OPINION – Are you of a “certain age?” Are you female? If you answered yes to either of these questions, perhaps you’ve experienced the following.
One day at my old job, an older woman who worked in my building approached me in the mail room and said: “Can I ask you a personal question?”
My immediate reaction was “no,” because I don’t like to answer personal questions and I barely knew the woman. But, being a polite person, I said “okay.”
She leaned in as if she didn’t want her words overheard and said: “Are you pregnant?”
I was stunned by her boldness. Yes, I am of that “certain age,” but the progress of my reproductive activities – or lack thereof – is not a matter for public discussion.
“No,” I said. “Why?” Rumors were the primo pastime in this particular work place and I thought perhaps people spent their afternoon coffee breaks discussing my nocturnal habits with my husband. Who knows?
This woman looked at my belly and shrugged. Then she patted her own stomach and said “I thought you looked like you were.”
This isn’t even the best part.
I responded with a sarcastic, “Gee, thanks,” and she thought the following would comfort me: “Maybe you’re just bloated.”
I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
Admittedly, I have a bit of “dunlop” (over my belt, that is); always have and always will. I’m 5’ 3” with a short waist and 25 feet of intestines like everyone else. Guts have to go somewhere.
But I didn’t tell her that. In fact, I told her she ruined my day and she didn’t speak to me for weeks afterwards.
My own wounded ego aside, I was appalled by this woman’s behavior. In her defense, she just wanted to congratulate me. I hear most people are happy when they find out they’re pregnant but I’m not one of them. Though I am of that age – when your ovaries apparently begin to expire – my husband and I aren’t going to have children.
Regardless of a woman’s intentions for her uterus, such a question is incredibly personal and a weird one to ask a stranger – or anyone for that matter – if you really think about it.
What bothers me is that women my age seem to have involuntarily forfeited the right to privacy. Since our wombs could birth future generations, I suppose people feel they have an interest in whether young women reproduce. It’s for the benefit of the human race that they’re asking such a delicate and pushy question, they may argue.
I get it it. But I’m a woman and not just a womb and my womb is not your business. This is not the 1500s and my husband does not need to sire an heir to the throne. So stop asking.
Frankly, I’ll be relieved when I enter menopause. Maybe then people will start asking me if I have a benign growth in my belly instead of a baby. I’d be okay with that.
Shelley Mae Hazen
Writing as JH Mae
Feature Journalist & Short Fiction Writer