A Frazzled Mum’s Thoughts About Dealing with Unwanted Comments from Strangers

I was minding my own business, just taking care of my toddler in a shopping centre, when a middle aged woman came up to me and said “you look too young to be her mother”. My polite self only looked at her in the eye and said “I may not look like it, but I am 32”. She gave me a surprised look and continued on with her inappropriate comments, “you look like you could be her sister!”. I was tired of responding her, so I just abruptly walked away.

Even if I did look young, why did she have to comment? I could have walked up to her and say “you look too old to be out and about, you should stay home and do some knitting”. I’m sure that would have offended her.

Why do strangers feel the need to comment?

Even if I was 18, people don’t need to comment. Women decide to have children when they want to, and sometimes they have children when they are forced to or when they just happen to be pregnant or have kids at that stage in their life. But, why the f- do people need to comment?

It doesn’t stop there. A lot of other mums have to deal with comments such as “you look tired” (well, no shit, Sherlock), or “they need to behave better” (I think you need to behave better), or “he looks nothing like you at all” (and why does that matter to you?), or “oh wow, he’s massive!” (Oh wow, you’re rude!). It’s different when they are friends who you are close to, or someone you are already familiar with. The context would change in that case. You might feel okay with people you know making comments. But it’s weird and annoying when total strangers comment whatever they like about you.

Some people do it just to start a conversation, and they happen to not think twice about what they’re saying. Or some people just think that there’s nothing wrong about making intrusive/rude comments about your child, about you or your parenting.

Some people feel comfortable to comment when they notice I am a brown skinned woman, and they think that culturally I wouldn’t lash out, or I would be intimidated by them, and that I would just play along. Let me tell you now, that it’s condescending, and it’s patronising. There is an element of “awwwww, did your culture force you to marry and have kids young?”

Generally, if I sense that the person means no harm, I just keep it together, keep the conversation short and walk away. If I sense that the person is trying to diss me, or to patronise me, I would snap back – but politely – no swearing involved. You would want to sound like the smart one at this point.

I remember when I was 35 weeks pregnant, I was walking in the city centre, and a bunch of young women (probably around 19-22 years of age) waved their hands at me “Hey come here, sweety”. They asked, *put airhead speech mode on* “Oh my gawwdd, like…. how old are you?” (While obviously staring at my belly). I said “Old enough to be pregnant”. My age was none if their business. I was 30 at the time. They continued on their airhead talk, “oh my gawwwdd, you look so young.. like.. you know… like you look like you’re a teenager”. So I answered, “maybe because I look after myself better than the way you look after yourself”, and I walked away. You could blame my pregnant hormones, but I was pissed off. I didn’t even bother looking back to see their facial expressions.

Making stupid comments to other people should not be normalised. People should think twice before opening their mouths in public. Think about how the words might affect the person you are about to talk to, and think about why do you want to do this, and what is the point of making these comments?

If it’s not nice, if it doesn’t help in any way, if you – yourself would feel offended if another person said it to you, then just shut up and mind your own business.

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