Friday, May 30, 2014

The belly as fair game

 For a few weeks, my protruding belly was such that it was a noticeable encroachment upon surrounding space drawing much immediate attention and confusing people that did not know that I was pregnant. Due to the accepted social custom of not commenting on a woman's weight, I would note contorted expressions of confusion and directed glares at my belly. Some would brave the question after much deliberation in such an awkward manner that I wanted to downcast my gaze and in a sombre voice reply in the negative, further explaining it was a tumor. However, I decided that might be a little too mean even for me.

What surprised me, however, is that once my belly conquered the surrounding space such that it was patent that I was housing a demanding tenant, my belly, as well the body attached, suddenly became fair game for comment. An exception to the long standing custom that one should never comment on a woman's weight, particularly when unsolicited, has been clearly carved out for the circumstance of pregnant women. Thus, while people would never exclaim "my, you are getting BIG!" to a woman,  this is not only accepted, but routine, when it is directed at a pregnant woman.  The comments are not only limited to the size of one's belly, but increase in cup size, skin changes - in fact, a woman's whole body becomes fair game for all comment as soon as it is common knowledge that she is pregnant. I have received comments from friends, colleagues, even strangers that I am convinced would never brave social opprobrium in non-pregnant circumstances to nonchalantly comment as to the increased size of my breasts and the seemingly unstoppable growth of my belly.

Loud exclamations as to a women's progression in pregnancy are also accepted, routine and generally quite optimistic. I am at a loss to understand why the insatiably curious do not simply ask what weeks one is instead of exclaiming in a level assured to have the ear of all carbon life forms in the vicinity that you MUST be six months. Worse, I have had several colleagues ask whether I am carrying twins. I was not surprised when my mother asked - and so repeatedly- whether I was carrying twins and to prove her point of what a belly housing only one tenant should look like, sent me a photo of her much further along neighbour, so I could ostensibly have a helpful comparison.


The fun doesn't stop there. People not only perceive that they have a carte blanche to comment as they will on how you look, but that it is perfectly acceptable to touch and rub your belly. At first, I was quite flummoxed that people I had never even shared a hug with, felt more than comfortable attacking my belly as if I were a Buddha and they would somehow rub off good fortune. Now, I know to look for the gleam in the eye concomitant with the raised arm in approach and dart out of the way before impact.

I suppose people have the confidence to comment at whim as they understand that a pregnant woman's body is not her own and they are commenting on her pregnant state only. However, what these shrewd people do not understand, is that even though they are correct that our bodies are not our own for they are now humble servants to demanding regents, we still perceive ownership of our bodies and at a loss to control our body's changes, we are even more vulnerable to comments respecting our appearance.

And the comments continue....

No, I am not carrying twins. No, I am not six months. No, you cannot touch my belly. I should just wear a t-shirt.








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