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The Most Insensitive Question You Can Ask a Woman

Photograph by Twenty20

I've struggled with my weight and self-image for most of my life. During my first pregnancy, I couldn't wait until I had a noticeable baby bump. In fact, I attempted to accentuate it early in a way I hoped screamed "I'm pregnant, not fat." For some unknown reason, it was important to me that people could tell I was pregnant by looking at me. It was the only time in my life where I loved and adored my belly, even though it was never a perfectly round basketball baby bump.

And despite hearing horror stories of women being asked for due dates when they weren't pregnant, I never had that happen to me... until recently.

It was a typical busy evening and we decided to go out for a quick dinner at a place that shall remain unnamed. We went there often enough over the years that we recognized one of the employees. She liked seeing the kids and commenting on how much they'd grown. We didn't know each other well, but it was always pleasant to see a friendly and familiar face.

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After we ordered our food, my husband went to get the drinks while I helped the kids grab a few things. My son was on my hip counting out how many straws we needed while my daughter grabbed napkins. I looked up as the lady came over to ask my daughter something. Then she looked at me, motioning out over her abdomen and said, "I was wondering if you're expecting again?"

She stood there smiling until I responded with a very quiet, "No."

I wanted to yell and scream at her insensitivity. I wished I had a snarky comeback at the ready. (One of my friends suggested something along the lines of "I was wondering the same thing about you!")

Being mistaken for a pregnant woman when I'm not pregnant hurt me in more ways than one.

But as hot tears stung the backs of my eyelids, threatening to spill over, I didn't want to explain anything to her. I didn't want her or anyone there to see me cry. To see me break down. To see me crack into a million pieces. The only thing I could do was turn and walk away, wishing the ground would open up and swallow me, making me disappear.

Being mistaken for a pregnant woman when I'm not pregnant hurt me in more ways than one. It was a huge blow to my self-image which I'm already sensitive about, but it also was a painful reminder of our past year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive.

It was such an awful thing to say. I wanted to explain to her why it's inappropriate to randomly ask someone that question. She doesn't know if I'm sensitive about my body. She doesn't know my infertility struggles. Or, heaven forbid, what if I'd miscarried recently?

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I wanted to say more, but I couldn't. In the moment it hurt too much. I've replayed the scene in my head dozens of times, trying out different reactions and responses. In hindsight, I wish I had calmly explained to her why her question was insensitive. Hopefully she has the grace to be embarrassed and not ask another woman if they're pregnant. Perhaps she'll remember what happened the next time she sees me. I won't forget it and so far I haven't returned there since that incident almost two months ago.

And they had it wrong. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but sometimes thoughtless words totally hurt the most.

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