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due diligence

I need to come up with a new response to the question "When are you due?"

This is a question I hear from strangers every day. I don't think they mean to be rude. They see a pregnant person, they think pregnancy is awesome and intriguing, and they want to be involved in it some way. They ask the only question that is (for whatever reason) socially acceptable to ask a pregnant woman. Well that and "Do you know what you're having?"

The problem is that it's a shitty question. "When are you due?" reduces me to a toaster oven. It equates my relationship with my gestating child to my relationship with my real-estate tax bill. It invites the follow-up reflection, "When am I due? When am I due to do what? Expel an infant from my vagina? Why is that anybody else's business?"

Plus, when I hold my breath and just answer the damn question, the follow up conversation is never any better.

"Really? You have that long to go? I can't believe it!"


"I never would have guessed because you're so big."


"You must look bigger because you're so short / because you're having a boy / having a girl / because you have to carry your other children and they push down on your belly."

Pregnancy is fundamentally disempowering. Not only are you slowly robbed of your physical ability (Dan: "Where is the deodorant?" Me: "It fell on the floor and I didn't pick it up") but you're also robbed of your physical sovereignty. Doctors, friends and strangers poke at your body either literally or figuratively and offer their unsolicited opinions. I know that fat un-pregnant people have to deal with judgment all the time, but they aren't so much forced to HEAR about it.

And when people tell me the size of my body exceeds their expectations, what am I supposed to reply? What is the polite way to respond? Haha! Yes I'm fat, thank you for your observations?

There are the things that I want to reply that are not so polite. Like, How about you tell ME when was the first day of your last period and I'LL make loud comments about the distribution of mass on your body?

But this is not helpful.

Because the truth is, modern society is already a horrible place where strangers have lost the ability to talk to each other. As a rule we try not to relate to the people we share public spaces with. When we have to run errands or entertain our children at museums, we spend our time in atomized bubbles of increasing disconnection. The people around us are not so much people as obstacles we must not bump into.

And then we are tired when we get home but we wonder why we always feel so lonely.

Wouldn't life be more pleasant if strangers could smile at each other? Could start a conversation about the weather and finish with a real connection to another human being?

And yet we have no cultural precedent for connecting in public. So we speak to each other only when we see something so odd, something that inspires such unbearable curiosity that it overwhelms our desire for isolation. Like someone biking in the winter or a 4-year-old wearing a bow tie or a big fat protruding pregnant belly.

For this reason I don't want to turn away. I don't want to end the conversation, or to say all the rude repliques that pop into my head. I want to look into the eyes of my accuser and find some human connection. I want to take the verbal abuse, the disempowerment, the societally sanctioned stripping away of my personal privacy, and turn it into something different. I don't know what exactly, connection I guess. Disarming connection that transforms us all somehow.

I don't know what that might look like. Maybe the next time someone asks me when I'm due I'll just stare penetrating into their eyes and wait for inspiration to strike.

I was thinking about these things today after a typical conversation with a woman at the museum. She asked me when I was due, then interrupted herself by saying, "Yesterday I bet!" Then after she learned how much LONGER I had to go, she launched into a reminiscence of how skinny she was when she was pregnant. "Yeah, everyone says I'm fat" I said.

"It must be because you're so short!"

By the evening, I was determined to have things go differently next time. We went out to dinner in a crowded place where there were plenty of curious strangers around. When I brushed by a table of old men, one of them hollered at me, "Hey lady, did you swallow a watermelon seed?"

I turned towards the speaker and looked deep into his eyes. I confidently uttered the first thing that came into my head.

"No," I told him, "I had sex with my husband and he impregnated me."

The table of men erupted in laughter. Me and the man who asked the question both turned beet red.

Okay, so maybe this connection thing is a work in progress.


HA HA HA HA. Oh my gosh. I'm going to be laughing all night. That is what he gets for asking, and technically, you did have a social connection right there...right? hee

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