… is online here.
I often have to edit questions for length, and the question from the woman who is often “accused” (her words) of being pregnant was one of them. The full question was as follows:
I am a petite female who has put on a little weight as of the last year. The problem with this, is that I get all my weight in the front, which is bad enough. However, the icing on the cake has been that every week, there is a new stranger asking me, “When are you due?” I have an identical twin who is a bit smaller than me, but gets the same questions (just not as often). I have no ring on my finger, and several friends and family say that I do not look pregnant, just “fluffy.” And with the most recent pregnancy accusation made by an obstetrician – I am angry. It was funny before (I joked that it was a cheeseburger I just ate – which I had ate the night before), but now it has gotten out of hand. My question is, since when is it okay to ask if someone is pregnant when they could very clearly just be a little bit overweight? Also, what is the appropriate reaction? I would love to point out their flaws (i.e. a big nose, hairy ears, whatever), but I just smile and say “no, sorry,” as if it is my fault.
First of all, I am in no way denying or minimizing this woman’s frustration, so let’s get that out of the way. I’m an advocate or ally or member or whatever you want to call it of the Fat Acceptance movement, which I’ve been quite public about, and if I put a foot wrong here, I hope my FA buddies will call me out on it so I can get my head straight.
I was bothered, although I didn’t address it in my answer, by the “I have no ring on my finger” statement. Not all pregnant women are married, and not all married women wear their rings during pregnancy, if they’re prone to gaining weight or retaining water in their hands.
Also, of course your friends and family are going to say you don’t look pregnant. That’s the kind of thing friends and family do. But if you’re being asked every week — and by an obstetrician, no less! — then, hon, you look pregnant. Which doesn’t make it any less annoying, I’m sure, but everything is at least a little bit easier to cope with when we’re not in denial about it.
Last week, I got my hair done, and my hairdresser looked … fluffy. Really fluffy. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and I knew she’d had a baby eight months ago or so. With this question on my mind, of course, there was no way I was going to presume anything, so I greeted her and said, “What’s new?” She looked down at her belly and then at me as though I’d grown two heads and replied, “I’m expecting again, obviously.” She thought it was pretty funny when I explained my trepidation.
So here’s a question: what are, and are not, appropriate comments to make on another person’s appearance? I’d say both weight gain and loss are off the table entirely. (I used to be more on the fence about weight loss, but both learning more about FA — and also having the unpleasant experience, recently, of being congratulated on weight loss that is the result of illness — has changed my mind on that.) Even if someone is losing weight on purpose, there is a chance they will gain it back, and yesterday’s compliments may make them feel even worse.
Deliberate changes in appearance — new hair color or cut, new eyeglasses, contacts — seem like fair game, as long as this doesn’t involve insulting the way the person used to look. “Thank God you’ve finally gotten rid of the grey!” is not how we compliment a good dye job.
But what other general principles are there?
I think this is an area of social behavior where my own parameters are a little bit skewed from the norm. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be a theater person, and still am at heart. And theater people, because their body is their instrument, can be extremely straightforward about assessing their own appearance and that of others. You have to know what you look and sound like and what kind of persona you project, and if you’re getting it wrong, a good friend or mentor will tell you, in no uncertain terms. There isn’t time for tact and “everyone is beautiful” happy talk when careers are at stake. Sometimes, in fact, given that I hope to do more television and public speaking, I wish I could get that kind of unvarnished feedback again. Maybe I’ll ask my actor friends, if I can convince them to treat me like one of them, and not like “Miss Conduct.”
But outside the greenroom — what’s polite and what isn’t?