The Elephant in the Womb

WARNING: The following may contain insensitive generalizations and unwashed gender bias.  I apologize for being male.

Ok, I have to ask; when is it acceptable to ask about the baby bump? I mean, at what point is it safe to just assume a woman is in fact pregnant and not simply battling a faulty metabolism?  Honestly, what’s the etiquette here?  This is not a situation you can afford to get wrong unless you want to suffer the infernal stink eye of hormonal rage… or non-hormonal rage, as the case may be.  There are unwritten dictates prohibiting such dangerous assumptions, like whether a balding man just got another haircut, a cranky woman is having her monthly visitor, or a cold sore really has a good explanation.   These are the topics originally covered under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” social protocols.  There’s precedence.

I certainly don’t want someone questioning if my thighs are getting chunky or whether I’ve just gotten another haircut (let’s just say I have).  I acknowledge that I can be a little sensitive about those types of inquiries.  I’m hard enough on myself without getting judged by the peanut gallery.  If my stomach protrudes further than my man-boobs I know it’s time to cut back on the doughnuts.  Its as simple as that.  And, by the way, that precise boob to belly ratio is always taken WSHI or ‘with stomach held in’, which is the default state for most guys not featured as the cover model on Men’s Health magazine.  Granted, men are well versed at sucking in our guts.  We also have less natural body fat, and don’t usually wrestle with fluctuating water weight, but we also don’t have flowy dresses or floral print muumuus to hide our dietary indiscretions.  If a man is not sticking with the program his belly will be sticking over the beltline in protest, and there’s only one man truly jolly about that ‘bowl full of jelly’.  However, even fully stuffed, nobody is going to walk up and ask a brother when the baby is due.  Even if you’re sporting sympathy weight in solidarity with your pregnant partner no one is going to internally debate whether you’re 4 months expecting or recently returned from an all-inclusive resort vacation that’s heavy on the buffet lines.

What I’m indelicately trying to say is that nobody questions man-chub.  It’s an accepted fact of life that as we age we get ‘older and wider’ (that is how the saying goes, right?), staying fit gets harder with every passing year and each additional child.  But biologically speaking men are not capable of pregnancy, nor are we able to unhinge our jaws and consume roast beast bones and all no matter how much we may want to.  So, without a good alternative explanation we can narrow down the expanding male waistline to one of the seven deadly sins.  And it ain’t ‘pride’.

This is trickier with woman.  There are those women whose bodies won’t betray a pregnancy until the moment their water breaks, or who, even at full capacity, would be hard pressed to conceal a basketball.  Most women however will begin to show some sign of impending birth in the first trimester with either an entirely new, yet less fashionable, wardrobe or a sudden aversion to the smells of microwaved popcorn.  I’m talking specifically about co-workers here, not a random stranger on the subway that could just as easily be hiding a 200-pound cyst or shoplifting a Gucci bag under their mysterious baby bump.   This is someone I see on a fairly regular basis, enough to know that something is amiss.  So, if I’m wrong and she’s not pregnant it would be a mistake of midwife proportions from which there’s no escaping… given that neither of us is going on maternity leave any time soon.  If she is pregnant, however, it’s a potential topic of friendly banter to bridge those awkward silences in the breakroom.  Being a parent myself I could handle whatever direction that discussion might take us; empathy for morning sickness, shared experiences from babies past, words of wisdom for a new parent.  Whatever the topic, it could be great… as long as it doesn’t result in hysterical tears or an unexpected invitation from HR to attend sensitivity training.

But how to be sure?  That’s the burning question.   Maybe it’s best if I just keep it to myself.  Maybe I should just keep my mouth shut and await further proof.  Better to be safe with a co-worker.  Better to wait it out.  I imagine one day soon someone will come around soliciting signatures for her baby shower gift basket.  That or a get well soon card for her gastric bypass surgery.  Either way, at least I’ll have it in writing.

 

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