That morning, I had carefully tucked my three cameras in a bag, strapped on my camera harness and headed to a birthday party. Dressing for sessions is always a little tricky because I restrict myself to neutral colors and styles compatible with the Olympics of photographing kids. I went for leggings, a dress, and my green flats. I looked the part and I felt the part. Coffee in hand, I headed out the door. Today was a mommy work day. Bring it.
As I surveyed the home and took some initial light readings, I chatted with the guests who had arrived early. I'm one of those unicorns who actually loves small talk, so I was in my element. Then the grandfatherly fellow who was showing me around said "the thing." The words rolled off his tongue in slow motion.
"Congrats! When are you due?"
I had been getting this weekly lately so it wasn't even a shock. Note to self: This dress and legging combo might not look as incredible as they feel. 10-4.
"Oh, I'm not pregnant," I explained without skipping a beat. Cue mortification as the blood drained from his face. I offered a pat on the back and smile, just as I had comforted the young and old, men and women who had come before him, drowning in the social quicksand of embarrassment.
What DO you say? What is the proper response? I've struggled for some time finding what felt right to me. Close friends assured me that calling people out for their rudeness was the only right move. But I recognized that the man was simply trying to share in the joy he had perceived our family was experiencing. He meant no harm, just love.
Obviously, the unwritten rule is "don't ask a woman if she is pregnant ever." Ever, ever. Seems extreme to me, but I suppose it's not the worst rule to operate by. But haven't we all been there, asking before our sluggish brains catch up with our thoughts? I felt bad for him because I've been there and it's a pretty uncomfortable position to be in.
I assured him it was no big deal, that dresses don't always conceal what is left of a pregnancy, even a few years later. I explained that other people had made the same mistake and that I didn't have any hang-ups about my weight so it wasn't a big deal. A gray awkward cloud settled over our conversation and I started shooting my camera so he could politely excuse himself. Crisis averted.
By the time I had moved to the next room, a family member apologized on his behalf. I was appreciative for the thought, but I couldn't figure out why this just made things worse. WHY WAS THIS BOTHERING ME? Why didn't these kind apologies make me feel better? I considered the facts. I mean, yes, I'm at my highest weight yet. I credit my high doses of postpartum anxiety meds which allow me to react to situations proportionally -- a necessary skill with small children in the house. I exercise a few times a week and cook veggies at home. Pizza and ice cream are a welcomed treat in our home because moderation is delicious. At 185 pounds on a 5'7" frame, I'm pretty normal-looking. My belly does not stretch taut from my rib cage to my hips. If that's not the definition of "normal," I'm not sure what is. Then it hit me. I had figured it out.
Calling a woman fat is the Cadillac of insults. Diamond level. First class. There isn't anything worse. Right?
But wait, let's challenge that notion for a minute, can we?
Buying into the idea that this is an insult is buying into the idea that fat is bad and gross. That if given the choice between a skinny body and a fat body, we should all immediately sign up for thin. I log into Facebook and see all the ads: body wraps, diet groups, fat burning exercise regimens, and plans to get "my body back." God forbid I leave my home in a swimsuit stretched over my winter body. Otherwise known as my actual body. Why are we so fat averse?
Dare I move through this world the size that I am and not let that inform every single choice I make? Must I manipulate my body for my own happiness?
So my body doesn't take an entirely pre-pregnant form, even with a reasonable level of day-to-day care. Last I checked, that didn't take anything away from what I can accomplish in a day: nursing my snuggly son, listening to vents about work, finding the missing race car, baking a dinner that fills the house with the smell of mama's cooking, kissing imaginary booboos, creating art that speaks to me, making love to my husband, picking up our home at the end of the day so it's a place we can thrive together. I've been drinking the "love your body" Kool-Aid for some time now, so I dig this cliche bullshit. What are we achieving by running around mentioning that we want to lose a few pounds? Recommitting to exercise more for the 114th time? Eschewing baking in favor of fat-free, sugar-free, gluten-free, ice cream-free ice cream? We are just making ourselves miserable.
I just hadn't realized our horror over "imaginary pregnancies" was simply an extension of this mentality too. Think about your life and all the things you're trying not to be. A bad parent? A distant friend? A nagging, miserable spouse? A yeller? A phone addict? The least productive person at work? Does fat really rank that high? What if we could be all the things we dream of in this world and also a little fluffy? Would that make us failures?
Especially as a business owner, there are so many other adjectives that would shred me: rude, unprofessional, chronically late, flakey. Critique my actions and treatment of others, fair. Critique my body? Lame.
You can mistake me for a glowing pregnant mama any day. Because it reminds me that fat is not the worst thing I can be. But maybe don't ask me every day, OK?