I am not sure about the rest of the world but here in Malaysia or rather, South East Asia, people are very concerned and helpful about your well-being, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
From simple questions of "Have you eaten?" to "Why are you not married/a parent/a grandparent yet?".. Asian culture is a funny one if compared to the other cultures in the rest of the world.
Bonding with Strangers
For me, I find that my so-called 'infertility' which is due to my state of childlessness made very interesting topic of conversation that serves me well as a good 'icebreaker' when talking to virtual strangers.
First question: Are you married? You answer yes.. which leads to the
Second question(s): How many years are you married? Do you have children? You answer no.. then you will be offered 'help' and advice, etc, etc, all in the name of goodwill and 'concern'.
At first I was baffled. Being married for three years plus, along the way, my state of childlessness had brought attention to myself in social gatherings as well as among acquaintances and even with strangers! From massages to pressing a certain spot on your ankle regularly, to eating certain 'recipes' or drinking a certain 'concoctions' to acupuncture and the medical intervention of IUI and tests and all.. I've heard them from kind souls I've met and heck, I even tried some of them! Now I'm more amused than baffled, I have to admit I am entertained by the information they shared with me.
Example 1: Works as Good Icebreaker with Strangers
I was at this wedding dinner in 2009.. the only person I knew in the whole place was my husband who was seated next to me and the bride. Then at my table, a nice lady with a toddler and her husband started a conversation with me: Q: How long have you been married? I answered two years plus (that was a year ago).. then she gave me her secret remedy on how to conceive.. which worked for her, pointing to her baby girl (already a toddler). It was using (consuming) some herbal remedy which is easily available and sold commercially.. what the Malays call "jamu". And I've not even met this lady prior to this!
Example 2: Acquaintances and Friends/Relatives Bonding Topic
With my relatives that I only see a few times every year.. they give you every advice they heard from someone or their ancestors passed down to their mother-in-laws and to them.. etc.etc. My boss' wife, in a social gathering even shared her remedy of getting pregnant with me whom she had only met for less than one hour!
Example 3: You become the center of attention
After three years, I can say that I'm kinda used to the 'attention'. People may be envious if you are happy and seem to have everything. However, human nature is compassionate.. so if you seem to be lacking something, in my case, I am lacking a child in my marriage.. their compassionate nature emerged (and they pity me hence try to 'help') and instead of feeling irritated like I used to, I felt grateful for the attention and they are genuinely concerned, I can see that.
Just recently, Nov 18, 2010 -- I was waiting at the registration area at a specialist hospital for my gynae appointment. I was seated next to a Sikh (Punjabi) couple, who look like they are in their 70s (I confirmed this later when I took a peep at the lady's identification card which was visible). This nice lady and I struck a conversation. Here is how it went:
Q: Which doctor are you seeing?
A: A gynae .. (I gave her the doctor's name). And which doctor are you seeing?
Q: (She told me she's seeing a Sikh doctor for her knee pain) Are you pregnant? (since I'm seeing a gynae)
A: No, no, I'm trying to. (at this point in life, I am no longer offended by that question)
Q: Oh.. how long have you been married?
A: Three years plus.
Q: You know there is this good doctor, *place* *name*.. etc.etc. Do you know the place? (then she asked her husband to give me detailed directions to the doctor's place)
A: Oh.. thank you so much. I'll consider it. (I am rather touched she's so helpful)
Q: Does your husband have a problem as well? Was he checked? (then she told me how her husband had problem with lower sperm count and how they overcame it)
A: Oh, really? How do you increase it?
At this point, she asked her husband to tell me the supplement he took to increase his count back when they were unable to conceive for the first three years of their marriage. From the conversation, I know which area she's staying at, how many children she has, two girls and two boys, all are adults, both daughters are married, both daughters have two children each, her sons are both unmarried... and all her children are overseas. Two of her children are due for a visit in December. And I knew she didn't have her first child till the fourth year of her marriage.
How do I know all that? Those are personal details and information. Yeah, besides self-praise that I am able to strike conversation with people easily (that's why I opted to teach Public Relations and communication)... it is the grace of my state of childlessness that somehow bring people around and made them feel closer to me. So that is a blessing in disguise, no?
For the record, the supplement the elderly Sikh man took (on doctor's advice) is rich in Vitamin E - Wheatgerm oil. Can't locate it in the two pharmacies I walked into last night though. Vitamin E is known to promote fertility and vitality. So that has some basis!
It's end of 2010 -- we'll see how long it takes for me to have my own child.. trying very hard not to try too hard so it can happen naturally! Found that the harder you try, the more it won't happen. I keep telling myself: Relax, Sue! :-)
In the meanwhile, I do relish in the interest people take in my state of being a childless wife. They make great conversations! I'll just enjoy the talk till then.