Are you pregnant (or fat)?

11th July 2008

Are you pregnant (or fat)?

posted in Body Image, Personal |

I’ve only encountered the dread “Are you pregnant?” intrusion exactly once in my life before yesterday. The question came, ironically, not when I was obese, but when I weighed about 140 pounds, wore a size 8 and worked out and lifted weights six days a week. Then, the assumption – made by a couple of gangly barely post-pubescent guys at my favorite coffeehouse – threw my already eating disordered brain into a serious tailspin. I examined myself with heightened scrutiny for weeks afterward. I paraded about before friends and family, demanding they tell me the truth and when they assured me I didn’t look with child, assumed they were lying. I stepped up my exercise routine and vowed never to eat again.

Fast forward to yesterday. I am about 45 pounds heavier and 100 percent healthier. I’ve been working on a feature story on a local garden club whose members are working to restore the gardens of an historic home to its original period detail. I’ve spoken on the phone with the primary organizer of the endeavor several times; she’s a great-great grandmother with a slightly high-pitched, childish voice that would surely ensure her financial success in the phone sex market. I arranged to meet her at the home yesterday and arrived dressed in a classic pair of khakis and a button-down knit top over a tank top. We introduced ourselves and what follows is the conversation that occurred immediately after:

Old Lady (actually patting my stomach) “Oh, dear. Are you expecting or did you just have a little one?”

I smiled warmly. “No, I’m just fat.” (thanks, Joy!)

The old woman rubbed her own ample belly (she is a good 50 pounds heavier than me). “Oh, me too. You know, I started using this great exercise ball and lost some weight.”

“Well, only surgery will remove this,” I said, patting my stomach. She looked at me quizzically and I explained further. “I lost a lot of weight and my skin couldn’t keep up, so now I have a lot of loose skin.”

“Oh, how wonderful!” Old Lady exclaimed. “You must be so proud and healthier, too…”

I interrupted her. “Actually, I lost the weight in very unhealthy way – an eating disorder. I gained some weight back and I’ve maintained a loss of more than 100 pounds now in a healthy way. This is what I am proud of.”

She appeared nonplussed, even at my mention of an eating disorder. “You know, my sister had a weight problem and it turned out to be her thyroid…,” she offered.

“Yeah, I have a thyroid issue, too,” I replied still smiling. “But I always say that I don’t have a weight problem; it’s society that has a problem with my weight. Now, how about those gardens?”

I stopped by my home afterwards before meeting a friend at a local coffeehouse. I’ve come a long way in my eating disorder recovery and in body size acceptance, but the old woman’s comment still rankled me, especially since I do have a lot of excess skin on my abdomen that I can pull away from my body in hunks. I worried that perhaps I do look pregnant, and only the fact that my friends and family know my biological clock is spinning furiously in reverse keeps them from commenting on it. But as I examined myself in my full-length mirror, I saw no indication that I looked pregnant, except maybe if I slouched troll-like and dramatically poofed out my stomach. My friend whom I met later – the one I call my gay boyfriend, who has also had struggles with an eating disorder and body dysmorphia disorder — agreed with me. “You don’t have any of the proportions of a pregnant woman,” he declared. My husband also agreed and suggested that I should have asked the old lady if she had had a stroke recently.

Asking a woman if she is pregnant based on nothing more than physical suspicion is a kind way of asking a woman why she is fat, only you’ve provided her with a socially acceptable excuse with which to explain away her weight. It’s not unlike asking a bald woman if she has cancer or a flat-chested woman if she has had a mastectomy, and is just as rude, intrusive and presumptuous. Besides the obvious offensiveness implicit in calling someone fat, as my husband pointed out, a woman could also have been pregnant and lost the baby. Now you’re calling her fat and bringing up a traumatic issue. Double slam.

The old lady who asked me did not intend or frame her question in a malicious way, nor do I believe her intent was to call me fat. As in the study of history, you have to look at her and her motives not against the litmus of contemporary feminism, but as a woman of a different era and time, with different values and expectations of women. Still, even if a woman is very obviously pregnant with monstrous-sized quints, the most tactful response is to not say anything at all. If a woman is pregnant, she will decide when and whom to tell.

Have you ever had anyone ask if you’re pregnant? How’d you respond?

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There are currently 59 responses to “Are you pregnant (or fat)?”

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  1. 1 On July 11th, 2008, Yorke said:

    You bring up an excellent point about the loss of a baby which furthers the absolute rule that this is never a question to ask ANYONE.

    My dear sister’s child was stillborn at 7 months. It was devastating to all involved but what also was upsetting is that her weight change had suddenly become socially unacceptable as there was no child to show for it. It’s horrifying that she (or any mother with a healthy child, too!) had to worry about people asking her about her weight. The thought of painfully having to explain what had occurred was an added stress at a very sensitive time.

    Back to the main topic: you handled this beautifully, much better than I ever could have, and it takes a very strong, self assured, rational person to recognize the woman’s intent and background instead of internalizing.

  2. 2 On July 11th, 2008, Kristin said:

    I’m confused by this: “You don’t have the proportions of a fat woman”. Dis you mean pregnant woman?

  3. 3 On July 11th, 2008, Kristin said:

    I’m confused by this: “You don’t have the proportions of a fat woman”. Did you mean pregnant woman?

  4. 4 On July 11th, 2008, Kristin said:

    Whoa. Sorry about the double comment. I tried to catch it to edit my “dis” to “did”

  5. 5 On July 11th, 2008, kristin said:

    Interestingly enough, this has only happened to me once, and like you, it happened when I was not even overweight (by medical/insurance “standards”). I weighed about 150 pounds (I’m 5/8″) and was at an amusement park when I was told I could not ride one of the rides because I was pregnant. I assured them that I was not, in fact, pregnant and I ultimately allowed to ride the ride, but what a huge blow to my self-esteem. I obsessed about it for weeks after and still remember the event to this day (even though it happened almost 20 years ago).

  6. 6 On July 11th, 2008, thegirlfrommarz said:

    The woman in my local shop asked me if I was pregnant about a year ago. I smiled and said, “No, just fat.” She seemed completely satisfied with that explanation – but English isn’t her first language, so I don’t think she realised she might be coming across as rude or that my answer wasn’t exactly standard.

    I am an apple shape, so wearing anything empire line makes me look pretty pregnant. I wore an empire-line top while smoking a cigarette and got yelled at by a guy on a bike in the street. I only worked out that he was yelling about pregnancy and smoking after he was too far past me to catch up, but I was furious – talk about male sense of entitlement. Even though I wasn’t pregnant, how dare he *yell* at me? He could *disapprove* of a “pregnant” woman smoking all he liked, but he’s got no right to yell at her.

  7. 7 On July 11th, 2008, kristin said:

    I probably should have used a different name. I didn’t notice that the prior comment were also made by a Kristin. Sorry about that.

  8. 8 On July 11th, 2008, Stephanie said:

    My (future) mother-in-law got asked, “So when are you due?” about 3 months AFTER she had the baby (fiance’s little sister, 25 years ago). It did not make her happy.

    Don’t people think before they speak?

  9. 9 On July 11th, 2008, caffeine said:

    When I was 17 or so, I stopped at a gas station while wearing a T-shirt dress my mother had bought me. It was horrible and unflattering but it was what I had to wear. When I went in to pay for gas, the man behind the counter (a non-native English speaker, which didn’t help the following conversation) asked me when I was due.

    I was both horrified and completely flustered, and stammered out something about not being pregnant. Instead of apologizing, the man then proceeded to ask me why I was wearing clothes that made me look pregnant! Today I would tell him exactly where to stick his comments on my body. My 17-year-old self mumbled something about my mother buying it for me and fled after I paid.

  10. 10 On July 11th, 2008, CJ_in_VA said:

    My husband’s rule is, “Unless you see the baby’s head coming out, you never EVER ask a woman if she’s pregnant.”

  11. 11 On July 11th, 2008, Nicole said:

    CJ_in_VA–That’s my rule, too.

    I’m a fat woman who just gave birth to my second child, and it is weird actually how much easier it is to deal with the whole weight question when one is pregnant–at least for me. I don’t mind being weighed at the doctor’s office; I don’t mind the physical changes; I don’t blame myself for not being able to run fast. As Rachel astutely points out, pregnancy is pretty much the only socially acceptable way for a woman to gain weight–and even then she’d better lose it within six weeks of giving birth and be ready to pose for the Swimsuit Issue in three months.

    Even with my issues around my own body, I will say that it was giving birth to my first child that sparked me to stop the dieting destruction. I had a very difficult birth, and it gave me some respect for what my body could *do* rather than what it looked like.

  12. 12 On July 11th, 2008, Zaftige said:

    I have very seldom asked other women if they were pregnant/when were they do, only when I am preeeetty darn sure–taut, ballooning belly ready to pop with maybe even an outtie belly button? Someone who is quite convincingly 8/9 months. Even then, I only ask if I’m really feeling daring or like it’s a cue a pregnant woman WANTS me to take. But I agree–there is nothing as safe as not saying anything at all!

  13. 13 On July 11th, 2008, pennylane said:

    Your responses were very level-headed. This is why I failed as a journalist. I blush, stammer, can’t talk…

    I had it happen several years ago as I was recovering from my ED and was so startled I just said “uh, no.” (It was also in a work situation). I think I know what you mean by not having the proportions of a fat woman, though. I have a similar weight thing–I lost a lot of weight from an ED, then went back up, and now have come back down to a similar weight as yours. But my body has completely different proportions than before. I never used to carry weight on my stomach but now I do AND I have all that skin that just hangs there so I do appear to have an outsized belly.

    But you’re 100% correct–someone’s fertility status is none of anyone’s business. Being pregnant is not an invitation to ask personal, intrusive questions. (And neither is weight loss/gain!)

  14. 14 On July 11th, 2008, Keeks said:

    The pregnancy question, directed towards a very clearly pregnant woman, always rubbed me the wrong way. As if, somehow, the female body is public property. There should be no reason to update people on the status of your uterus unless you’re in the mood to.

  15. 15 On July 11th, 2008, Rachel said:

    I’m confused by this: “You don’t have the proportions of a fat woman”. Did you mean pregnant woman?

    You’re right. My mind was going faster than my fingers could type. Thanks for the catch.

  16. 16 On July 11th, 2008, Miriam Heddy said:

    This is a sidenote, but what bugs the hell out of me are those t-shirts that say, “I’m not fat. I’m pregnant.”

    It’s like you can’t possibly be *both*. I’ve been both fat and pregnant three times now, so the two are not mutually exclusive (and a sidenote to the sidenote: I delivered with a midwife and all three pregnancies were easy with vaginal births and no complications.)

    So asking someone if they’re pregnant doesn’t mean they can’t be also fat.

  17. 17 On July 11th, 2008, MrsDrC said:

    I dont recall having this situation…yet. I like the simple response you gave (thank again Joy).

    Now your husband brings up a VERY good point. I worked part time in a childrens clothing store for just over a year. I had the unpleasant exp. of hearing horrible stories from parents who lost a child before birth, or shortly after several times. To bring the subject up first is just stepping into a hornets nest. IF someone is pregnant, and they WANT to share the information with you, they will. If not on either of those, Oh well.

    As for your converstaion, face it chicka you’re at the baby poppin’ age in most peoples eye’s. Newly wed and basically running around with a huge target on your uterus.

    And that comment your husband came up with about having a stroke is REALLY good.

  18. 18 On July 11th, 2008, apophenia said:

    It doesn’t matter what I weigh–people have always been asking me if I’m pregnant, ever since I was in my 20s. My weight has fluctuated a lot over that time, but even at my lowest adult weight (size 2, yikes) I had people asking me if I was pregnant. I have no idea why. Maybe my posture’s really bad.

    The first few times I said “no” and burst into tears. Now I just say, “No, *evidently* I’m just fat,” which shuts them up or results in flurry of awkward apologies.

    Even when I was pregnant, I really didn’t appreciate the question–as Keeks notes above, it really seemed to be no one else’s business what was going on inside my uterus. Though what was worse were the inevitable attempts of total strangers to pet my belly. Ew.

  19. 19 On July 11th, 2008, apophenia said:

    I should add, my favorite response to the “Are you pregnant?” question when I WAS pregnant was, “No, it’s a cyst.” The inquisitor was appropriately mortified. I highly recommend it.

  20. 20 On July 11th, 2008, nuckingfutz said:

    After my now 7-year old was born, I dove head-first into dieting again. The fact that I managed to lose something like 30 lbs. during my pregnancy doing absolutely nothing (in fact, I was definitely eating like a pregnant woman – including entire BAGS of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, because they were my one REALLY bad craving) kind of spurred me on (for a while, anyway).

    So I was exercising an hour or more every day. At one point I’d gotten bored with doing Tae-Bo at home, and the weather was starting to get nicer, so I started going for 3-mile walks. On one of those walks, I stopped in a pharmacy to buy a bottle of water because I was sweaty and thirsty. When I went to pay for it, the clerk asked me when I was due.

    “Uh… four months ago.”

    Not only was she so embarrassed she could barely speak, what really got me was this was a fat woman, too. You would have thought she would know better.

  21. 21 On July 11th, 2008, wellroundedmama said:

    I was asked if I was pregnant by a friend of mine who hadn’t seen me in years. As with many women with PCOS, I had a large, uncontrollable wt gain in my late teens/early 20s, leaving me much larger than when she knew me (although I was still fat then). I was a bridesmaid in a wedding, she flew in for the wedding, and on the way home, she asked if I was pregnant….then tried to cover her error by asking if anyone else was. Sigh. Now I would simply say, “No, I’m just fat” and smile, but then I wasn’t ready to do that, and she so totally took me by surprise I was dumbfounded anyhow.

    The opposite is also true though……when you are fat and pregnant, you WANT everyone to notice…..and no one does!! If you have the rack’o'doom like me, you don’t even look pregnant until you’re ready to pop, and sometimes not even then. Such a bummer! I hear from a lot of fat women bemoaning the fact that they don’t “look” pregnant.

    Ya can’t win for losin’ sometimes.

  22. 22 On July 11th, 2008, Catgal said:

    I didn’t have someone ask me if I was pregnant, I had someone assume I was. I was at a pool hall shooting pool with my girlfriends. I do believe I had one of those baby-doll tops on (who on earth though that was a good style), and one of the men playing at the table next to us came over with a stool and told me to sit down. I thought he was flirting with me… (duh) The next think I know one of my girlfriends says “Hey, why does she get the chair?” The dude replies “because she’s pregnant”. EEK! Everyone laughed and I told him that I was not pregnant but thanked him anyway for the stool. He was morbily embarrassed…

  23. 23 On July 11th, 2008, Sara said:

    I have the best story ever. It wasn’t anyone being mean, it was just a spectacular case of Little Kid Logic. I babysit for a five year-old girl. Last summer, when she was four, we had the following conversation.

    (She’s sitting on my lap, facing me.)
    Little Girl: Are you pregnant?
    Me: Noooo…
    LG: Then why do you have those? (points to my boobs)
    Me: What? You don’t have to be pregnant to have breasts! Mine just happen to be big.
    LG: Oh. (slumps forward, burying her head in my rack. Begins sniffing)
    Me: WHAT are you DOING?!
    LG: I’m sniffing for treasure!
    Me: (hysterical laughter)
    LG: I’m a hamster, remember?

    So, not only do my boobs mean I’m pregnant, they also mean that they’re full of treasure that only hamsters can smell, apparently.

  24. 24 On July 11th, 2008, purpleshinycrafter said:

    Similar to Catgal, I’ve had another woman give up her seat on the subway for me. I haven’t had the guts to wear that combination of clothing again :/ (I carry most of my weight around my abdomen.)

  25. 25 On July 11th, 2008, tawdrysuki said:

    It happened to me a few months ago at work. I’m a reference assistant in a library, and a customer came up to get his account information. He then patted his belly and waggled his eyebrows at me, saying, “So…are we expecting?”

    I was momentarily speechless (and also thinking, “WTF? Who is this ‘we’, kemosabe?”) but then I noticed that I was slouching pretty badly and thus sticking my belly out quite a bit, so I stood up a little straighter and told him no. At which point he said, in a totally nasty and condescending tone, “Well, don’t try to suck it in for me NOW.”

    (For the record, I am 5’7″ and about 190#, with an hourglass shape. And this dude was at least 30 years older than me, fairly paunchy, and wearing a shiny velour tracksuit. The nerve and presumptuousness of that last comment was especially infuriating in light of these facts.)

    I wanted to rip him a new one, but since I was at work, I settled with tilting my head to the side a little bit, as if in silent wonder at this strange creature, the majestic jackass, and saying, “Huh. WOW.” in a tone of voice that (I hope) conveyed how very sorry I felt for him that he was born such an buttmunch.

    I’m getting more comfortable with FA/body positivity in the last several months though, so if it happens again, I’m going to try the “nope, just fat,” and direct eye contact route. It’s more direct.

  26. 26 On July 11th, 2008, HeatherRadish said:

    I like Sara’s story. The only person to ever ask me if “there was a baby in there” was a four-year-old whose regular babysitter had just given birth. I said no and she shrugged it off and moved on to showing me her toys, but her mother apologized waaaaaay too much. Four seems like a good age to teach a child that most people don’t want to be asked questions about their bodies, but it’s also an age where those questions carry no malice.

    Adults can’t imagine anyone would want to have sex with someone who looks like me, eh.

  27. 27 On July 11th, 2008, Jess said:

    Honestly? I’d say something offensive. I am fat, I’ve got a good-size gut as well.

    Something like so:
    “Oh! Are you pregnant?”
    “Yup. On my way to Planned Parenthood right now to take care of it! (smile, smile)”

    I’m a horrible girl, though.

  28. 28 On July 11th, 2008, Sarah said:

    During my early adolescence I had a different shape from I do now- as I hit puberty I moved from an apple to a pear.

    The one time someone asked me if I was pregnant, I was twelve years old. I was in the park with my class, and sitting on the side instead of running around with everyone else. I happened to have my hands over my stomach.
    A woman approached me and asked if I was pregnant with obvious and very strong disapproval. I was a long ways away from hand holding or kissing, let alone the sort of thing that leads to babies, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so mortified before or since. Partly because of the comment on my body, and more because of the assumption that I was having sex, and the attempt to police my sexuality when I was only just beginning to figure out that I had one.

  29. 29 On July 11th, 2008, lori said:

    I’ve never been asked if I was pregnant, but I think it’s because I’m always hourglass-shaped, no matter how much I weigh.

    When I was pregnant, I don’t think anybody asked until I was like 7 months along. I think they were afraid I was just fat, as opposed to fat and pregnant.

    I’m so terrified of making that faux pas myself that I will never, ever ask somebody if they were pregnant. This winter I saw a friend at a Christmas party who I thought might be pregnant, but I assumed she just had on a loose top or had gained some weight, so I didn’t ask or say anything. I saw her two months later and she had a month-old baby. But, better safe than sorry.

  30. 30 On July 11th, 2008, Godless Heathen said:

    The “are you pregnant” thing always weirds me out. Why do people want to know about my sex life? I mean, I’m happy to share, but it seems a little out of the blue, don’t it? Yeah, it’s a pretty personal question to ask when you think about it. It’s not like the Magical Pregnancy Fairy visits you if you wish hard enough.

    Really, it’s better to wait until the person in question tells you they’re expecting than to ask about it. Maybe they don’t feel like sharing.

  31. 31 On July 11th, 2008, Jackie said:

    You have a point about asking someone if they were pregnant, and they had lost the baby. That really is a horrible situation to find yourself in. The >:) side of me, was thinking though if someone I really disliked asked me if I was pregnant, instead of saying I was fat I’d go into a fake crying mode, wailing “My baby it didn’t make it! Why God! Why did you take my baby from me!” I guess cause I feel social mortification, is one of the better forms of revenge.

  32. 32 On July 12th, 2008, Kristie said:

    I’ve not had the pleasure of that experience (yet). What I don’t get is the idea that you question anyone’s appearance, or comment upon it. My mother taught me that you don’t point and you don’t ask impertinent questions. It’s only okay to comment on someone’s appearance if you’re giving them a genuine compliment. “Oh, I love that blouse.” Or “great haircut!” Other than that, you keep your mouth shut. These things I believe used to be called manners. Are they extinct? I cannot imagine asking anyone if they were pregnant. I wait to be told.

  33. 33 On July 12th, 2008, Melissa said:

    I remember a few weeks after I had my son my neighbour saw me and ran over and said “God when are you going to have that baby” and of course I was post partum depression and all I could muster was “I already did”
    It took me a long time to take off the baby belly, but I’ve always gained weight guess where- in my belly. So I still get this once in awhile.

    I was standing, waiting to use the bathroom in a grocery store when Hayden was a year and half old and this old lady comes up to me and starts telling me how handsome my son is, and of course I say thank-you and what not.
    Then she says, and he’s so lucky to be having another sibling on the way.
    To which I replied I’m not pregnant I’ve just got a fat gut. I laughed when I heard joy say that on the video clip btw!

    I don’t take it personal anymore, I let it be the other persons problem.

  34. 34 On July 12th, 2008, millelilly said:

    I have had some people assume I was pregnant, especially when I wear a babydoll shirt. It used to bother me until my very thin, very tall friend said she gets that also. Certain shirts make every woman look pregnant.

    I admit I have taken advantage of the pregnant look a time or two. Especially on airplanes, if you give a little sigh and put your hand on your tummy, people get out of the aisle and let you get by to get to your seat faster.

  35. 35 On July 12th, 2008, Marshmallow said:

    I remember the first time someone asked me if I was pregnant – they asked me when I was due, and I said, “Uh… I’m 11…” [seriously, I was 11.]

    All of my other pregnancy remarks have been greeted with silence on my behalf. I just don’t say anything, and would give them an evil, icy stare. (Most of these comments were when I was 16/17, think homicidal teenager here :-P )

    Though, now I’d definitely say, “Nope, just fat”, as per the fabulous Joy Nash, hurrah!

  36. 36 On July 12th, 2008, Liza said:

    I can’t remember who, but some comedian said “unless you actually see a baby coming out of her, never suggest that a woman might be pregnant.”

    My head has gone to Dave Barry for that one, but I’m not 100% sure.

    Was your top a tunic style? Or empire waisted? Sometimes I think I look pregnant in those. I mean, I wear them anyway. With leggings. Because my favorite trends are the ones that are comfy like pajamas.

  37. 37 On July 12th, 2008, Liza said:

    my favorite response to the “Are you pregnant?” question when I WAS pregnant was, “No, it’s a cyst.”


    If I ever do get pregnant (unlikely) I am stealing that. I ♥ making people uncomfortable. When they earn it.

  38. 38 On July 12th, 2008, Tiana said:

    The only time that someone ever asked me that, I was pregnant. But not ready to announce it to the public yet, so I always denied it (yup, she repeated the question on a regular basis or teased me by saying I looked pregnant). The thing is, though, I hadn’t even gained a significant amount of weight yet! I couldn’t see anything in the mirror, so I was mystified by how this girl figured it out.

    When I was younger, somebody once asked me if my mother was pregnant again. I said no, but the person INSISTED until I was about to run away screaming because my mother was not, in fact, pregnant. Argh!!

  39. 39 On July 12th, 2008, Catgal said:

    It was empire waisted, but very loose and billowy. BAD idea for a fat girl!

  40. 40 On July 13th, 2008, Cassandra said:

    This comment tends to hit those of us who gain weight in our bellies… I am hour-glass, but I still gain weight around my mid-section and I fear being asked this question.

    I do remember when I was little asking my grandmother if she was pregnant because she had gained weight around her tummy, making it stick out just like someone who was carrying a baby. I later found out it was because she had fibroid tumors that pushed all of her insides to the out – making her look pregnant, despite having the tumors removed.

  41. 41 On July 14th, 2008, Elizabeth said:

    When I was 18 and had a bmi of barely 17, I was working and a woman reached over my sales counter, toucher my stomach and asked me when i was due. I was mortified. It was awful. Since then I have been asked twice, most recently in March. With a bmi near 22/23, I feel it is more waranted but with a slightly more recovered view on life I take it with at least a tiny grain of salt. but it’s still frusterating and hurtful because it’s personal and I am trying to do my own thing and it’s really no one elses business the way my body gains weight. I want to tell these people that I am healthy now. That I’ve gainied about 50 pounds in the last two years and that my lower belly potrudes more because of this, that I am trying to accept it as some form of a ‘normal’ body and accusing it of being anything but is harmfull…. people are jackasses sometimes, even when they don’t have that as their intention

  42. 42 On July 14th, 2008, Maura said:

    I have never been asked (yet), but my boyfriend’s mother was asked back in May while we were in the grocery store. She’s about 5’8, probably 210+ pounds, and carries her weight in her stomach. She was wearing a billowy empire-waisted shirt and I guess to the clerk that means she was pregnant. So the clerk just blatantly asks “Are you pregnant?” and Lori just responded “Nope, I’m just fat” and then began to laugh very forced and loud. I wasn’t sure if she genuinely thought it was funny or if she was just covering up the fact that the question hurt her. But along with what apophenia said, what goes on inside a woman’s uterus is no one’s business but her own. So, if anyone were to ask me, I’d probably say, “No, are you?!” (yay Joy!)

  43. 43 On July 15th, 2008, Jen said:

    I witnessed my grandmother do this to another woman recently and was totally flabbergasted. It was the kind of thing you see in a bad movie. I shot her this look like “ZOMG you cannot be serious”, but even that didn’t register. So, like you, I chalked it up to sheer cluelessness.

  44. 44 On July 15th, 2008, Jackie said:

    Jen, actually it sounds like something that would happen in a John Waters film to Divine. LoL, and if you know Divine, he’d have something to say back to her!

    P.S.: For those of you not familiar with John Waters films. Divine is a female impersonator. So I say he, cause he is technically a guy, but most of the times plays as a woman in John Waters movies.

  45. 45 On July 15th, 2008, susan said:

    Someone asked me just this summer, when I was wearing an empire waist top. I told my coworkers that I would take it as a compliment since I am almost 44 and too old to have more babies.

  46. 46 On July 16th, 2008, Jennifer said:

    I get asked this on a weekly basis. I’m 5’10″, weight about 235 and although I would consider my shape to be hourglass, the weight I gained after my wedding all went on my tummy — so EVERYONE asks me ALL the time. I swear, I have people give up seats on the bus and subway (I live in NYC) – there is a guard at work that opens the door for me because he thinks I am (he’s never come out and asked, but when I went to get into the elevator he said “Need to take care of the little one.” and it was too late to say WTF?) So yes, I get asked this all the time and it’s frustrating and usually takes my self-esteem a good 24 hours to recover. I’m getting better at brushing it off, but it’s hard — especially because, I’m not joking – it happens at least once a week. UGH!!!!

  47. 47 On July 21st, 2008, rosalind said:

    The only time that’s happened to me. I was in college and interning at the childcare center. One of the four year olds asked me if I was going to have a baby. I said no, but she wouldn’t believe me. For the rest of the two months I worked there, whenever I sat down, she would come up to me, and put her ear to my stomach to “hear the baby!”

  48. 48 On July 27th, 2008, chrissy said:

    I have only been asked this since i got pregnant. i dont think it is right so i tend to say “yes I am pregnant (in a normal tone) ” then as thay try to touch my tummy i lean toward them and whisper” being youre that interested let me tell you how i got pregnant” then wiggle my eyebrows and grin as they rush away

  49. 49 On July 29th, 2008, Been body snarked? Let First magazine know » said:

    [...] me if I was expecting a “little one” — you can read the exchange that followed here. I’ve only had the “Are you pregnant?” question one other time in my life — [...]

  50. 50 On July 30th, 2008, Kelly said:

    I have only ever been asked this once. I was 20 at a family wedding. I was recovering from an eating disorder and in the past had been VERY thin and had since gained some weight but was healthy and looked good. I was wearing a figure hugging dress and one of my female cousins who is only a few years older than myself came up to me and asked if I was pregnant.

    It was very clear that she was asking out of malice and that her real motive was to try and insult me by calling me fat. I was hurt but also got very angry and immediately defensive and responded “No, why are you?”. She was not pregnant BUT had also obviously gained a lot of weight recently and was fat. Her husband had over hear our exchange and before she could reply answered for her “No, she’s just gotten fat.” and then to his wife “it’s all that junk you eat.”

    At this same event she also told my younger sister that she was “too skinny to belong to our family”. She obviously was feeling self conscious about her body but was dealing with it by lashing out at people she felt looked better than she did.

  51. 51 On August 11th, 2008, The postpartum baby-body blues » said:

    [...] I mentioned in this post, asking a woman if she is pregnant is like asking her why she’s fat, only you’ve provided her [...]

  52. 52 On August 14th, 2008, April D said:

    I was asked this about a year ago. I was at my Grandfather’s funeral. My bio-dad (who for very obvious reasons I DON’T associate with and haven’t seen/spoken to in a long time) came up to me; patted my stomach and said “So should I be expecting a little one soon?” I was mortified that after so long without having seen me; while at his FATHER’S funeral; that is the first thing out of his mouth to greet me. BUT, even though I was still far from finding the FA realm here, I still had my best come-back. I patted HIS girth and said right back, “No. Why? Are you pregnant?” Yea. The snark gods sometimes bless me ;)

  53. 53 On August 14th, 2008, SugarLeigh said:

    You know, while I’ve been asked if I was pregnant before (my general reply is a perky, “nope, just fat!”), I am glad to say I’ve never had the experience of a total stranger coming up to me and having the gall to touch my body. People who molest the pregnant (or presumed pregnant) bellies of others without permission astound me with their sheer rudeness and the enormity of their ingrained privilege and stupid ideas about the Magical Wonderfulness of Pregnancy (i.e. it’s somehow this amazing wonder-thing that the world should share and every expecting person should just be ecstatic to have strangers take some kind of perverse vicarious pleasure in THEIR experience).

    One of the fellows in a writing class pissed off every woman in the class the day we reviewed a story about a lady with a big family who had just had baby number seven. In the story, the lady sets the baby (in a carseat) on the floor just inside the door as she adjusts other packages in her hands, and lets the other kids get their first look at her. He objected to this, saying it wasn’t “realistic” because there’s somehow no way the woman would be anything but super-careful of the baby because of some perceived magical connection due to just having given birth to her. All the females in the room corrected him, but he wouldn’t give it up and went on and on and on, even though some of them HAD children, and were certainly in a much better position to know about “female maternal instinct” than this yutz!

    It just amazes me. If I am ever in such a situation, whether I am actually pregnant at the time or not, I think I’ll just be really, really rude in return. If someone grabbed my belly and asked when I was due, I’d grab theirs and say, “well, I’m due to get fertilized tonight, if all goes well! *wink* How ’bout you, been fuckin’ lately?”

    I mean, really. Hands off, strangers! What is the MATTER with some people?!

  54. 54 On August 20th, 2008, Mary H said:

    I don’t remember if anyone has asked me if I was pregnant when I wasn’t, but then again I’ve been a doula in the past and hang out with birth junkies. Also, I was very excited about being pregnant both times and blabbed about it right away to friends and strangers alike. :) Unfortunately the first time this meant I had to tell everyone I;d had a miscarriage a couple months later.

    My second was a twin pregnancy, which meant I looked 9 months pregnant at 5 months, but again I was so happy I didn’t mind the question. I DID mind – “are they natural?” (no i had robots implanted.) and “how did you get pregnant?” (Well, when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much… Or later when I was really sick of it, “on the kitchen table, we just couldn’t wait for the bedroom”)) and from guys “are you gonna nurse?” Um, thanks for appropriating my breasts, buddy.

    During my 36 hour labor (induction while on mag sulfate, which stops contractions) my OB partners on staff refused entry to the students eager to see the “300 pound twin pregnancy” and later to see a “300 pound vaginal delivery of twins.” My attending OB, clearly furious, yelled, “this is a family birth, you can’t come in and stare. Find some work to do!” My OB was the one who backed up midwives, and she and all her partners were super cool. Didn’t risk me out for weight. Didn’t risk me out for twins. Didn’t risk me out for both combined.

  55. 55 On August 23rd, 2008, Teresa D. said:

    Age 18, high school, baggy-shirt-baggy-clothes phase, leaning up against a counter at 7/11. Cashier: “Are you pregnant?”


    “You look like it.” … Talk about lack of tact?

    Early 20′s: “Are you pregnant?”
    “No, actually.”
    “Are you sure?”
    “Um, yes.”


    “How far along are you?”
    “Actually, I’m not.”
    “Oh.” [customer quickly moves to another subject]

    Just today, at 24…

    “You are having a baby!”
    “… No, actually, this is just my tummy.”
    “I wish I had a tummy. All these styles look horrible on people without tummies.” (I work at a women’s clothing boutique…)

    Seriously. Since 18, probably at LEAST 2x a year, if not more, people comment on my tummy and its resemblance to pregnancy. At 135 lbs, sometimes as low at 120, it baffles me. Has caused a serious self conscious issue in the way I stand, the way I present myself at work, every piece of clothing I buy. I have never been pregnant, yet people constantly insist that I look it. I do have a slightly intense arch in my lower back that causes my stomach to “sway out” a little, and although I’ve practiced yoga for 4+ years, it’s just how I’m built! People can’t get it through their heads.

    Will it EVER stop? That comment today set me off on a self-scrutiny party that’s lasted for the past 2 hours, wondering if I’m not working out enough, eating too much rice, or need to seriously work on my posture, which, from yoga, is actually quite aligned these days.


  56. 56 On September 4th, 2008, Rach said:

    This happened to me today. I have put on almost 20 pounds in the past three years. This is a fact that causes me deep shame. I am a teacher, and today a student approached me, and said, “Miss, what happened to you?” (her hand on my belly, implying pregnancy). And, when I looked puzzled, she said, “You got so chubby! You must have had a really good summer, huh?” (and laughed!) While I wanted to think it was harmless, and good that she equated chubbiness with pleasure, I was mortified. Seriously. I need to lose weight, but this is not the way to motivate me.

  57. 57 On September 27th, 2008, Suzanne said:

    I have never been overweight, but I find that I am struggling with it now. I went away on vacation and came back a bit larger. I am 5’4″ and way 152 pounds. I was in Yoga the other day feeling particularly stiff. My yoga instructor seemed to be paying more attention to me than usual, making adjustments to my yoga alignment. And, as I was on the floor with my face down, she came up to me and whispered “Is there something that I should know? Are you expecting? I replied no. I felt mortified and still do.

  58. 58 On July 26th, 2010, Kellie said:

    I have been asked several times if I was pregnant also. It hurts just as much as the first time that I was asked!

    I was at an outdoor bar when a drunken old man came up to me and said “when are you going to have that baby?” I was standing there drinking a BEER with my best friend. I mumbled something about not being pregnant while my friend called him an asshole and we left as soon as we could. Well, I guess thats what friends are for!

    I have been asked numerous times by foreign people if I am expecting. Do they not understand how rude that is?

    I have a very overweight girl at work tell me “you look like you are pregnant!” when she knew I was not.

    The worst part is when people don’t even ask if you are pregnant, but instead just stare at your stomach like something is going to happen!

  59. 59 On November 30th, 2010, Annoyed said:

    I am 5’6″, weigh 130 pounds and often asked if I am pregnant. For a recovering bulemic, this is not a question that I take very well. People are so insensitive and rude. What’s even more perplexing is the fact that the nosy people tend to be much larger than me.

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