In a Slate interview with the inimitable Zadie Smith pegged to her new novel, Swing Time, Isaac Chotiner asks Smith about the impact motherhood has had on her writing. Smith responds that having children was “superuseful,” then shared a short anecdote about when she was pregnant and a male writer asked her if she was worried about “falling behind” in her career.
Take it away, Zadie:.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first child: I was at a book festival and a writer of my own age, who will remain nameless, sat opposite me and said, “God you’re having a kid huh?” It was a man. He said, “I guess you’re going to lose a lot of time and you must be worried about falling behind.” I was about seven months pregnant, and I just had a sudden inspiration. I said, “Yeah I guess so” and then, “You must be worried about just a complete lack of human experience that you’re now going to be 40 and then 50.” His face went so pale. It was a wonderful way to frighten him back.
The lesson here is simple: If a man questions your life choices, use it as an opportunity to force him to peer into the dark abyss and contend with his own mortality.