So this happened to me.
My sister-in-law is expecting (first grandchild in the family, all very exciting!) and in my attempt to be the perfect sister-in-law, I wanted to not only send her a mother’s day card this year, but also include a gift. Never mind that the truly perfect sister-in-law thing to do would have been to send said gift upon news of said pregnancy many months earlier, but I work with what I got. And I decided that I didn’t want to send her more baby stuff, but rather something that she could use for herself. Enter Maternity Store Gift Card idea! So I headed to the mall.
When I geo there, I realized I hadn’t the faintest idea what Maternity Stores exist in the world. To the Mall Map! Now, having acted as a personal shopper for my entire family the past 5 Christmases, I am very familiar with the mall. I haven’t used a mall map in years. So I was suddenly completely overwhelmed standing there in the glow of the purple, pink and green boxes labeled with numbers that correspond to a list. Then, I felt someone beside me, also looking at the map.
And she was pregnant.
Score! Wait, you’re not supposed to ask someone if they’re pregnant. What if they aren’t? Then I’m that bitch who ruined someone’s day. But this woman is very clearly pregnant. I mean she looks like her water might break any minute. Trying not to stare, I steal a glance at her face. Way too thin to be as heavy as she is without being pregnant. I’m back in business. So very nervously I asked her,
“Excuse me, I know you’re not supposed to ask this, but are you pregnant?”
She laughed, “Yes.”
“Oh thank God!” I said and launched into how I needed a recommendation for a maternity store for a gift for my sister-in-law and when is the baby due and oh how nice it’s the first grandchild. She tells me there’s a Gap Maternity (who knew?) in the back of the Baby Gap and they make good jeans. I thanked her profusely and congratulated her on her new baby.
As I’m walking away from her, I’m hit with a terrible embarrassment-shame-spiral. Did I make it sound like I couldn’t tell if she was pregnant or fat? Maybe I should have said something like, “You are very clearly pregnant, I just wouldn’t want to assume and be wrong.” No! I should have just assumed she was pregnant and gone straight into the question. How could I of all people be so insensitive about the pregnant or fat quandary?!
By this time I had arrived at the Baby Gap. So I shook it off and moved on to the task at hand. As I walked into the store, I was greeted by some Baby Gap employees who were hanging out at the front of the empty store, “Welcome to Baby Gap.” I turned to say thank you and as I’m turning, caught one of them glancing at my belly, confusion on her face as to whether or not I am pregnant.
“I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat, I mean I just need a gift card, it’s not for me, sorry to be confusing, it’s for my sister-in-law, no baby for me!”
I was talking fast. I sounded crazy. I know I sounded crazy, because of the look she gave me back. The look didn’t say, “Poor fat lady has to tell people she’s not pregnant.” The look said, “Crazy girl wants a baby and is jealous of all the people that are having babies.” I was so worried about my fat that I made myself come off as a psycho-baby-wanting-jealous-sister-in-law. Much better.
Of course when I got to the register I over compensated by talking loudly a mile a minute how happy I was that it wasn’t me who was pregnant and how great it is that she’s pregnant and I’m way too cool to care about being pregnant.
On the way out, I tried to avoid eye contact with the employee from earlier who was still lingering by the front door of the still empty store (no customers to distract from my embarrassment). But to no avail. She smiled big as I crossed her path, “Have a nice day.”
Then came the embarrassment-shame-spiral again. Do I look pregnant? That’s depressing. Am I crazy? I think I might be crazy. And then it hit me—yes! I am crazy. I’m keeping off 80 lbs. and I still think of myself as fat. I assume when people describe me they say, “You know Jen? Kind of fat with long red hair?” I don’t go to clothing swaps because I assume that none of my clothes will fit anyone else and definitely none of their clothes will fit me. And apparently if someone were to insult me and ask if I was pregnant, I would apologize to them for any confusion my fat belly has caused.
I see myself as fat and I filter everything through that understanding of myself. And that’s keeping me from experiencing things in the moment, as they really are. And that means I’m missing out on opportunities, and THAT means I’m cheating myself.
And I don’t like to be cheated.