The weird part is everyone around me seems low-key horrified. This includes people who know me personally to people who don’t know me at all. I hear everything from, “Are you SURE you want to do this?” to, “Why would you do that to yourself?” to “Is this about the fact that you never had kids and you think you missed out?” I don’t even know what to say.
I’m VERY sure. I’m well educated in the science and statistics; I’m emotionally stable and did a few sessions with a therapist for my own comfort. My donating a kidney is unrelated to my lack of kids. I like kids but prefer dogs, and my understanding is you’re not supposed to crate kids during the workday. These people are harshing my buzz. Short of keeping my trap shut, which probably just perpetuates these weird responses, what do I say?
Kidney Donor: I actually think it would be kind of amazing to convey your excitement to them. Something like, “I’m really excited that I get to make a difference in another person’s life.” Helps shut down their uncertainty while also subtly reminding them how inappropriate their own response is. What you’re doing is incredible; remind them of that. If you want to be more earnest, you could start with something like, “Thanks for your concern, but I’ve educated myself on the issues and have thought through this extensively in conversation with my health-care team.” But this is so not necessary. They’re being really invasive. Your health decisions are none of their business. The person who thinks you’re missing out on kids is ridiculous. Feel free to laugh that one off entirely. Laughter (or shock) is such a good way of conveying how ridiculous a situation is without having to find the wittiest response.
If they follow up with doubt, your last line is great: “You’re really harshing my buzz.” At the very least you’ll probably surprise them into silence long enough to get away.
Kidney Donor: I’m a living donor. My nephrectomy was done in 2017. I chose to tell very few people (not even my mom) because I didn’t want unsolicited advice. I understand that ship may have sailed for you, but you might try what I used to tell people who did know and weren’t as supportive as I might have liked. I really downplayed the significance of it and closed the conversation with a simple, “She needs one, and I have two.”
Kidney Donor: Learning how to slightly cock your head to the side, raise an eyebrow, and say “What an odd thing to say” will be your best response to unsolicited advice or commentary. Otherwise, “I’m not up for discussing my medical decisions today.” Repeat as often as necessary. Busybodies second guessing your well thought out (and generous) choice don’t warrant further explanation. Best of luck.
Kidney Donor: First, congratulations on being cleared as a living kidney donor! You’re doing something wonderful, and please don’t let anyone take that buzz away from you. It’s amazing how people will insist on making another person’s private business their own. And I don’t really think these questions are “well meaning,” either; they’re judgmental, intrusive, and highly inappropriate — especially from people who are not personally close to you. Their questions are about their discomfort with the idea of becoming a living organ donor, and not your choice.
When someone asks me an intrusive, inappropriate question about a very personal choice, I typically answer with a question that makes the questioning itself about them and not about my choice. So in this case I would answer, “Are you sure you want to do that” or, “Why would you do that to yourself” with “Why are you questioning my choice?” Then it becomes about them and not you, and that usually makes all but the nosiest people back off. If it doesn’t, I tell them that my choice is about me and not about them, and then I refuse to engage further, even if it means walking away from the person. If someone asks if this is about not having kids, ask them why they would ever say or even think such a thing. And so on. Refuse to engage further, and walk away if necessary. Rinse and repeat. If they get angry when you answer their questions with questions, that’s their problem and not yours.
I wish you and your friend successful surgeries, easy recoveries and healthy lives going forward.
Kidney Donor: Your question is about how to respond, and I think it makes sense to distinguish between a clunky comment and an offensive one. I try to operate under a policy of offering the benefit of the doubt.
“Are you sure?” could just be a clunky way of registering concern, so a “Yes, I’m extremely sure” might put that one to bed — especially if you follow it up with the results of your research. There are a lot of misconceptions about living organ donations floating around. If you can correct the record, that can only be a good thing. While you certainly don’t need to treat these questions as valid you might just inspire someone. If you don’t feel up to that, replying with, “It sounds like you have some misconceptions about this process; it’s neither as dangerous nor as debilitating as you fear” could nudge them toward doing their own research.
The other questions you describe aren’t well-meaning and clunky, they’re asinine. A favorite response of mine is, “Did you really just say that out loud?” It stays on the right side of being too mean without giving an inch. Accompany it with an incredulous expression, and you’ve made your point without resorting to justifying yourself. (For the ones who don’t take the hint, follow up with, “I’m not discussing this with you.”) I realize this is outside the scope of your question, but I’d also like to say that I think you’re doing a marvelous thing. I wish more people were like you.
— Education Opportunity
Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s installment here. New questions are typically posted on Thursdays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.