A younger colleague at work, Brian, is new to the department and occasionally grills me about the age and marital status of other staff members. The other day, he was firing questions at me as we whiled the afternoon away at our desks.

Brian: “Gareth’s gay, right?”

Me: “He isn’t. He has a wife, he’s mentioned her to me”

Brian: “Get lost! He’s gay. Have they got kids?”

Me: “No, they haven’t”

Brian: “EXACTLY! He’s gay!”

Me: “For god’s sake, what? etc etc

I felt myself get prickly and defensive when he said this: not over his notion that Gareth is gay, but over the regressive idea that a married man without children can’t just be a married man without children. How often do men without kids feel insecure or an object of lurid curiosity in the eyes of their more conventional peers, I wondered.

But I didn’t really have a retort ready for Brian, a new dad from the ‘burbs, because it felt pointless. What do you say to a comment like that, and does it make any difference at all?