I think there should be an assault allowance. For special times when people say things that are insensitive or very hurtful. Like that scene in Parenthood when the dad of the autistic boy punches a man in the face in the middle of the grocery store checkout because the man called his son a "retard." That guy totally deserved it, because even if the child didn't have developmental difficulties, it's still never okay to say something like that about a child. If anyone ever said something like that about any of my kids, I would have trouble stopping at one punch in the face.
And I'd probably get away with it, because I'm a woman.
But so often I am too paralyzed by shock or pain to respond the way I find myself hours later wishing I had done. And it's one thing when strangers say something inappropriate made even worse by the personal history they don't know, but I keep finding myself in situations with people who, with two seconds worth of thought, could save me salt in the wound by keeping their mouths shut. Before they say things like, "Are you sure it's not twins? Did you want twins?"
So instead of saying, "Yes, I wanted twins. You remember the last time I was pregnant and did everything possible to try and keep my twin sons alive, but I only came home with a singleton? Yeah, that was when I wanted them. Now wanting twins would mean wanting to put two more babies in that same risky situation—a thought I find both terrifying and incredibly irresponsible." And instead of saying, in an inevitably sob-infused and probably incoherent voice, "What the hell is wrong with you? Why would you ask me that?" I come back with some polite answer and a smile, like "Nope, just one! Twins, ha!" and I sit there with that asinine laugh hanging in the air as if there were never anything a person could say to me that would make me sad.
And I kind of hate myself for that. Not for the not being bitter all the time, but when did I suddenly learn not to slap back? Self control is not my strongest personality trait; I'm not sure it makes the official list of my personality traits. I suppose it's a nod to my parents that they raised me not to slap people, even when they deserve it.
I wish I would at least give back that verbal slap people sometimes so deserve. At least to say, "Really? Do you really think that's an okay thing to say right now?" Gentle reminders as to why the question or comment is inappropriate might help too. Maybe people would stop asking infertile people if they're pregnant, or inviting someone on a diet to join them for dessert (okay, I'm really bad at that one), or telling someone whose dog just died all about their new puppy. I can tell you I appreciate it when people open my eyes to how to not bring them extra pain—I'm an accidental A-hole all the time. But I can't bring myself to do the same for others.
I guess I can ask you all now not to flippantly mention twins to me. If you are reading this, you probably know better than that anyway. Don't ask my if my son is doing things that your younger child is already doing months early. If you are not a pediatrician or therapist, you don't need to know if he is crawling yet or not, and I'm a bit sensitive about it. Cut your bragging teeth on someone else. I suppose those are my unique areas of sensitivity at the moment.
But if you're needing more help, here's a few more tips: Don't ever complain about being a single-digit pants size; you are only allowed to be happy. Never ask someone if they are pregnant or when they are due, even if they look huge, unless they mention being pregnant. Never comment on a woman's size, regardless of pregnancy status, unless you have something positive to say ("You look fantastic!") that isn't followed by a qualifier (". . . for a fat old broad!"). Don't complain about money, health, etc. in public places or to people you don't know to be in a better situation than you are in. Someone else always has it worse. Always. If you're feeling really poopy about yourself, maybe go find that person.
And as for me? I have it pretty good in the end. Wanting to slap people or not. I'm just hoping that a little slap now and then will keep all of us from offending that person we forget about that has it worse than we do.