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Infertility Sampler

People magazine is where I go for all of my life advice, and I loved a tiny aside that came up in a recent George Clooney article.  When asked the incredibly nosy and possibly hurtful question of whether they’re going to have children — a question you may find like a splinter beneath the skin — Clooney responds: “Thank you for asking!” and then continues the conversation.  Can you imagine a person bringing it up a second time after receiving a “Thank you for asking!” delivered in a bright, easy-going voice?

I might borrow that for all of life’s uncomfortable questions.


I recently read The Girl on the Train.  I loved it until the ending.  I thought the ending was weak.  But totally worth the weak ending because the writing is so enjoyable.  (Did you read it?  Were you blown away by the ending?  Maybe it’s just me.)

As you’ve guessed, infertility features heavily in the book.  It’s the reason given for the woman’s drinking problems as well as some of their marital issues.

It’s not the first thriller to feature infertility as a plot point.  Gone Girl also has an infertile woman at the center of the story.  Nor is it the first book to use the word girl in the title and have an infertility storyline, such as Certain Girls.

I was trying to figure out how I felt about the titles of these books.  Why a woman is reduced to being a girl if she can’t have a child.  The infantilization of the childless woman.  And yet, Gone Woman doesn’t have the same ring.  The Woman on the Train is a little better.  Certain Women sounds like an ad for douche.

Have you ever noticed that?  Books that refer to thirty-something women, child-bearing age women, by the term girl.  And what do you think of it?


1 Nicoleandmaggie { 06.10.15 at 8:14 am }

Jimmy Fallon mentioned his and his wife’s struggles with infertility on npr yesterday morning.

2 DublinGal { 06.10.15 at 8:26 am }

Wow, I never noticed that, but it makes sense as I often get the impression that society in general thinks women are not complete until they become mothers so I could see how they are just considered “girls” before then.
Sounds like George Clooney handled that stupid question very well! Urgh, people are are tactless sometimes.

3 loribeth { 06.10.15 at 8:31 am }

Leave it to George for the perfect comeback. 😉 I never thought he showed much interest in having kids. Of course he never showed much interest in getting married again either, until Amal, so who knows? But it’s really nobody’s business anyway.

“Girl on a Train” is in my to-read pile. Funny how I read a lot of book reviews but I never knew any of these books had an infertility subplot until you told us… I suppose it’s a detail that non-infertiles don’t really think to mention. You’re right about the use of the term “girl,” although I think it’s often used to infantilize women generally. But the fact that it figures in the titles of all these books with infertile women as characters… hmmm…

4 Mali { 06.10.15 at 8:31 am }

As if I needed another reason to love George …

5 Christine { 06.10.15 at 8:55 am }

What a great response from George. Marian Keyes’s Angels also has an infertility subplot. Of course (spoiler alert) by the end of the book she’s pregnant.

6 Peg { 06.10.15 at 10:34 am }

I am so adding “thanks for asking” into my canned response list. Some things are just not anyone else’s business.

7 Anat { 06.10.15 at 11:03 am }

I’ve found that usage of the word “girl” goes far beyond infertility, and is now pretty much used in place of the word woman. I read an article that referred to “elderly girls.” I mean really.

8 Lori Lavender Luz { 06.10.15 at 12:57 pm }

I hadn’t noticed but now that you say it, it’s glaring.

There are certainly limitations to the English languages. For example, the word “adoptee” seems to need clarification because it conjures an adopted child. There is no word to mean adopted adult. You need two words to convey that. Infantilization again.

I’m going to try out that George Clooney phrase the next time the paparazzi bothers me. (Happens all the time.)

9 Cristy { 06.10.15 at 2:32 pm }

love this response!

Thanks for the recommended reading.

10 Jamie { 06.10.15 at 11:47 pm }

Why not call the book Lady on the Train?

11 St. E { 06.11.15 at 3:12 am }

Great response from Clooney!

I think the use of term Girl is coincidental. There is no deliberate attempt to downgrade the status of a childless woman as a girl, as a manifestation of her reproductive fruition.

12 gwinne { 06.11.15 at 10:19 am }

I’m always astonished when random books I pick up have infertility/childlessness somewhere in them. I wonder how much attention I would have paid to that as a topic had I not traveled down that road myself.

Didn’t like Girl on the Train, though I forced myself to finish it. The whole chain of infertile woman drinks too much, blacks out, covets someone else’s life was just too much…

13 Meredith { 06.11.15 at 11:17 am }

Is Girl on the Train similar to 4:50 From Paddington by Agatha Christie? One of my faves…

14 Sara { 06.11.15 at 11:52 am }

My husband and I watched This is Where I Leave You, this weekend. I did not really have any idea what it was about but soon realized there was an infertile woman in the movie. During one of her outbursts my husband looked at me and said, “oh I remember those days”. Not sure if I would have understand her pain if I had not gone through what I did.
Clooney’s response is great and I may start using it now that everyone wants to know when we are doing our FET.

15 Ana { 06.11.15 at 12:50 pm }

LOVE that response, and yes, it is the perfect answer to so many unwanted questions! I wasn’t a huge fan of The Girl on the Train—I really felt icky about the infertility as trigger for being a failure of a human being. For that reason, I actually did sort of like the ending, weak as it was (I can’t really qualify this without spoilers)

16 LN { 06.12.15 at 10:02 am }

My boyfriend is so sharp! Next time we chat, I’ll tell George that you appreciated his response.

I loved Girl on the Train. I had figured out part of the twist, but not all of it, so I was genuinely surprised, and I’m NEVER surprised by plot twists.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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