One of the things that's been really interesting to me about pregnancy is how strangers act towards you when you're pregnant. For the most part, they seem to smile at you and ask you how you're feeling a lot more than they do when you're not pregnant, and every once in a while you'll get some kind soul who'll insist you go in front of them in line at the grocery store even when you assure them that you're fine and you don't need to. People, for the most part, seem to like pregnant women, and this is lovely. I like when people like me, even while I am under no delusions that it's going to be over the moment I pop that baby out and they're cooing over my sleepy, soft-skinned little munchkin instead of my beachball-sized belly. I will, at that point, be regarded as merely "the remaining husk that brought this precious, perfect gift into the world," as the hilarious Pregnant Chicken puts it in this post, and that is totally cool with me.
What is more interesting, however, is the people who operate at the two other ends of the spectrum when confronted with a pregnant person. There are those who absolutely, categorically refuse to acknowledge your pregnant-ness—like the people on that crowded MUNI train I was on last week, who were suddenly all very, very interested in their reading material when I lumbered on board with my big belly and my heavy bag and looked around for a free seat—and then there are those who see that pregnant-ness as total public domain, carte blanche to say exactly what they please to you about your current physical state.
Let me tell you a story about a woman in the latter camp!
On our way back from Palm Springs last week, our plane was delayed at LAX for two and a half hours. While we'd been planning on a late dinner at home once we got back to San Francisco, we suddenly realized that we were going to have to get something to eat at the airport instead, and the only options in the terminal were Burger King or Starbucks. I wasn't hugely hungry and Starbucks seemed like a marginally more wholesome choice than Burger King, and so I lined up to buy a banana nut muffin, which is my favorite kind of muffin and which, I tried to tell myself, would at least contain some modicum of fruit.
The banana nut muffin turned out to be hideously stale and so I took it back to Starbucks, figuring that if I was going to eat a softball-sized, butter-laden baked good for dinner, I might as well enjoy it, and the guy behind the counter asked me if I'd like to switch it for chocolate or peach instead. "Chocolate, please," I said, like any other sane person would—who eats a peach muffin?—and this is when the woman next to me in line tapped me on the shoulder and said the five words that I don't really think any stranger should say to any other stranger, pregnant or not.
"Should you be eating that?"
(I would just like to pause here and reiterate, in case I was somehow unclear, that I had ordered a chocolate muffin, and not a bushel of oysters, six tequila shooters, and a brick of hash.)
I turned towards her slowly, realizing that it was important to keep my tone calm and bemused, rather than, say, IRRITATED AND SMASHY, and looked at her curiously.
"Why should I not be eating a chocolate muffin?" I asked.
"Well, you know," she said, flapping her hands about her face and gesturing at my midsection. "Because, you know, because of the baby. Because you're pregnant."
(This is the point, in retelling the story, at which my friend Patrick said I should have just looked at her quizically and said "Huh? I'm not pregnant!")
"Oh," I said instead. "You're telling me I shouldn't be eating chocolate?"
"Yes," she said. "You shouldn't be eating chocolate because of the caffeine. I didn't eat any chocolate when I was pregnant. My doctor told me not to."
"Huh," I said. "That's weird. Because my doctor told me that it was perfectly fine for me to have up to 200 miligrams of caffeine a day. In fact, some days I actually have a small cup of coffee in the morning."
"Oh!" she said, clearly taken aback not only that I hadn't immediately thrown the chocolate muffin into the nearest trash receptacle upon her recommendation, but also by my scandalous caffeine-related debauchery. "Well. Okay. Well! I'm sure it's fine. I'm sure you're fine!"
"I'm sure you're fine!" her husband chimed in, because let me tell you, if there's anything more patronizing than a woman telling a pregnant woman that it's "fine" that she's eating or drinking something, it's a man telling a pregnant woman the same thing.
"Thank you," I said. "I'm sure I'm fine too." And then I smiled tightly at them and walked away and spent the next twenty minutes fuming to Sean about some people and really, it was a MUFFIN, and god, it's not like I was BUYING A CRACK PIPE.
But come on, that's crazy, right? I mean, it's not only the misinformation and scaremongering that pissed me off—let alone the colossal balls it has to take to say something unprompted like that to a stranger—but also the fact that she was trying to shame me, publicly, for something she didn't think I should be doing. I mean, I know I was in the airport and everything, but I wasn't really expecting to be taking a guilt trip.
(And it was a chocolate muffin! It was a chocolate muffin! I cannot stress enough that it was a chocolate muffin and not a plate of steak tartare and a Long Island Iced Tea!)
Listen, I know you often hear pregnant women grizzling that they don't like strangers touching their belly, but I am totally fine with strangers touching my belly. I'm not going to get all bent out of shape if they express surprise that it's bigger or smaller than they expected it to be, and I generally welcome all the unsolicited advice anyone wants to give me about pregnancy and motherhood because man, it's not like I've done this before, you know? Tell me everything you know about baby aspirin, dude wearing an Ergo in the medicine aisle at Target! Put your hand on my tummy to feel the baby kick, random lady at the DMV! Pregnant women naturally invite commentary, I get it, and that is okay. It's exciting! You want to talk about it! I'm happy to talk about it too!
But asking another person if they "should be eating" a chocolate muffin is pretty rude behaviour, whether they're eight months pregnant or not. So yes, to answer your question, lady, I should be eating this delicious chocolate muffin. Because if it had been the stale banana one, I would have thrown it at you.