A couple of days ago, the lady behind the counter at the supermarket asked if she could offer my 4 year old a lolly. I agreed, and she held the jar down and told her she could have a couple. I suggested maybe taking one for herself and one for her friend we were going to visit. A man I didn’t know leaned down to my daughter’s level and smiled kindly, pointing to my midsection, and said “And don’t forget one for the baby inside, eh?”.
Fuck. Off. Way to make a woman you don’t know all ragey. My head may have swiveled around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.
I snapped that there was no baby inside. He swiftly backed away, which was probably the safest option for him and prevented me from giving him a few choice opinions on his appearance in return. And yeah, thanks for the awkward exchange that followed with my 4 year old, random guy with no concept of basic good manners!
I have had two kids. Whether I’m a size 12 or a size 18, I have a mum-tum. That’s a fact. Depending on my outfit, my posture, my menstrual cycle (hello, fluid retention!) and the size of my lunch, you might look at me and wonder if I’m up the duff regardless of my current dress size.
Depressingly, I know this from experience because I’ve been asked at various sizes. It’s literally just my shape now! I’ve actually had my not-pregnant belly patted when I wasn’t even overweight. Saying “Actually, no, I’m not pregnant…” while someone is patting you is mortifying. Judging from their reaction, it’s not fun for the belly-patter, either. Awkward.
Women are Allowed to be Pudgy!
If a woman isn’t a certain size or shape, she must be pregnant, right? There’s no other logical explanation! She couldn’t possibly just be a bit fat, could she? No! Women apparently only get two choices: thin or pregnant. So if she isn’t thin, she must be pregnant. And if (the horror!) she’s not thin AND not pregnant, it’s fine to embarrass her by commenting on it, right?
There’s no law against being a bigger person. I’m living proof; pudgy and yet to be arrested for it. Women are not actually obligated to be thin any more than men are. In fact, statistics show that more Australian men than women are overweight. So what’s okay for the gander is totally fine for the goose, right?
None of Your Business.
This is what it boils down to: A woman’s body is her business and no one else’s. Her appearance is not something to be held up for scrutiny and comment from strangers, acquaintances or anyone else. It’s not a difficult concept to grasp. Commenting on someone’s body and asking them for intimate information? Not appropriate. End of story.
I don’t comment on the weight or bodies of people that I do know. I sure don’t approach people in the supermarket to tell them their bellies look big enough to be housing a fetus, either, because that’s just bloody rude. It amazes me that not everyone knows this. Putting aside all the body image stuff and societal expectations for just a second, you also never know what someone else is going through. They could have had a miscarriage. Perhaps they have a health condition. What if they desperately want to have a baby but haven’t been able to conceive? Is your idle curiosity really more important than how your words might impact them?
So, When IS it Okay to Ask a Woman If She’s Pregnant?
Perhaps if she appears to be giving birth and needing your assistance? Even then- proceed with caution! Her pregnancy might seem obvious but never assume. You run the risk of upsetting her or embarrassing yourself if you’re wrong.
If a woman wants you to know that she’s pregnant, she’ll tell you. Whether it’s a casual reference to her unborn bub, a save the date for a baby shower, a fabulous Facebook announcement or an explanation for her sudden need to spend half an hour in the work bathrooms each morning- she will let you know if she wants or needs you to. You might look at a female colleague or neighbour and wonder. You might glance at a woman in a shop and assume. All you have to do is keep those thoughts to yourself. You might just be excited for her and want to offer your congratulations, which is fine, but wait for her to tell you.
#FYBF @ With Some Grace.