11 Things You Should Never, Ever Say To Someone

Illustrated by Michaela Early.
There’s a danger that lurks among us, a presence that no one can escape, a force so dark that it threatens our collective humanity. You think you can run, but it will find you. It’s horrific, it’s relentless — it’s the overly personal question.

It can happen anywhere: at a friend’s house party, the grocery store, or (shudder) when you’re trapped in the back of an Uber. An acquaintance, a coworker, or your least favorite relative somehow thinks it’s appropriate to ask you extremely personal questions like, “When do you plan on getting married?” “How often do you and your boyfriend have sex?” Or the most bone-chilling question of all: “Will you add me to your LinkedIn network?”

If you’re lucky, the conversation will be cut short — a true friend comes to the rescue at the party, or your Uber trip comes to a merciful end. If you’re not, you could be trapped in 10, 15, or even 20 minutes of excruciating dialogue — forced to divulge the most intimate details of your life. It’s a moment that can ruin any night, and send you running back home to lock yourself inside and watch reruns of Chopped on Netflix.

But before you do that, let’s take a moment to reflect on the overly personal question. It’s easy to point the finger at others; what’s harder is pointing the finger at ourselves. As much as we hate to admit it, we’ve all been a little too nosy at some point in our lives (sometimes even with our best friends). I know I have. Which is why I’ve decided to help put a stop to this once and for all. To this end, ahead I’ve compiled a list of 11 things you should never, ever say to someone. Make note.

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1 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
Asking this question is a great way to take perfectly lovely small talk, and ruin it by injecting the enormous pressures of the wedding-industrial complex. No one is safe from feeling forced to just get married already, and while you are it, spend your life savings on a ceremony which essentially amounts to a $500,000 Pinterest shoot.

I’ll tell you when I’m getting married — when I’m rich. Until then, please don’t ask me and my boyfriend this question. You have no idea where we are in our marriage journey, that's a conversation that’s personal and private.
2 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
I now have a boyfriend (leave me alone guys, I’m not bragging, I’m just stating a hard-earned fact), but when I was single this question would literally turn my blood to molten lava spewed from volcanoes of sexless rage.

How am I still single?
That’s a great question, and I absolutely do not have the answer. If I did, I’d be home right now eating Pad Thai with my boyfriend and watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills instead of getting rejected by Instagram “celebrities” at this shitty gay bar.
3 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
Either I’m tired and not okay, in which case I’m probably about to leave this wretched party, or I’m totally fine and you’ve just told me I look terrible despite the fact that I’m having the time of my life. Both situations end in sadness and my emotional trip to the snack table. So don’t fuck with me, unless you want this housewarming to experience a dip shortage. My despair has never met a brand of hummus it didn’t like.
4 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
Why do you want to know? So you can rush out and buy it and wear it to the bar we both frequent? I’m not Brenda and you’re not Kelly and this is not the "Spring Dance" episode of 90210. Don’t jack my style, or I will go Shannen Doherty on your ass.
5 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
A lot. Would you like to see the tapes, too? Maybe we could arrange a screening at the Soho House West Hollywood and invite everyone else I don’t know in this city. Look — I’m happy to talk about my sex life if I know you. But if I don’t, let’s stick to first base conversations.
6 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
Because I’m 6’4” this is a question that I get asked all the time, often from complete strangers. I have been asked about my height in Whole Foods, on planes, and at the movies. Being tall is like taking a dog for a walk, or a baby for a stroll — you are at a constant risk to being stopped by strangers. For some reason, people view my extreme height as an excuse to barrel through commonly accepted social boundaries, and comment on it. People think it’s funny, but it just makes me feel like the "Jolly Gay Giant."
7 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
Okay — let’s take a moment to get real: who actually uses LinkedIn? Has anyone ever gotten a job from the site? Or it is just a place for an endless series of email notifications when someone you literally haven’t talked to since you worked together at a Cold Stone Creamery in college endorses your skills in screenwriting? Really, the way I scooped rocky road when I was 19 gave you special insight into my ability to correctly structure a feature film?
8 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
I don’t know, but I do know that we are going to waste the next two to five minutes trying to figure it out. Then you’ll most likely settle on a dubious half compliment like “a less-jowly Jonah Hill,” or “a male Heather Matarazzo.” I will offer a confused smile, and then we will spend an additional two to five minutes listening to you backpedal. So maybe let’s just skip this one, unless you’re going to tell me I look like a cross between Idris Elba and Jesus.
9 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
One of my best friends was born in Switzerland, but she's lived the majority of her life in the U.S. and is a full-blown, taxpaying citizen. This doesn’t stop strangers from picking up on her accent, and treating her like a “naive foreigner” instead of the brilliant and successful Swiss-American artist that she is. Adding insult to inappropriate questioning — Americans love to confuse Switzerland with Sweden because it is somehow inconceivable that two foreign lands might possess names that both begin with the letters "Sw."

If you’re going to ask this question, at least make sure you have a basic third grade knowledge of geography. But perhaps it’s best to just skip this question entirely.
10 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
When I’m both rich and have tons of free time (a.k.a never). Okay — one should never say never, but one should also never ask this question, especially if you barely know the person you’re asking.

It’s hard enough dealing with this question as a gay man. "You guys can get married and adopt now — isn’t that great?!" But I can only imagine how it feels for a woman. As if there aren't enough pressures in a heteronormative birth-obsessed culture, women do not need you adding to that. Babies are a big deal, and if you pose this question to a stranger, all you’ll give birth to is an awkward conversation.
11 of 11
Illustrated by Michaela Early.
Never. And we both know it.

In conclusion, let’s all take a vow to stop sticking our noses where they don’t belong: other people’s business. Personal questions should be reserved for people with whom you have a personal connection. If you’re not sure, chances are you don’t. So please, err on the side of respecting other people’s private journeys.

Unless you’re Idris Elba. Idris — you can ask me anything, baby.

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