Wednesday, May 19

watch your words

This morning I picked my niece up after I dropped The Boy off at school. The Niece is only 5 months older than The Girl (but about 10 pounds lighter) and they are both beautiful blondes. They don’t look alike, but to an (incredibly)untrained eye they could be twins. My two girls were so excited to have The Niece with us for the day.

Later, as I stood in Kroger’s line with a cart full of girl, the checkout lady gave us all the once over, looked at me and asked, “So, are you going to try again for a boy?”

I had no words. I am not normally flustered by strangers’ idiotic comments, but this one took me aback. I stumbled around on my words and said, “No!! This is my niece, these two are mine! And I have a son! We’re not trying again for anything!! We can’t have any more kids!” (And yes, every sentence ended with an exclamation point or two.)

Because that’s how I do, I tweeted it almost immediately afterward.

My friend Katie suggested I should've tried this:

And my friend Sarah, disguised as somebody named Ernie, had this to say:

And my friend Gen added this:

What Sarah said made me the angriest (not angry at her, but angry because what she said was true).

When I was pregnant, all three times, I loved having people touch my belly. People I actually knew. People in my family, people I went to church with, people who I had seen before and would likely see again. Not people in grocery stores or restaurants or Targe’. But there is no way I would let any one rub my stomach (or almost any other part of me) if I was not heavy with child. So why, when children are involved, do people feel like they have permission to grope around rudely on your body or your psyche?

It is not a new phenomenon, and I’m sure it has been blogged about ad nauseum. But people do feel like a woman’s body is public property.
A pregnant woman’s growing belly is a beacon for unsanitized hands.
A young woman’s (ok, a woman of any age) breasts just beg for comment (They’re HUGE! They’re TINY! They’re FLOPPY! They’re FAKE!).
Her hair, her face, her butt, her ankles (or, more accurately; her frizzy hair, her wrinkly face, her flat butt, her fat ankles)… there is no part of a woman’s body that is granted reprieve from scrutiny.

Like I said, I know this isn’t new. And the next thought I had probably wasn’t original either, but it struck me somewhere deep in my ever-defensive heart.

Do men endure such intrusive comments? Do they feel insecure going in public when they aren’t feeling their, uh, hottest? Do men have to have an answer prepared for why they got their wives pregnant AGAIN SO SOON? Do they have to deflect inquiries as to why their wife is NOT PREGNANT YET? Do men feel the need to explain that this is just an off day and really they are more put together than this and please don’t judge them because really that is the last thing they need right now?

The answer, it would seem, is a resounding no.
G, a working mother of a happy healthy one year old boy, even tweeted this:
(rakicy is her husband's twitter handle)

(That's a whole 'nuther post! Why no one would dare ask a man
why he's working when he has a new baby,
but women get bludgeoned to bits with this very question.)

 Yes, I know men suffer from insecurities just like women do. No one is invicible when it comes to matters of pride and feeeeeelings. But using my generally-secure, water-off-a-duck’s-back hubby as a reference, they just don’t let it get to them as much as women do. If my husband had heard that comment he would have laughed politely, quipped something about how three’s plenty, and forgotten it as soon as he left the store.

But I couldn’t forget it. For two major reasons, I couldn’t get that lady’s unintentionally rude comment out of my head.

1) It’s none of her dadgum stinkin’ business anyway. I know she thought she was just making casual conversation, but I didn’t ask her about her personal life. I wonder if she’d have been just as affronted as I was if I had said, “Hey! Thanks for ringing me up. How’s your sex life?”

2) What if we WERE trying for another baby? What if we’d been trying to get pregnant for months upon excruciating months? What if it was a dagger to my heart to hear someone say that my three (ok, my two, but I readily count my niece as my own) beautiful brilliant wonderful girls were not enough, and that I should “keep trying” until I get it right with a male heir to the throne?

What about THAT?

Every day is laced with a network of personal minefields. There is no way to know who you might accidentally offend with some trite comment. I have done way more than my share of hurting someone’s feelings because I’ve spoken without thought. And like I said, normally I would have let that sort of comment slide, but it was so incredibly insensitive it stuck in my craw (what does that even mean!?) and it itched so long I finally had to scratch it.

I’m just glad I can scratch the itch via blog, instead of yelling at that poor lady about what a creep she was.











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11 comments:

  1. great rant! love it! and I completely agree! my friend Stacy just announced she is pregnant again (she has an 8 month old) and you would not believe how mean people have been! "was it an accident" "were you trying" "are you ok" "i guess you want a girl this time" ugh! ugh! glad you blogged and ranted, made me feel better!
    Love,
    Jen

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  2. This hits close to home for me this week, since someone assumed I was pregnant for the second time in a short period of time. Great post!

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  3. After going through infertility, I hate comments like this even more. I call it the "Use the Filter" phenomenon. Towards the end of our infertility journey, I threatened to get a t-shirt made with that on it. I just wish people would stop and think about their words/comments. No, none of us are perfect....but come on people, mind your own business and stop making comments and asking personal questions that only make me feel WORSE about myself!!!!
    (And that's the end of my rant!!! ha!) Love ya!

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  4. Great post, Savannah! I'm sharing this with a friend who got the "when are you due?" question this week EVEN THOUGH SHE'S NOT PREGNANT.

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  5. I think one reason men don't let it (or don't have it) get to them as much as women do because they're not socialized to measure their self worth by what others think of their appearance to the same degree women are. Same goes for housekeeping-- I am SO afraid of people judging me, as a woman, if my house doesn't look great when they come over, even though I know it's silly. Why? Because I know they're not going to be looking at the pile of dog hair on the floor and thinking, "Why, that Jon needs to sweep more often." Nope. They're going to assume I'm the one falling down on the job. Because we measure a woman's worth by those things in a way we don't do to a man.

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  6. Having been married and childless for 6 years, I wish I had a dollar for every "When are you going to have kids?" "Can you not have kids?", etc., I could easily retire. Not to mention my favorite: "I don't understand why you don't have kids yet. David you would make such a great father." ?!?! (By the way, I am talking about random people or people I barely know... when women around my age that I consider friends - you - ask me polite questions, I don't mind at all!)

    Last night, a woman I barely know was carrying her grandson by while we were eating. She said "When are y'all going to have a cute thing like this?" I responded "How many times has that cute thing puked on you?" She walked off. Then I told David that I was escalating my rude responses about children. I'm more than happy to engage in a discussion about my fears / medical issues / etc. if someone truly wants to know but walking by dropping a random question is so rude. Can you imagine if I just walked up to someone and said "When was your last period?" or "Sir, why haven't you had a prostate exam?" or "You've gained weight. What are you up to now?" but any reproductive questions geared at women of child-bearing age are considered totally fine. They are my ovaries, not yours, stranger is Walmart... back off!!

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  7. Oh, and sometimes I tend to hijack comments. Sorry. :-)

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  8. we had severe issues before we were blessed with thing1 and thing2. with 2 boys and nary a gal in sight- and i've had folks walk up to me RECENTLY and say "are y'all expecting a girl"- my response is usually an icy glare and me explaining that i'm still losing my baby weight (even though he's five)...i'll tell you what someone told me "its no fun being stupid"

    you are beautiful as is your family. like katiemac said, sometimes, the crickets are a much better sound effect than words can ever have....

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  9. OK, I'm going to open another can of worms here and say that I think this concept of women's bodies being "public property" gets to the heart of why people get so up in arms over the whole nursing-in-public issue too. There, I said it. Itch scratched.

    Thanks again for the thoughtful post!

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  10. I think one reason men don't let it (or don't have it) get to them as much as women do because they're not socialized to measure their self worth by what others think of their appearance to the same degree women are. Same goes for housekeeping-- I am SO afraid of people judging me, as a woman, if my house doesn't look great when they come over, even though I know it's silly. Why? Because I know they're not going to be looking at the pile of dog hair on the floor and thinking, "Why, that Jon needs to sweep more often." Nope. They're going to assume I'm the one falling down on the job. Because we measure a woman's worth by those things in a way we don't do to a man.

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  11. we had severe issues before we were blessed with thing1 and thing2. with 2 boys and nary a gal in sight- and i've had folks walk up to me RECENTLY and say "are y'all expecting a girl"- my response is usually an icy glare and me explaining that i'm still losing my baby weight (even though he's five)...i'll tell you what someone told me "its no fun being stupid"

    you are beautiful as is your family. like katiemac said, sometimes, the crickets are a much better sound effect than words can ever have....

    ReplyDelete

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