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Strangers Getting Personal

Beeswax: Mind your own.

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might think that our daughter’s grandmothers were up to something. After all, how many random Washingtonians can ask me when Baby #2 is due?

To be clear, I’m not pregnant. And that’s precisely the point. I am the non-pregnant-looking mother of a 9-month old-bundle of wonderful. At this point, I have lost count of how many strangers–all women–have asked me about my next, theoretical baby.

When we landed in Washington last fall, Lila was 4-months-old. Strangers cooed and asked if she was my first baby. However, it didn’t take long before the key question became whether she were my “only baby,” as if I should have at least one other. I don’t.

We had several babysitters last fall who asked on the day we met whether Lila was my “only baby” and whether I intended to have more. Some even asked how many children I planned to have–as if that weren’t a deeply personal question!

A front desk attendant in our building asked that just the other day. Seeing the three Braunsteins bundle up as we headed out to Sunday brunch, she called across the lobby to ask “how many others we plan to have.”

My husband looked scandalized. I might have been, too, but I’m used to people prying at this point. So smiling, I gave her my diplomatic non-reply: We haven’t decided yet. Because after all, whether we have or we haven’t, it’s none of her business. Right now, we are The Braunstein Three, and that’s enough for me.

On a recent mother-daughter outing, I shopped for socks, while Lila was busy being admired by the store staff. The dressing room attendant, a native of Chad, asked if Lila were my first and only baby. I said yes. She assured me that was a good thing. Apparently, in her culture, a mother whose first baby is a girl will never have insurmountable problems. So, I’m lucky.

I didn’t disagree. I love being Lila’s mother. Having a baby girl to dote on and dress up is oodles of fun.

So, you can imagine how amused I was when I approached the cash register with my socks and the clerk, a complete stranger, asked, “So, when are you having a boy?” That was a new one. But, not missing a beat, I decided to tweak her and said I didn’t want a boy. I thought my girl was wonderful. She asked if I planned to have another girl–as if I can control that–so I said that’d be great, as I did my best to quickly pay and leave.

Emerging into the cold winter air, I felt somewhat bewildered. Why do strangers care? I never attract so much attention when I walk around solo. Somehow, when Lila’s with me, strangers ask the oddest–and most personal–questions, and these nosy people ask as if theoretical Baby #2 is a debt I owe them personally that must be paid posthaste (or at least in nine months). Truly, why are they so impatient about a baby they’ll never see or call a relative?

Now, to be fair, I assume all of us wonder these things about other people. Everyone knows a couple that’s been dating forever, and you wonder if they’ll ever decide to make it official. Or there’s another couple that’s been married for a while but hasn’t had kids. Are they waiting, planning to be forever childless, or is there a painful story there? The difference between my questioners and me is that I keep my wondering to myself. I don’t believe it’s appropriate to ask.

And so this brings us to the crux: to be blunt, nosy people of Washington, Baby #2 is none of your business. The next time you’re tempted to ask, remember Dr. Evil’s “SHHHHHHHHHHH!” and know that he or she will–or won’t–arrive when my husband and I are good and ready.

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