Friday, August 10, 2007

Baby Bump

When I was in my 20s, people often thought I was pregnant. Not really sure why, unless it was my tendency to wear tops and dresses that looked like maternity clothing, my weight, or that I have a perpetual glow. I suspect the first 2. Really, though - it's happened several times. Once from an old schoolmate's parent, once at a "greet your neighbor" handshake at church, and a few other times I don't remember so well. And to this day, of course, several times from small children who think a big tummy means an imminent baby. Hell, I thought the same when I was small - I'd see big beer bellies on men and think THEY were pregnant. Took a while for me to realize it was gender-specific.

But it's never offended me when someone has said with cheerful inquiry, "So, when's the baby due?" or when a kid has asked me if I have a baby in my tummy. It's a reasonable suspicion to have, with my gut! And in the instant it happens, I actually feel sorry for them, because the minute I say "But I'm not pregnant," they are going to feel absolutely dreadful.

But it's an honest mistake, made based on biology and what pregnant women look like. It's not their fault, it's mine. And my long history of putting MY foot in my mouth before I turned 30 (I still do sometimes) has made me compassionate, because I know that I always meant well, and so do they, probably. So I laugh and shake my head, and say "oh, no, it's ok! It's this blouse/dress I'm wearing!" with great amusement, and have to spend a few minutes consoling their horror at what they have said.

With kids, I can be as blunt as I want, because I feel it's my duty to teach them a small measure of discretion in their dealings with society (it takes a village...!) I usually say something like "No, I'm not going to have a baby... I'm just fat. But you should be careful about saying that to ladies, because you might hurt their feelings." And they go off with their mommy, who is murmuring apologies with a scarlet face.

But this is how I regard my appearance all the time. I honestly think that a calm, dispassionate appraisal of my weight and appearance would be a relief. I may say (as delicately as I can, because I know honesty about my weight makes people intensely uncomfortable) something about my ineligibility with a particular handsome young man because of my weight, and the usual response is one of embarrased refusal and "oh no! that's not true!" when we both know it is. People refuse to acknowledge my reality, because it makes them feel awkward and/or they fear hurting my feelings.

But the truth is the truth! I'm not saying I want people to be harsh or contemptuous of my appearance, but I adore honesty; sometimes, I think I love it more than anything.

I have no interest in taking it to the other extreme. You know what I mean - the Mo'nique-style aggressive plus-size woman, who is cleaving her way through society with a low-cut blouse, fashionable but tight pants, and an attitude of "I'm a sexy, sassy, big, beautiful woman," which they will stuff down the throat of anyone who looks at them sideways. Because I'm NOT happy looking like this, I don't find obesity attractive, so why would I expect anyone else to? I would LOOOOOOVE to be as thin as a supermodel, or even Renee Zellweger at her "outrageous" 140 pounds in Bridget Jones' Diary. (you think that was an amazing feat, putting on 30 pounds for a movie? Shuh!)

I have my own divine spark that I think is appealing, funny and honest, and it will have to be sufficient. Because I doubt at this stage of my life that I could ever turn into a Thin Woman and actually stay that way. And you know what? It makes my life so much easier. I never was considered very attractive (by worldly standards) so I have no delusions about recapturing or maintaining a beauty I never possessed. But I know so many women in their 30s and up, desperately working to try and keep their Prom Queen looks, and feeling so very very awful that they can't. The ones that were Pretty... were the cheerleaders... were prized for their looks... they know what they're missing as they age. But I have nothing to miss!

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