Last year, in October, I had just changed out of my uniform after a long shift at work. I was riding the elevator back up because I had forgotten something, and a lady I didn’t know looked at me, looked back at the elevator buttons, and then back at me.
And then, she patted my stomach, and said “Baby?”
I’m 5’7″ and I am carrying a bit of extra weight lately, and yes, it happens to be around my middle. I’m a size 10, which is relatively average for women — in fact, its the size that retail stores generally carry the most of, along with 8 and 12.
But let’s be clear that there is NEVER an appropriate moment to ask a women if she was pregnant. And there is NEVER an appropriate moment to pat another person’s belly.
I was too in shock to actually answer her, so I shook my head no.
Since that particular incident, I’ve received that question (or a version of that question) THREE times, most recently on Thursday evening.
“When are you due?”
“You look so healthy for a pregnant lady!”
“You shouldn’t be standing in this line for so long, sit down, growing a baby is hard work!”
I don’t think I look pregnant. I may have some extra weight that I’m currently trying to get rid of (don’t we all?). Thankfully I am surrounded by people who love me and someone called me Kate Upton at a party last night, so it isn’t all bad.
I responded in various ways to these persistent individuals. None of whom knew me at all. Nobody from my family, nobody who had spent more than five minutes with me in my entire life.
A neighbour, a stranger, a coworker from a different department, and a random lady in a coffee line. Interestingly enough, all women.
So here is my basic rule for everybody out there. If you don’t know a person, and you are not 100% sure of a pregnancy, DON’T ASK.
And if you do make the mistake and ask, then don’t backpedal. Apologize for the mistake and move on. Don’t tell me I’m “glowing” or say “the rest of you is so skinny I just thought it was a baby” and definitely don’t say “well you just make such a beautiful fat person.”
I’m considering just saying “yes, with triplets” to the next person so that I don’t have to witness their awkward back-pedalling.
Is it really easier for us to assume that somebody is pregnant than to believe they are beautiful with a little extra weight? How does my body impact strangers? And why is it appropriate to comment to someone you don’t know about their body?
You don’t know what somebody is going through. You don’t know if they have lost a baby, if they are sensitive about their weight, or if they’ve been told they may never be able to have children. If you don’t know, don’t say anything. It’s really that easy, or it should be.
And let’s be clear, the concave, flat abbed stomachs of the likes of Rihanna and Katy Perry aren’t the norm for most of us. We are working on it, and you can do some serious damage to somebody’s self esteem by implying that they are pregnant when they aren’t.
So here’s the deal. I’m just going to keep working hard to lose the weight that I’ve put on, and I’m going to remember to never, ever, unless I’m literally witnessing the birth myself, ask a women if she’s pregnant.