One summer during college when I worked at coffee shop, a man with special needs—I think he had Down’s Syndrome—used to come up by the cash register and chat with me all the time. We were shooting the breeze one day and I was standing with my pelvis leaning against the counter, sort of slumped forward. He looked down at my stomach and asked me, “Jessica, are you pregnant?” My eyes widened and I stood ramrod straight, sucking in my belly. “Nooo! I’m not pregnant!” I shrieked. His face flushed with embarrassment and he apologized profusely. And I, of course, felt like an ass for making him feel bad.
Flash forward to Sunday afternoon on a shopping trip to Sephora, when the cashier ringing up my Bliss Spa Best Of Skintentions moisturizer looked down at my stomach and exclaimed, “Awww, are you pregnant?”
Cringe.I could have done one of two things here: acted nasty towards this complete stranger, or laughed it off.
So I laughed it off. “Oh no!” I chuckled, not wanting a repeat performance of the coffee shop incident. “I’m just wearing a billowy top today.” I paused, then added, “And I probably just drink too many Frappucinos.” The Sephora cashier laughed awkwardly and agreed my shirt was billowy.
OK, maybe my Matchstick jeans from J.Crew are more like Sausage jeans now. Maybe it’s time to buy a larger size, seeing as my “muffin top” is attracting attention. But my own poor sartorial choices aside, I’m left wondering why, oh why, don’t people think before they speak?
Yes, I’ve put some weight on my otherwise slim frame, but my body image is in tip-top shape. I used to be angular and awkward, so these days, I love my new “curves” and I’m in a relationship with someone who loves them more than I do. (When I told him about the Sephora cashier, he peered down at his own belly and said, “I’m pregnant with twins.”) But I still don’t appreciate the commentary.
We dissect other people’s bodies all the time in our culture (I’d go so far as to say we are fat-hating) and that scrutiny really gets under some people’s skin. Seeing as how when most gossip rags or TV shows talk about a woman’s bulging belly, it’s in a criticizing way, a lot of women would understandably be insulted when asked if they’re pregnant. I’m sure the Sephora cashier intended to be joyous and friendly and, yes, I laughed it off, but it still bugged me that this woman thought it was OK to comment about my body.
Please, people, take it from me: Unless it’s obvious, asking a woman if she is pregnant is rife with landmines. Just be careful.