Recently a friend’s wife had an experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Here is his anonymous letter to the person who foolishly opened his mouth.
To the Person Who Asked My Wife If She Was Pregnant,
The upshot of your inquiry, was to tell my wife she had the body of a pregnant woman – which is the same as being called fat, if you’re not pregnant. She’s not. She has, however given birth to our two sons, and you’re obviously familiar with the concept of pregnancy’s effect on the female body. My wife exercises regularly, and is an avid runner. She keeps the whole family’s diet on the healthy side, with whole grains, fish, vegetables, kefir, Greek yogurt and supplements for vitamins, probiotics,and DHAs in the mix too. She does enjoy red wine, and has a sweet tooth – we both do, in fact. She is healthy, beautiful and sexy.
So when someone seemingly innocently asks about a non-existent pregnancy, she questions her entire lifestyle and why she puts effort into maintaining her body. Her self-esteem is damaged – she doesn’t feel like the healthy, beautiful, sexy woman she is. Her day is ruined, and as her husband and someone who loves her dearly, my day gets ruined too. I wasn’t present when you decided to ask a personal, invasive question of a stranger, but if I had been this is what I would have liked to tell you, and all of your ilk.
I figure you’re one of two kinds of people. The first type, is simply ignorant of the kind of damage you’re doing by asking such a question. If the little pouch you observed would have been due to a pregnancy, it would probably be in the first trimester, when most expecting moms don’t widely release the news to due a fear of miscarriage which occur in those first 12 weeks; Personally, I never ask a woman about a pregnancy unless she looks like she’s smuggling a regulation size basketball, or if she brings it up herself. I would be mortified if I made the mistake you made – but you don’t care about that, you simply need your nosiness satisfied, and you’re too socially stupid to consider the consequences of your assumption being wrong. I suppose there are plenty of socially impaired people out there, maybe it explains why this happens almost regularly – if it were a one time occurrence, we might be able to ignore it.
Since it does seem to happen every so often, my cynical side begins to wonder if there’s a second type of person who asks a woman about a pregnancy which isn’t actually there. I think you do it on purpose; it is a malicious, passive-aggressive, catty attack on someone who has done nothing to provoke you. Why would someone do such a thing? I’m not sure, but my best theory is that you wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see someone trapped in a cage of self-hatred, and you think the only means of escape is to knock someone down a peg. You’ve actually found a way to fat-shame someone who isn’t even fat (which I’ll admit is a term as ugly as it is subjective), and yet you won’t get called out on it, because the insult is cloaked in warm, fuzzy, family-friendliness. I’d applaud the brilliance of the tactic, if only it wasn’t so plain and outright mean.
If you’re in the former, socially stupid camp, let this be a lesson to you. Women who ARE pregnant get asked all kinds of questions about their body day in, day out. They are treated to labour horror stories, and questioned about every little detail on their lifestyle – what they eat, whether or not they’re exercising, what kind of birth they’re planning. They might enjoy some adult conversation that doesn’t revolve around that stuff – they might feel nostalgic for the “normal” life, and if not, they’ll probably discuss pregnancy details with you unprompted. Show some manners, and mind your own business.
If you’re in the latter, malicious camp, you have a learning opportunity too. While you can do some superficial damage to her (and therefore us), you can’t make us fundamentally unhappy – we have too much to be grateful for. By the same token, your cage of self-hatred is one you constructed yourself, and you’ll free yourself of it not by attacking others, but by appreciating the beauty and light within your own life. Try to build yourself up, and if you can spare the effort, maybe even build up someone else, and do it sincerely. If you still don’t get it, try this: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.