My sister was close to tears recently because another mom insinuated that her 10-month old daughter is fat.
At a first birthday party for my other sister’s son, his great-grandfather repeatedly and loudly commented that “there must be something in the water” because our babies are “so big.”
After the third time he said it, I turned it into a joke. “We’re birthing a race of giants,” I deadpanned, drawing a laugh.
But like all humor, my joke comes from two years of grinning and bearing inappropriate and sometimes hurtful comments, starting when I was pregnant with my son, and ending – well, I wonder if it will ever end.
My husband and I often talk about this phenomenon. In our uber-P.C. culture where everyone else is treated with kid gloves, why are people so compelled to tell moms and moms-to-be their unvarnished opinions and ask them rude questions?
I think that most of the time, people are just trying to be friendly and it backfires
When people see a watermelon belly and a waddle, it’s an easy conversation starter.
“When are you due?” or “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?”
I don’t mind those innocuous questions, which usually come from other women who’ve had their own children and feel a kinship with you.
It’s when the questions turn to your size that it reaches dangerous territory.
It was toward the end of my pregnancy and my husband took me out to a matinee. I was in the restroom washing my hands when a 60-something woman came up to me and asked if I was having multiples. Now, to be fair, I did put on 60 pounds when I was pregnant, 30 of which was water, so I probably did look pretty huge. But to open a conversation that way?
The other dangerous territory is any time a man asks you about breastfeeding. I think men are somehow obsessed with the idea, whether they’d admit it or not.
Just yesterday, a male colleague I rarely talk to started joking about how my office mate and I used to close the door to our office to pump.
She would put a post-it on the door that said simply, “Do Not Disturb” while the door was closed. Some of the men in our office thought it was funny to knock on the door loudly and pretend that they were students, or simply comment, “Oh, the door’s closed,” as if they imagined we were doing something suspect.
I only pumped at work for six weeks because it was such an ordeal. It’s been about seven months since I’ve pumped, and this man is still talking about it. Again, I don’t know if he couldn’t think of anything else to say to me, which is sad somehow, but seriously. I don’t go into his office and casually discuss his bodily functions.
I can’t write this and pretend that I’m 100 percent blameless. I recently struck up a conversation with a cashier at Wal-Mart by asking her when she was due, which triggered a barrage of more pointed questions from the woman behind me.
So I’m going to enact a new rule for myself, and maybe it will trigger a ripple effect of civility. Instead of asking an obviously pregnant woman when she’s due, I’ll simply smile and ask her how her day is going or say nothing at all.
Instead of stopping to ogle every new baby that passes or sizing up every new mom to see if she’s thinner or fatter than me, I’ll try to keep my eyes on my own little one and improving my own not-so-little physique.
Maybe it will catch on…