The Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything


Have you ever been asked a question that you really don't want to answer - that really isn't any of the person's business? Questions that smack of genuine concern, yet also seem to pry a little too much into your life? Questions like, "What do you see in him?" or "When are you going to go back to college?" or "Wouldn't you prefer to be doing something more fulfilling?" Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes these questions are perfectly fine - but when asked by someone whose intent is questionable, we may not really want to answer. What is to be done?

Teens are asked about college prospects and their choice of major. Dating couples are plied with questions about the prospect of an engagement. Newlyweds are barraged with inquiries as to when they're starting a family. Parents get deluged with such questions from everyone they run into - even complete strangers - questions ranging from diapering to feeding to toy choices to every aspect of parenting. Breastfeeding parents happen upon similar questions from the time their baby is born: "When are you going to wean?" or the same question disguised in other questions such as: "How long are you planning to nurse?" or "Is she still nursing?" Co-sleeping parents are often asked, "When are you going to kick that kid out of your bed?" Couples are asked about how their relationship is going, their sex life, their future plans. Often these questions come from people on the periphery of our lives - people with whom we really don't want to share our personal stuff.

Luckily, there's an easy-to-remember, one-size-fits-all answer to all these questions and more! It's a perfect fit for the impertinent people in your life. It is best said in a calm, kind, genuinely interested, lilting tone, eyebrows raised, eyes wide, head slightly tilted:

"Why do you want to know?"

At first glance, that question may seem a little defensive, possibly a bit rude. But think about it - the person asking about any of your life decisions is asking a very personal question. A personal question that, if put in another way, would be considered rude. What you do with your life is up to you an no one else. The relationships you have are between you and person in the relationship - no one else. It's like asking someone, "When are you going to lose those extra 20 lbs?" or "When are you going to stop wasting your money on all that crap and get your life in order?" or "You really do that for a living? Why don't you find something more worthwhile?" Frankly, it's none of your business what personal choices someone makes.

Asking, "Why do you want to know?" turns the tables on the person, and points out that the person is indeed sticking their nose where it does not belong. Often the person will respond with, "Oh, I'm just curious." I try to take that as an opportunity to change the subject: "Oh, that reminds me, I'm curious about where you got those gorgeous earrings!" or "Speaking of curious, I found Billy digging in one of our potted plants the other day and when I asked him why...."

But mostly the response is some sort of stuttering half-answer half-apology, and the asker quickly changes the subject him or herself. 

OK, so maybe the magic question isn't the answer to life, the universe and everything, but it does come in handy in diverse situations. When you really don't want to answer, just ask! 

Or, I suppose, you could just respond to such questions with "42" and completely confuse people.







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