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Why We Must Stop Asking “When Is The Good News?”

Posted: December 15, 2014

If you’re an Indian woman, you’re familiar with the question “when is the good news?” It reduces a woman’s life to marriage and pregnancy alone, and we must stop using it, says this post.

“When is the good news?”

Every Indian woman, at some time, is probably asked this seemingly harmless question.

A casual question that is addressed to a woman, generally in public, within earshot of all present, and meant in all innocence. For those who don’t know, the “good news” is not an update of passing an examination, a new job or a promotion. No, nobody really wants that kind of information. For a woman, specifically an Indian woman, the “good news” can be only one of two options. Number one: When is the D-day, the wedding day? Number two: If you are married, when are you telling us that you are pregnant?

Yes, it’s true, “when is the good news?” is a loaded question.

Question one: When are you getting married?

Question number one starts being asked soon after a girl turns 18. Maybe even sooner. “ When is the good news?” is addressed to her family, and sometimes to her, and is a not-so-subtle way of prodding, hinting,and taunting to continuously remind that getting married is one of the 2 things in life that an Indian woman is expected to do, no matter what. It is a way of questioning the parents about their duty, admonishing them for slacking and not getting all worked up to get their daughter married off.

It is a way of questioning the parents about their duty, admonishing them for slacking and not getting all worked up to get their daughter married off.

“ When is the good news?” is like an alarm that goes off at social gatherings at the sight of a girl who is of marriageable age.

What is one supposed to say to “ when is the good news?”?

Are you supposed to predict the date of your wedding when you haven’t met Mr. Right yet? Are you supposed to give them the low down and details of all the men you have seen in the typical arranged marriage scenario and why it hasn’t worked out yet? Or are you just supposed to squirm uncomfortably in embarrassment and let the painful expression on your face do all the talking? Are you supposed to accept the question as your failure in finding yourself a match in marriage? Or do you just develop a thick skin and ignore the question as just one of the many remarks that people make in ignorance and insensitivity?

Either way, there is no denying the fact that this supposedly good-natured enquiry starts making the rounds from well-meaning people once you cross a certain age. It comes from people who don’t know much about you (except that you are unmarried), from people you have just met, from distant relatives intending to have a little fun at your expense, and most ironically, it invariably comes from other women.

Yes, I am sorry, but it is women who make it their life’s duty to inflict this hurtful question, this upsetting query at other women. Women like aunts, married cousins, neighbours, women you have known for about 5 minutes of your life at some social gathering who think nothing of nudging, digging, punching you with this line. They do not want to know what you do for a living, what your hobbies are or what your opinions are. No.

It is almost like at that instant all that matters about your existence is whether you are married or not. It is like all the other things you have done in your life – your education, your achievements – don’t matter.

It is almost like at that instant all that matters about your existence is whether you are married or not. It is like all the other things you have done in your life – your education, your achievements – don’t matter. It is as if the only thing that really defines you is your ability to acquire a partner in marriage. In the utterance of the questioner, lies the insecurity that is behind such an enquiry. These few words sum up the thinking of the asker who is probably, smugly ‘married’. Happily or unhappily is not the question. But married, yes!

Yes, we know, men are subject to this to this question as well. But the same question “When is the good news?” has a different connotation for a man. It does have the same mocking tone, the teasing tenor or the biting sarcasm as it does for a woman. It does not question his masculinity, his worth, or the purpose of his existence.

Question Two: When are you getting pregnant?

Questions for “Good News – Number Two” start a few months after marriage.

Again, sadly, it is other women who make it their life’s mission to make sure that they taunt and haunt women who have not yet had a baby to get down to business. To prove her worth, to redeem her existence, to establish her femininity. Again, questions about how you are adjusting in your marriage are irrelevant and immaterial. What you are doing in other areas of your life is inconsequential. It is whether you can deliver the ‘good news’ or not. If you can, welcome to the club, if not, face the scoffing, the derision, and the ostracism.

“ When is the good news?” they ask.

Of course, expecting a baby is great news in a woman’s life. There is absolutely no denying that it is a wonderful, magical moment knowing that you are pregnant. However, all the events leading up to finding out about the pregnancy and declaring it are private moments; only for yourself, your partner and whoever you wish to involve in your life.

Then why do random women – even those who don’t even know your name to those who have never spoken more than two sentences with you – make it a point to hurl this question at you? Without a thought, and without a care.

Does it ever occur to them that they are asking the most intrusive, private question that a woman can ask another?

If you wanted the world to know, they would find out, isn’t it? Then why do other women go out of their way to ask this question? Does it ever occur to them that they are asking the most intrusive, private question that a woman can ask another? Or a man can ask another. In that one question they are questioning her fertility, her worth, and making it sound like her existence is only complete if she can pronounce the good news.

What is one supposed to answer to the question? Give the due date of the baby’s arrival? Tell them details about your fertility treatment? Cry about the fact that you have been trying for 5 years? Shock them with your ‘family planning’ details for the next 10 years? or just brush the question aside?

What answer do we expect when we ask the question ‘when is the good news?’? To an unmarried woman, however thick a hide she has acquired, there can be no answer she can give without feeling hurt and insulted. To a woman yet to bear a child, however well she is doing in life, however happily married, the question is always going to make her feel inadequate as it is meant to be.

So, please ladies [and gents], the next time you want to ask someone that question, spare a moment to think. Before you innocuously blurt out “So, when is the good news? ” just like ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’- just pause to consider that you could be unknowingly saying it to someone who is in silent pain from a break-up or a miscarriage.

Pic credit: Image of finger on lips via Shutterstock.

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  1. Wowwww……real good one…..

  2. Exactly! I completely agree with what you said about women being the ones who always ask uncomfortable questions. Actually it is only women folk who make the life of other women miserable when it comes to asking such questions. I don’t know what sort of education or awakening will make them understand this.

  3. I completely agree with this. Especially, the women you know for barely 5 minutes of your life take it into their head to ask personal questions – “When are you getting married”, “Any good news?’, etc. etc. Strangely, they never ask about your personal achievements or talk about their own.

  4. Well written and laid!! Confronting such questions has become a routine for majority of women who fall under such situation as of now, while the “innocuos” questioner can nowhere relate to the toughness of a probable answer/ silence.

  5. The other main reason can also be that the couple doesn’t want to have kids and the author forgets that it is a choice as well.

  6. That’s a great post! I agree with most of what you mentioned. I also wrote a post on the same lines – https://happinessandfood.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/please-dont-ask-me/ All about the ton of questions and rationale I am presented with almost every other day!

  7. So true and can so relate. Often a question I asked myself, don’t these people ever think before asking? Especially the ones who don’t know you as well?

  8. Very well written! Totally relate to what you have mentioned. Having babies has become more of a ‘social’ pressure!! No one cares what you do, how much you have achieved or what your dreams are .. All matters is the rightly said’ when is the good news’…pretty irritating.. sometimes you feel its better to keep off the social gatherings involving these relatives than to attend them. I guess the best way out of such a scenario is give them a good answer that the person is equally embarrassed n doesn’t attempt it on anyone else..

  9. Very well encapsulated. It is extremely irritating to be hounded by these ‘well wishers’. If it weren’t for my upbringing, I would have like to let my tongue loose on such people. When I got married, my poor mother was besieged with questions of “when’s her good news”. Thankfully they stopped when I got divorced. But gave way to a new one, “so when do you plan to settle down?”. to which my standard reply is, “I am educated, working, paying my EMIs, taking care of my parents and doing a whole lot of meaningful things in my life…so I am pretty settled”. Alas, this does not work for them and they go to great lengths to explain what ‘settle’ really means. (I am now trying various smile techniques that will help me pull through these questions)

  10. Absolutely this article has put in every thought tat has been running in my kind.. I have faced and facing the good news about The kid part..

  11. Well written personally i have refrained from asking these btw your name sounds familiar

  12. Some humans are still animal charactered , and gets satisfied in others problems..

  13. It is really irritating even when somebody wants to know personal matters of my friends or relatives!

  14. Its a problem only when someone is not able to find a groom or able today conceive. It is a harmless question otherwise. Witty answers to these questions will lighten the mood. Of course not everyone might know that you have been teying to concieve last 5 years so when someone asks the question it could be hurting. In the west they dont ask any personal question and that makes relationships very impersonal. Either way there is always a question that will annoy people. For example, when people ask woman oh you are at home? You dont work. That hurts the homemakers. Then the very same people may say oh if you work how will you look after kids. Everyone has a raw nerve that when u hit that spot its hurtful. Best is to develop thick skin. Asking them to refrain means you cannot have any conversation other than enquiries about the weather. Even that may annoy someone who has been asked about the weather more than 10 times that day.

  15. i am sure every Indian woman can relate to this…question no. 2 has become the main topic whenever i meet people especially women. I don’t understand enjoy inflicting the same pain on other women that they had faced in their own lives!!

  16. Soooo true!!! In India marriage and having a child are like the only milestones in a womans life!!!!

  17. If we all stopped asking questions that SOMEONE might find offensive, the world would be a quiet place indeed ! So if I ask you what movie you saw that means I think your whole life is about lazing around watching movies? So why is it different when someone asks you when you getting married or pregnant ?

    Wouldn’t it make better sense to not take these questions, asked often by well meaning older women who probably don’t and will never have anything else is common with younger women with our degrees, jobs and (gulp!) Boyfriends?

    Are they personal questions ? yes . . But else can they talk to you about ? How’s your boss beta? Pizza Hut ja naya sambar pizza try kiya ? Ranbir ke abs to dekho ! You’re Indian. . marriage And children are kind of turning points in our culture . And If you’re under the impression that boys/ men aren’t asked these questions then you’re mistaken. They are, and often with an underlying question to their manliness, worth and sexuality. . Just ask karan johar !!

    Are you finding it difficult to get pregnant? No one will sympathise more and get you that appointment than a well meaning nosy aunt. Boyfriend turned out to be a royal ass, she’ll set you up with the shy doctor that’s had a crush on you forever but didn’t have the guts to say it.

    As nosy and intrusive as indian families and society is the alternative is not the answer. It’s time us young people stop batting our eyelashes and blushing and avoiding and getting offended by these questions. Come up with a smart quip . Laugh it off and revel in the attention and relax knowing that if you ever end up with an empty table at your wedding party there’s a nosy aunt waiting to enjoy herself and shake some booty.

    Chill. . . XXxx

    • I found your response pretty insensitive. Why is it okay to ask someone to be thick-skinned and laugh it off, but not okay to ask someone to stop asking intrusive questions? Do you really think someone who is having trouble conceiving or has had a miscarriage can “chill”? Or that she should then get into explaining all this to someone who may or may not really need to know?

      By not asking intrusive questions, what exactly do we lose?
      Why exactly is it so important to ask them?

    • And what is the problem with talking about one’s boss or work or Ranbir? Why ever not? Sorry, the assumption that older women should be uninterested in these is so terrible! My mother can talk politics, history, art and architecture with aplomb, as can many of my aunts who write poetry – or if nothing else, exchange recipes. Talk does NOT have to be about marriage and children.

  18. Pingback: Where do we belong? Is that even important? | Finding meaning...

  19. Unfortunate but true….most indian women go through these questions…. And most of the idiots who ask these questio don’t really care about your well being…

  20. Pingback: Why we must stop asking ‘When is the good news?’…………. | shalijay

  21. Salute u fr making such a sensible article. Women of course need to be respected for reasons other than bearing a child.

  22. Wonderful articulation of words. The “good news ” bullet is always fired from the gun of another woman.. Sadly such questions are hardly asked to men & also hardly come from men. When people (women) come to know that you are married since more than a year, that question automatically gets triggered ..if its more than a couple of years, then only your humour & temper will save you at the social gatherings..

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