr. Right yet.
c) I'm perfectly happy with my current independent lifestyle.
posted by invisible ink to Human Relations (38 answers total)
invisible ink, you may have more luck with rethinking the "polite" part. I'm a sweetheart and a pussycat, but when people start getting into my personal stuff, I pretty much just fix them with a cold stare and tell them that I do what I want to do. End of discussion.

End result: nobody messes with me that way. And really, I don't think anyone can truly hold it against me, either, because if they don't make the mistake of going where angels fear to tread, they find me delightful - so really, it's all up to them. So far, I haven't lost any friends or alienated any family members by just being very blunt on these issues, and refusing to engage.
posted by taz at 5:31 AM on December 24, 2004

can you find some part of their lives to question them about? i've found that a good answer to "why don't you have any children?" is "why did you have children?" asked with a horrified glance at the relevant shrieking brat...
it doesn't have to be quite so obvious - something that emphasises a related advantage of your lifestyle over theirs.
the trick is to be not quite so polite (as taz says). if you're too polite they'll think you're looking for sympathy - you have to be a little bit distant and aloof (dismissive, even) to convince them that you really do thing your life is ok as it is.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:42 AM on December 24, 2004

I am in agreeance, as Fred Durst would say - they're not holding up their end of the 'politeness bargain' by nosing into your personal affairs, uninvited. If someone asks why you're still solo more than once, it's no more Ms. Nice Invisible Ink Guy. Really, I would definitely tell someone, relative or not, to step off, if they don't get that for some reason, you not currently having a man in your life makes them feel either uncomfortable or sorry for you, and that they're the ones with the issues, not you. I'm sure that they're well-meaning, but a lot of relatives get away with a lot of crap under the guise of well-meaning. Have you ever just asked them, "Why do you care"?

(I worked Fred Durst and the word 'politeness' into the same sentence! *high fives self*)
posted by iconomy at 5:43 AM on December 24, 2004

For the "When are you going to have children?" question, Ms. Manners suggests a look of total surprise followed by "How soon do you need to know?" A similar response may work in your case.
posted by plinth at 5:48 AM on December 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

(ps. i think you should ignore (b) - it's too defensive).
posted by andrew cooke at 5:53 AM on December 24, 2004

Carol Anne - I was also thinking it would be kind of fun to mess with their heads a bit, too - like saying, "Oh, but I have, and just as soon as he gets parole, you will be meeting him!" And then just wait around (probably about 30 seconds) for them to start explaining to you why remaining single is a good thing! (but this is a joke - much better to be direct!)

But more seriously... If it were really a question of sexual preference and difference (I'm a girl, and *surprise* - I like girls!), this is something that I would get out in the open asap. To each his own, but it would feel like a peach pit was stuck in my throat every time I had to fake a conversation about my love life. I would much rather have all my relatives be aghast and sure I was going to hell than to have to play pretend that way. (Unless there was a trust fund involved. smiley face here.)
posted by taz at 6:23 AM on December 24, 2004

Whenever married people ask me "So when are you getting married?" I ask them "So when are you getting divorced?"
posted by revgeorge at 6:28 AM on December 24, 2004 [1 favorite]

I love that revgeorge.
posted by gramcracker at 6:37 AM on December 24, 2004

I went through this for a long time. Usually I would, if I were trying to be polite, say something along the lines of "I'm just waiting until I get my PhD." which would have the obvious follow-up "Oh, I didn't know you were in grad school?" "I'm not." Or I would say something flat like "I'm really too unpleasant to have a boyfriend right now, ask me next year." Otherwise if I were being honest I'd just say whatever the reason was, usually "Getting hitched up is low on my priority list right now" or "I'm still getting over my last long term relationship and I'm just really happy doing what I'm doing."

I agree that it's not really other people's business why you are or are not hooked up, but lots of people seem to lump it in with polite conversation which they then expect to unfold along polite lines. This is often difficult, if not unreasonable. I get the "why aren't you married yet?" or "why aren't you having kids yet?" questions. Telling people you don't really believe in getting married is hard to pull off without sounding insulting to their marriage. On the other hand, no one likes to get screwed with during the holidays, so I'd suggest trying to find a way to deflect the question -- if you think it's being asked with no ill intent -- in some other way besides going for the jugular.
posted by jessamyn at 6:38 AM on December 24, 2004

Try not to make a wedge out of the issue. MetaFilter is good for snarking-- family get-togethers: not so much. If they're like my family, they ask because they're from another era and culture where this sort of question is nothing out of the ordinary.

When relatives ask if I have I've found a girlfriend yet, I get a big smile on my face and say, "oh not yet, I haven't really been looking very hard!". It's almost funny and it gets the point across.
posted by 4easypayments at 6:47 AM on December 24, 2004


Relaying some personal experience here. I've been divorced for about 5.5 years and there's one side of my family that won't let the fuck up about 'So have you found a boyfriend yet?' 'How come you aren't seeing anyone?' 'You don't need to hate men forever, you know'. ( I don't hate men, btw.)

I usually just mumbled something about being too busy with working and traveling. Finding a MAN and having a MAN were just not really high up on the priority list. If any more pressing ensued, I'd just start exaggerating about my job or something else.

My uncle got drunk at my cousin's wedding reception and wouldn't stop the questioning/harassment/general creepiness about me still being single to the point where I had to have my mom act as a bodyguard. I eventually had to leave the reception because of it. That was the only real time I had to defend myself over assholery on the issue.

Then there's the opposite issue of dating someone and people telling you to dump him or you could do better. Some people just can't mind their own beans.

PS. When people tell me that I'll finally want kids when I meet 'Mr. Right', I say that if he's 'Mr. Right' then he'll be childfree too.
posted by pieoverdone at 6:51 AM on December 24, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone.

taz - The more I think about it, I guess the part about being "polite" is pretty futile. I am not a lesbian (not that there's anything wrong with being one!), I just have rotten luck with love.

andrew cooke- smart suggestion! I now know what to say to at least one of my aunts.

iconomy- that part about having relatives feel sorry for me made it sound like you've been in a similar situation. Either way, thanks for the advice.

jessamyn- words cannot express how comforting that first sentence of your post was - thank you, thank you, thank you.

4easypayments- your response made me smile:-)

pieoverdone- nice to know I won't be the only one suffering in frustration this holiday season!

Please keep your responses coming:-) I'm already thinking of printing out a copy of this thread to leave lying around the house for nosy relatives to find when they come to visit.
posted by invisible ink at 6:57 AM on December 24, 2004

Answer: "I don't know, when are you going to a) lose some weight b)do something about that bald spot c) stop dyeing your jair etc.?" in the most politel, upbeat way possible.
posted by signal at 7:12 AM on December 24, 2004

jair = hair.
posted by signal at 7:12 AM on December 24, 2004

Yikes! Never, never dish up insolence or rudeness as an answer-- it just leads to hurt feelings all around and a bad reputation.

Stand in front of the mirror and practice your cat-ate-the-canary smile. Tilt your head a bit and look up through your eyelashes. Learn to blush on cue. OK now you are set.

Whenever anyone asks anything you consider too personal:

When are you going to get a boyfriend?
When are you going to get married?
When are you going to get pregnant?
When are you going to dump that creep?

You pull out your "look," maybe even chuckle softly. Act like you are going to let them in on a secret, but then walk away. Maybe even nod as if the two of you have said everything that has needed to be said.

Would you rather have the reputation of a saucy minx up to no good or that of a prickly hedgehog? The choice is yours.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:43 AM on December 24, 2004

"When are you getting married?" Retort: "When you divorce your wife/husband."

This works best with relatives.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:43 AM on December 24, 2004

There is no way to put these people off. One of the joys of being a single woman is learning how willing people are to so casually express contempt for what they see as your pathetic, amputated state. Insulting them in return might stun them briefly but it communicates an air of anxiety, confirming their suspicion that you are dying inside every moment that you fail to identify your better half. They probably think they are "showing an interest," but they are also assuming you have no other interests to speak of.

So you could try what politicians do, and simply answer the question you wish to answer rather than the question they asked. It won't stop their requests for information on your "progress" over time, but it will keep the conversation polite. I think politeness is worthwhile here, because why make an ugly scene among your family? But I am also confident that there is no way to shut up people who ask that question, so my approach involves a generous dose of resignation.

I agree, by the way, that (b) sounds too defensive, but there's a more practical reason to avoid it: It appears to invite advice. The last thing you want is to be back here on New Year's Day saying, "What do I do about relatives who keep telling me how to dress and wear my hair, and keep reminding me that 'boys don't like girls with opinions'?"
posted by caitlinb at 7:46 AM on December 24, 2004

It's tricky to get right, by which I mean it's hard to do without being found out, but if you can subtly re-direct the conversation to perceived failings in the relatives lives, it not only gets them off your back, but gets them talking about each other instead of you. I'm not being glib here, it's the only way to go with really nosey, clueless individuals.

For example : "A boyfriend? No, still looking. I want to be sure to avoid (whatever upsetting quality that given relative's spouse has come to exhibit, say, massive weight gain or alcoholism)."

The trick is to sound genuine and not the least bit attacking when you do it, and to be certain you've got the qualities they're insecure about, rather than whatever about them may annoy you.
posted by dong_resin at 8:22 AM on December 24, 2004

Please don't let the creative punctuation in the above put you off, it's been a loooong night.
posted by dong_resin at 8:27 AM on December 24, 2004

How about, "Huh, you're the fourth person to ask me that today. You know it really hurts my feelings that so many people in this family seem to think there's something wrong with how I live my life. I'm pretty happy, myself."
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:36 AM on December 24, 2004

or, "At first I thought it was my appearance, but now I'm sure it's my personality."
posted by genevieve at 8:54 AM on December 24, 2004

or, "As soon as I can find someone who can put up with nosy new relatives"
posted by LairBob at 9:16 AM on December 24, 2004

I go for the direct approach:

"It's none of your business, and if you continue to pester me about my private life, I shall have to quit talking to you."
posted by five fresh fish at 9:46 AM on December 24, 2004

I'm gay.
posted by Alt F4 at 9:54 AM on December 24, 2004

The fishes have the right approach. Snappy comebacks are all well and good, but the sort of person who blunders around asking questions like this is not likely to be susceptible to Getting The Message. A simple "Let's leave my private life private, please" will likely get the message across more clearly.
posted by majick at 9:59 AM on December 24, 2004

Personally, I like Joe Pesci's response in Goodfellas

Tommy's mother: Why don't you get yourself a nice girl?
Tommy (Pesci): I get a nice one almost every night, Mom.

posted by Clay201 at 10:50 AM on December 24, 2004

You gotta take the bite out of the unsaid followup, that there must be somethign wrong with you, by saying, "A girlfriend? Could you imagine having to put up with me on a regular basis?" Go on the offensive, so to speak.
posted by notsnot at 11:38 AM on December 24, 2004

"I shall be patient. So should you."
posted by jimfl at 12:24 PM on December 24, 2004

You could ebay yourself a boyfriend. They send you letters and everything!
posted by vodkadin at 12:39 PM on December 24, 2004

Well, invisible, I'm just about to hop on a plane for LA, anwyay. I have low hourly rates... (Just kidding)

My parents have given up on me. I've basically told them that my entrepreneurial lifestyle doesn't allow me to have a girlfriend at the moment and that I'm far too self-centered right now to maintain a relationship, even with all but the most tolerant of my friends.

My aunts and uncles and grandparents always ask me. I just say that there's occasionally been someone in the picture, and I am dating, just no one in particular has caught my fancy in a way that's worth talking about.
posted by SpecialK at 1:53 PM on December 24, 2004

Just shrug and say "I don't really want one right now" Or "I'll get one when I feel like it, I suppose"

My family doesn't normally ask, but now I've got nieces and nephews who are curious as to why I'm not married with kids, and I've found that's a nice way to tell them that I'm perfectly happy as I am. I think they're satisfied with my answers because kids have a certain respect (envy?) for the "I didn't feel like doing it, so I didn't" philosophy of life.
posted by stefanie at 3:23 PM on December 24, 2004

"When will you find a man to settle down with?"
"You mean they're hiding?"

Humor is a good way to push things aside. Well-meaning relatives will likely let you off with that.

"When are you going to get yourself married?"
"When I can afford the divorce."

Also, keep in consideration which relative you're talking to. The less uptight, the more direct you can be.

"So, have you got a boyfriend yet?"
"Yeah, his name's Bud. Bud Weiser."
posted by Saydur at 6:14 PM on December 24, 2004

I would also recommend against the snark, because, as you point out yourself, you want to be polite.

It seems two good ways are to answer sillily, or address the real issue that bothers you.

A: "When are you getting a new boyfriend?"
B: "October 14, 2007, shortly after 3 pm."

A: "When are you getting a new boyfriend?"
B: "Look, I'm really sorry, but I'm tired of getting asked that all the dang time. Don't worry, I am happy and doing great; now let's talk about something more interesting."

The second answer sounds goofy, but that's just because we're all so used to using sarcasm or anger in our day to day life. It's a polite, direct answer, though, and if a relative continues to pester you about the question, they are then being directly rude, completely separate from their value systems or upbringing.
posted by Bugbread at 4:53 AM on December 25, 2004

Not to brag, but I've realized how lucky I am to have close family that so doesn't care about this. But today. I had a cousin's wife ask me when I was going to get married and start having kids.

For the record, I'm a 26 year old woman, never really dated much at all (I have lots of guy friends, not boyfriends), and my only "real" boyfriend was in the past year, but we broke up this summer. I'm quite satisfied with my life, job, going back to school, etc. I've never been traditional in anything, and marriage has never been something that I've really looked forward to. If it happens, cool. If not, eh, whatevs.

Anyway, as her 4 kids were screaming and running around like the little crazy heathens that they are with their 5 cousins, she saw me playing with her 2 year old daughter. Every kid in the house was under the age of 12, and hyped up on sugar and Santa. She said something like, "so, Alison, when are you gonna start popping out some grandkids for your mother?" I replied with something like, "oh, she already knows she won't be getting that out of me anytime soon. And there's no way I'd wanna put up with this madness on a daily basis." She just kinda laughed and said, "yeah, haha, you're gonna end up with 9 sons or something, haha!"

Right at that moment, her 9 year son old slammed her 7 year old son into the wall, right between us. Like, a blur of boys flew between us and SLAMMED into the wall. My jaw dropped, I just looked at them, looked at her, looked back at them, and said, "yeah....um, no thanks." It couldn't have been timed better.

Anyway, you're asking for advice, not stories, but I felt the need to share. I would totally go the sarcastic/snarky route, but they all know me as a sarcastic, snarky person. If that's not your style, I'd just say something like how you're not willing to settle just for the sake of getting married. That way, it will make you seem smart and independent, and it can be kind of a jab at the asker (if delivered with the right attitude and a glance across the room at their loser spouse).
posted by AlisonM at 7:26 PM on December 25, 2004

Cultivate your best Billy Crystal/Miracle Max voice:

"Inigo Montoya: Are you the Miracle Max who worked for the king all those years?

Miracle Max: The King's stinking son fired me, and thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice paper cut, and pour lemon juice on it?"

Of course, this assumes not having a someone is painful for you. Like many people in this thread, part of the reason I'm single is because I've had plans that didn't allow me to settle down earlier. But it's also somewhat painful for me, since about two years ago I reached the point where I'd like to make a home with someone I have special feelings about.
posted by namespan at 9:38 PM on December 25, 2004

I'd cultivate my best Napoleon Dynamite voice: "Idiots! Why do you think?" Trumps Miracle Max, I think.
posted by weston at 12:19 PM on December 26, 2004

Luckily (?) my family mainly consist of of people who has been widowed for decades and unmarried people, so they all agree that a partner isn't the most important thing in the world.

But if asked by random acquaintances usually I respond something along the lines of "Boyfriend? Nah, I don't have time for that." (I'm busy saving the world!)
posted by mummimamma at 2:01 PM on December 26, 2004

Of course, this assumes not having a someone is painful for you.

no it doesn't. just pretend it's painful to get them off your back.
posted by juv3nal at 5:47 PM on December 26, 2004

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