You know when those moments will come and so you get ready for them. A new job, a large family gathering or any event where there will be inevitable small talk. That moment when someone will ask you “Do you have kids?” and you pray to God that your “No, we don’t” can be said with enough ease and causal air that it does not expose the underlying pain but also has enough firmess that no further questions are asked.
And then you change the subject.
Sometimes I don’t say “no we don’t.”
Sometimes I don’t brush it off. Sometimes I tell the truth. “Actually we would like to but are having some troubles.” Or “We have been through 9 treatments but we haven’t given up hope”. And so on.
What started out as a defensive gesture (really I wanted people to shut up and go away and think twice about ever asking that question again), turned into something more. Most often it was “we had problems too” followed by empathy and understanding.
It also turned banal small talk into something real. A connection.
Yes there is a time and place and you have to read the situation. But more often than not it has resulted in support, openness, and real conversation.
It’s not easy but it can transform that awkward moment into something real.