I’m through explaining.

thRecently I followed a link at Grumpy Rumblings of the (Formerly) Untenured to a website called Thought Catalog. The article in question is called “18 things women shouldn’t have to justify.”

Things like “putting themselves first,” “how little or how much they’re eating” and “not having baby fever.”

I particularly loved the “amount of makeup worn on any given day.” The writer, Brianna Wiest, says we can go au naturale or “work it like you’re in a drag show…Your face. Your rules.”

I’ve been known to put on a little makeup when I’m having photos taken, but mostly it just seems like more trouble than it’s worth. And again: Nobody tells guys that they ought to wear a concealer or that a good mascara would make their eyes look larger.

Now I’ll see Brianna her 18, and raise her six of my own. Among other things I’m through explaining are:

1. Why I had only one child. Why? It’s none of your business, that’s why. But since you ask, I thank God every day that I didn’t have a kid with the abusive ex. If I had, I’d be tied to him in some way or another forever. Besides, the daughter I have is terrific, so why not stop there?

2. Why I dye my hair. It has less to do with vanity than with the way the world looks at gray-haired women. Too often people look only at the cover, rather than at the contents of the book. I’m uneasy about this, but at this point in my second career, it seems necessary.

Muddying the waters

3. Why I’m not remarrying. I used to quip that I’d only get married again for something really romantic, like health insurance. Fact is, my wonderful partner and I each have kids and remarrying would muddy the financial waters. What’s mine will go to my daughter, “150 years from now when I die,” as she puts it.

4. Why I don’t have a TV. When I first left my marriage I shared a place with my daughter, who did have a television. But I moved into my own place in February 2005, without a TV, and haven’t owned one since – by choice. I do enjoy watching certain shows with Linda B., but neither DF nor I feel the need to have a TV in our home.

5. Why I’m not smiling. Some days I just don’t feel like it – and having a double-X chromosome does not mean it’s my job to decorate the world. Nobody demands that dudes grin the livelong day, dammit, and nobody accuses them of having a “bitch face” if they’re not smiling to the satisfaction of the onlooker. So please quit saying things like “Smile!” or “Aw, smile, it can’t be that bad!” You know what? Sometimes it is that bad.

6. Why I won’t reveal my salary. Because I earn it and I pay taxes on it. If you’re willing to spot me my tax bill, maybe we’ll talk. Maybe.

Readers: What are you no longer explaining?

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  1. Maybe I am a weirdo, but I have never felt the need to explain myself to anyone. I support myself….my life choices are my business. Hubby would be the only one that would deserve an explanation for anything and he doesn’t ask for them.

    I never birthed kids, color my hair, have a hubby that doesn’t work outside the home and wear full makeup every day. Love my life, baby!

    Glad you have gotten to where you don’t feel the need to explain.

  2. I’m through trying to explain why I don’ t work outside the home considering I have a law degree . I have not wasted my education ! I use it everyday that I help maneuver my parents and in-laws through their various medical issues.

  3. I’m tired of explaining why I homeschool my kids. I was a victim of a modern day witch hunt in 2005. The school system is poorly set up for kids with any kind of chronic illness, at least in Illinois.
    I am tired of explaining why I am unemployed and have a Masters degree. I wear make up because I have ugly skin and it makes me look socially acceptable. I’m not a diva either and dye my hair for the same reason you do Donna. Did I mention I love, love, love that you wrote this piece? Brilliant! Oh and Thank you!

    • Donna Freedman

      Thanks, Marcia….And hang in there. Do what’s best for you and your family and to hell with the naysayers.

  4. For the things people ask questions about, my answer is “because I can.” I say this with a laugh, but people know I do not need to explain. Why I color my hair, why I cannot/could not find a job with a MA, why I don’t fix up my house, why, why are all questions that bore me now. Oh, “why don’t you wear a bra?” That has got to be the top question of all time, asked many times. “Because I don’t have to.” “Because I don’t want to.”

  5. I think the last time I wsore makeup was DD2’s wedding in 2005.

    Unlike you, I do NOT color my hair. I HATE the look of ingrown roots & KNOW I am lazy.

    I often wear the same clothes a couple days running.

    I gave up justifying myself to ANYONE over ANYTHING years ago. Just look at them with a steely gaze and say, “this is any of your business because……..

  6. DebbieJean

    I’m so glad you wrote this Donna! I’m tired of explaining why I don’t go out to lunch everyday and why I don’t go for drinks with the office bunch at night. I have a DH that I would rather go home to. I color my hair for the same reasons, which sucks. I’m tired of explaining to family why I no longer come to visit – planes fly both directions and I’m not made of money.

    Women shouldn’t have to explain a gosh darn thing.

    • Donna Freedman

      A therapist once told me that a useful phrase is “That won’t work for me.” I’ve used that one and also, “I’m afraid I can’t” or “Thanks for asking, but I have other plans.”
      And you don’t have to explain what your plans are, either — especially if they’re just going home to put your feet up and read a new book.

      • My favorite line is “I have another commitment that night/day,” when I don’t want to do something. No further explanation. My other commitment is usually to spending time with my family or to retaining my sanity by not over-comitting.

  7. Cathy in NJ

    This topic resonates with me. As for one child I use the phrase “one and done”. I have a demanding job and knew I could handle one and my career. The item I would add to the list is “How much did your car, or whatever cost?” I have started replying, “I can’t remember.”

    • Donna Freedman

      Another sample scenario:
      Q. How much money do you make?
      You: Why do you ask?
      That sometimes shuts ’em down. If it continues….
      Q. I’m just curious.
      You: And you will remain so.
      Or try this one:
      Q. How much money do you make?
      You: I don’t discuss my salary.
      Q. Why not?
      A. Because I consider it my personal business.

  8. Great topic! It is REALLY annoying when people question why you work the job you do, “after all, you have a degree. You could be doing more.” I am raising children, & overseeing the care of a parent & another relative. I get little sleep as it is, & don’t need the type of job where I need to “lean in”, thank you very much. But, the beauty of life is, the older I get, the less I care about what others think. I’m just doing the best I can in my own situation.

    • Donna Freedman

      Yep. This. People who think you should be “doing more” may be acting out of concern, but ultimately the choice is yours.

  9. I no longer feel the need to justify myself when I say no. It’s a boundary, if you don’t like it, it’s probably because you don’t want to have to respect it. I didn’t realize I had to justify my actions to someone who has no say or responsibility in my life.

  10. I’m the mother of one child and I’ve been asked about that before, too. As soon as he was born, I realized I could only handle one—because the one I had was very “high needs”. (He has three neurological disorders and a high IQ and it takes every ounce of strength I have to take care of him and live with chronic health problems of my own.) I love that kid so much, he gives me more joy than I ever could have imagined but people don’t get that. I thought about this when I read about Abigail’s loss (so sorry to hear about that), because I dealt with infertility too and consider my son my “miracle baby”. I couldn’t ask for more after that incredible gift from the universe. Yet every day I see families blithely having their 2nd, 3rd or 4th kid and not realizing how lucky they are to have the kid(s) they already gave birth to, and how lucky they are that those kids are healthy. Being the mom of a child with special needs changes your perspective on EVERYTHING.

    And the other thing I have to justify all the time is why I’m a vegan. People get REALLY upset about that. 😉 Whatever.

    • Donna Freedman

      Congratulations on your little miracle. He’s a lucky kid because you realize just how blessed you are.
      Why you’re a vegan is nobody’s business. It still amazes me how people criticize someone else’s food choices. One possible response to someone’s criticisms could be, “Why does my personal choice bother you so much?”
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  11. I hate when people comment on how many toys or clothes my kids have. I got tired of my husband saying well….yeah…they have too much, and I was tirred of explaining tnat no, we dont have as much money as you’d think, and most of it came from yard sales or Target 70% off toy stalking (like this morning! ) so 5 toys for the price of one? Why not! Now I just smile, shrug, and say, thats how we roll. Isn’t it awesome? They are so lucky!

  12. Oh, I love this piece. Women I lunch with constantly feel the need to explain why they are eating a tad more or having dessert when we go out to a restaurant. They always say, ” I wouldn’t normally eat this, but….” And I have found myself saying it also. My heavens but we’re apologizing for what we put in our mouths!

    Another thing I’m tired of justifying is the amount of travel my husband and I do. It’s a lot. But nobody ever notices the decades old cars we drive, the tiny house and the not very fashionable city in which we live. THAT’S why we can travel so much in our retirement. I’ve stopped explaining it. They can think what they like.

    • Donna Freedman

      Yes! I find myself saying, “I know I shouldn’t, but I really love Tastykakes” or “This isn’t the best thing in the world for me, but…” Need to quit that.
      As for travel, I spent several years jetting all over the place after I got my degree. Some people thought that I wasn’t being frugal. Guess they missed the part about frequent flier miles, buddy passes, house-sitting, staying with family/friends, not renting a car, taking the Megabus….

  13. Finally able to read this post! Your page has been throwing off malware warnings.

  14. I love this. Why are women questioned about personal life choices? I have not married or had kids and people (strangers even) act surprised and ask why not (with a perplexed look as if they are trying to figure out what is wrong with me!) I’ve made up fictional exhusbands sometimes to avoid answering questions but the reality is that my life isn’t something that I should have to explain.

    • Donna Freedman

      Really tiresome, I agree. It always startles me how total strangers feel justified in asking such personal questions.

  15. Kelly C.

    I hate it when someone asks you to go somewhere, do something, etc. and you give an adamant NO and they then ask “WHY?” @@ Why isn’t because I said NO a good enough answer? When I ask and am told NO, I NEVER ask WHY! @@ Uggghhhhh

  16. I couldn’t get to you at all until today…was told my computer would be harmed. Missed you.

    Anyway, I will not explain anything to anyone at all. My ex would grill me all day long (I am not kidding) about why I did that or what possessed me to…
    My hair, salary, where I live, what I do–I no longer justify myself. It is so about freedom.

    • My computer also wouldn’t let me access your site for the same reasons and I too missed reading your blog.

    • Donna Freedman

      Oh, lord, yes….! My ex was a suspicious and controlling person. If I so much as stopped at a bookstore he’d want to know why I wasn’t home when he called. To this day I get my back up whenever someone asks a perfectly innocent question, e.g., “So what are you up to?” or, when I’m using a cell, “Where are you?”
      Probably an overreaction, but old aggravations die hard.

  17. What I hate having to justify is my decision to remain single. Well meaning friends and acquaintances are forever trying to pair me off or encourage me to get into a relationship, many of them adding ‘before it is too late’. Whilst I am very happy for those in happy relationships, I reserve the right to be equally happy and contented in my single state.

  18. Ro in San Diego

    I missed your site while it was down. I am also very sorry to hear of your daughter’s loss.

    I’m tired of explaining why I don’t visit my mother. She was awful to me when I was younger, and I don’t see there being any improvement in her bad behavior in her dotage.

    I’m tired of explaining why I don’t kick in for every at work event and don’t attend after work events to celebrate the birthdays and job changes of people I don’t really care about. I go to work to earn money to support my family; not to spend money.

    Our personal choices seem to be everyone’s business.

    I no longer feel the need to answer every question I am asked.

  19. Understand the hair thing completely. People just don’t react to you the same way if you are gray. Kinda sucks as is expensive.
    I’m really tired of people expecting that I really MUST have a smart phone or an ipad. Hey, you need me, email me and wait, or pick up the phone and leave a message in the mailbox on my home phone. What is so damn important? You want a massage, I don’t do the kind that need to be done RIGHT NOW! You have an emergency, call 911 and have them set off my fire pager. At my age, I don’t feel like other people’s approval is all that important. I’m not going to hurt feelings, but I’m not going to put my own values last.

    • Donna Freedman

      As the owner of a pay-as-you-go flip phone, I agree. 🙂 Although I did win a Google Nexus at the Financial Blogger Conference, I haven’t quite figured out all the bells and whistles. My nephews have — they’ve downloaded a dozen free games and use the darned thing more than I do.
      Thanks for reading, and for leaving a comment.

  20. I love the post. But you DO realize that you just wrote 6 explanations about things that you don’t think you should have to explain, right?

    Jez sayin’.

  21. Carolina Cooper

    Today was an extension of my birthday which was TEN days ago, because finally, finally, finally I can read your blog again. A great gift!
    The things I am through explaining are: Why did you have so many kids? I had 5(now all grown)but when they were younger, I got comments like: Are you Catholic? (no) Don’t you have TV at your house for entertainment? When they were older, I got a ton of criticism about homeschooling the youngest child. Aren’t you worried about his socialization (blah, blah, blah)? He is 31 now and has turned out just fine.

  22. The few times that I’ve been asked about “off limit” subjects, I usually say, “I BEG your pardon?” in a affronted tone with a puzzled look on my face. Shuts ’em down every time. ;o)

  23. I no longer explain why I don’t want to be photographed.

  24. Can I stop feeling bad that my house looks like shit today?

  25. You are the bomb! This is sooo good. Trying to remember my non-explanations….
    “Why not?”

    “Because I can.”

    “I’m old and I no longer care what anyone thinks.” (59)

    “Because no on else will/would.”

    “I’m only married; I’m not dead.”

    But the best one is from my beautiful sister Ivy, a longtime single parent – “F*** them; they don’t buy us no beer. Who cares what they think?” or “I’m a wonderful person.”

  26. ImJuniperNow

    I’ve been criticized and interrogated all my life. By people who have no place doing it.

    I no longer try to explain my relatives. Why do I have to know/explain why my degreed sister won’t work or pay her bills? Or why my nephew hides in his room all day playing video games?

    It’s no one’s GD business why I have more than one cat. I don’t ask anyone else to feed them or clean up after them. If you don’t like the cat hair on my jacket, move the hell away.

    And that I’m not gay (“not that there’s anything wrong with it”) just because I’m a mature single woman who doesn’t have a man.

  27. I’m often asked “Who/what did you vote for?” I NEVER discuss politics…I launch into the lengthy explanation that as a mom, and someone who chooses to work outside the home, I have very little private time–including on the toilet or in shower. The polling place and that tiny little curtained box is the only place I have important private time, and I’m not about to give that up. Usually after I say I have no private time in the bathroom, they never pursue it further……

    • Donna Freedman

      I remember those days…the little knock and the “Mommy???”
      My response is also “I don’t discuss politics.” More specifically, I tend to say “I don’t discuss my vote.”

    • Carolina Cooper

      Good answer, Lisa. Mind if I borrow it?

  28. Great post, Donna. On the gray hair question, I’ve never dyed my hair, maybe because I started going gray at 21. Now that I’m truly middle aged and have a lot of gray, I notice that I am invisible to some people — sadly, mostly younger people. I refuse to do the hair dye thing, though, because like some earlier poster said, I’m lazy. And I’m okay about being gray. I find that in conversations with younger ones to whom I am initially invisible, when I let fly a F*** or SH**, as is my custom, they seem shocked, and then all of a sudden I am a person to them – I guess “old ladies” don’t use profanity. So let me urge you to consider, hair dye vs. profanity. Who knew?? Heh heh- I’m happy with my choice!


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