Friday, February 22, 2013
I’m told I look like I’ve swallowed a basketball. Maybe something bigger than that. “Comfortable” is but a foggy memory. The half-mile walk to and from the metro for my daily commute takes way too long now, as does the walk to the store and everywhere else. I am short-tempered, I’m feeling – and quite literally getting – constantly beat up, and I’m running on some unknown small fraction of brain-power while trying to learn a whole new language.
So yeah. I’m feeling stupid, uncomfortable, overwhelmed, clumsy, and ugly. I am not “glowing.”
Piled upon all this loveliness is the fact that complete strangers feel they have a right to poke their noses into my private business, and the goings-on inside my body. And the fact that apparently I’m not allowed to object to that. And that’s what sparks this rant.
Take one of the many recent examples: my husband and I were innocently walking down the street on our way to a sandwich shop. As we passed a group of people talking to one another, one of them stopped in mid-sentence and yelled out, “Ooooo, girl! You droppin’! Whatchoo havin’, a boy or a girl?” Yes, seriously. Complete stranger on the street. Inquiring about the internal functions of my body. I think I deserve a lot of credit for simply ignoring this person, rather than responding with my first knee-jerk reaction (physical violence) or my second (yelling back something outrageous, like “it’s a tumor.”)
I’m told by so many people – including most of my family – that I should not only “grin and bear” strangers’ wildly unwelcome and invasive questions/comments, but that I am supposed to be kind to them and provide honest and thorough answers. Essentially, I’m to put strangers’ feelings about what’s going on in my life above my own. I’m told, when I express my outrage at this, that it’s a societal expectation, and I should just go along with it (and in the process allow it to perpetuate). I’m told I shouldn’t say anything that hints at unhappiness with this situation, as this would be rude to others.
But let’s get one thing straight: I am not a zoo animal, here for strangers’ amusement. Neither is any other woman who happens to be pregnant.
Yes, I currently have a medical condition that is visibly obvious (“the only medical problem that is usually happy instead of scary,” to quote my husband). That doesn’t mean people, particularly strangers, get to comment on it and ask all about it. Like all medical conditions, this is an intensely private thing. And I should not be vilified for wanting to keep it that way.
Ever since the first time I received such unwelcome questions from strangers about my pregnancy, and got a talking-to from relatives about my reaction of “I don’t like to talk about it” (which I considered both mild and polite, not to mention honest), I’ve felt totally alone. Like maybe I’m some pariah, unable to become the stereotypical “glowing” and bubbly pregnant woman, simply waiting for any opportunity to tell perfect strangers about all the inner workings of her biology. Like maybe something’s deeply wrong with me.
I felt that way until I – and my husband – started sharing stories about these unwelcome inquiries with friends and acquaintances who have had children in recent years, or are currently going through pregnancy. Turns out I’m not a crazy harpy – apparently most people feel this way, but are too afraid of being categorized as crazy harpies to say anything. It seems, though we all agree the constant invasions of privacy are deeply disturbing, we have all felt compelled to endure them in silence, bowing to external pressures exhorting us to appear like perfect, beaming pregnant ladies.
No more. I will not just “grin and bear” your invasive questions, complete strangers. I will either ignore you (if I’m feeling charitable) or say something outlandish that makes it clear your questions aren’t welcome (if I’m not feeling charitable). You have no right to know how long it will be before I get my body back to myself. You have no right to know what variety of human is occupying the space usually reserved for my internal organs. You simply have no right. This doesn’t mean I’m a crazy harpy or a pariah or even that I’m unhappy with my current state. It simply means that you, stranger, have no right to my private business.
I – and others in similar situations – am perfectly within my rights to object to strangers’ intrusive rudeness. And I contend we should do so. Hopefully, if enough of us do, people will stop telling us there’s something wrong with the way we feel, and accept that we are still human beings who have a right to keep certain things private.