The first time someone assumed that I was pregnant, I was in high school. I was at my after-school job and had gone next door to get dinner at the Chinese restaurant. The owner asked me something akin to, “When are you due?” When you’re in high school, constantly confused and mortified by your body, and self-conscious about being fat, this is the last thing you want to hear.
That was about 13 years ago. Since then, I’ve had some memorable experiences:
- The drunk one-night stand of my fiance’s best friend slurring, “Are you pregnant?” and when hearing my “no” response, saying, “Oh, then you must have a tubby tummy.” (At this point, I was a size 10-12.)
- The host at a local restaurant going, “Table for 3?” with a wink and nudge attitude. The fiance stiffened up, and growled, “No, table for 2.” The host responded with, “Oh, I know I just…” before being cut off with a “No, just a table for 2.” He quickly got the hint.
- Standing in line with my best friend at Joann’s. An elderly woman in front of me goes, “Oh, when are you due honey?” I politely shake my head and say, “I’m not… I’m just fat.” She grows embarrassed at this point and a bit indignant, “Oh, I’m sorry… well, you can understand my confusion….” “It’s okay. It happens a lot.” “Well, can you tell me what you eat so I don’t end up that way?” As I sit in stunned for a moment I answered with “I really love pizza and cupcakes.” With relief she laughed and said, “Oh good, I never eat those things anyhow.” Meanwhile, my normally fierce best friend has become a shrinking violet in the corner.
- A number of individual cases where a man (or woman) goes “Oh, when are you due?!” When I politely inform them I’m not, they’re mortified– because they or their partner has gone through that, had those questions, and they know how hurtful it is. “I can’t believe I just said that. I know better than that.”
These comments have come regardless of my size: I can be a size 10/12 or an 18/20, but because my stomach is always just a bit soft, people will assume I’m pregnant. Pregnancy is something our culture embraces and celebrates (most of the time– 16 and Pregnant, I’m NOT looking at you). Being fat is not celebrated.
I’m a 29 year old built from strong Irish/German/English stock: all of my weight falls into my belly and I have naturally glowing skin. As a girl with slim limbs, prominent facial bones, and “a pretty face,” people assume I’m pregnant. While there is beauty in pregnancy and it’s a natural condition of our bodies, fat is also a natural aspect of our bodies.
Sometimes I question if there’s not something else there. It wasn’t until the elderly lady was so obviously offended by my fatness that I began to wonder: is it easier for people believe a large woman is pregnant rather than see her as a “a fat girl who is pretty”?
Is it more comforting for us to assume that a woman is pregnant than it is to believe a woman can be fat and beautiful? Why does my body and it’s natural state impact people who don’t know me? And why do we feel the need and drive to comment directly to a stranger about their body?
Over the years, my reactions have changed. For a while I was embarrassed, mumbling that I’m not pregnant, and then I’d shuffle off. There was a period where I’d get angry, defensive, and just let them know through tone and facial expressions that not only was I NOT pregnant, they were an asshole. Nowadays, I unapologetically just let them know I’m just fat before going about my business.
There have been times I’ve seen a woman and thought, “Is she, or isn’t she?” Never mind the fact it isn’t any of my business, but I also can’t imagine commenting … only to be wrong. To put that woman through the flood of emotions that I’ve felt over the years. Instead, I smile and walk along.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a pregnancy comment when you weren’t? What was your response? Alternately, have you ever mistakenly asked a woman when she was due, to find out she was just fat?
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Call her Ash, Ashe, or Ashley– she doesn’t mind! Already Pretty contributor Ashley began blogging in 2007 about fashion and style to fill a void in her life while living in the wintery tundra of Indiana. Her blog Dramatis Personae focuses on food, life & style. Ashley’s love of fashion began at 10, when she bought her first issue of Seventeen magazine; this also began a life long battle with learning to love her body (she never looked like the girls who graced those pages). As a plus-sized woman, she loves promoting fashion for all women and shops that want to make all ladies feel beautiful. She currently calls New Orleans home and share her little house with a wonderful fiance and two brilliant and playful Maine Coons kitties.