I’m Not Pregnant, Just Fat

November 27, 2007

For a long time when I was younger, my weight would fluctuate fairly regularly, sometimes quite a lot in a relatively short time. My basic pattern seemed to be this:  I’d feel some kind of impetus to stay on a diet, get charged up to lose weight, and would begin eating to accomplish that goal (ah, such fond memories of An Entire Box of Weight Watchers Chocolate Mousse For Dinner; or One Compressed Cube of Dried Ramen Noodles for dinner; or Three Boiled Artichokes for Dinner; or A Raisin-Bran Muffin and Peanut Butter For Dinner).  Eventually, after semi-starving myself for several months, taking up weights and power walks, I’d manage to get into shape and lose anywhere between 20 and 35 pounds.  I’d revert to a size I could be happy with (usually a 10), and regain some sort of confidence and the sense that I could actually be attractive to the opposite sex.

This shift in mental state would, inevitably, precipitate a change in the energy I projected, and–bingo!–like magic, I’d seem to meet men.  I’d find another boyfriend, get serious, start dating, and after four to eight months, gain back all my weight.  Believe it or not, it wasn’t the stereotypical reason (ie, being so comfortable that now I felt I could eat whatever I wanted) that caused me to gain; it was sheer stress from being in a relationship (I’m still trying to work on that one with my H.H.).

In any case, as a college teacher at the time, I was forced to get dressed every day and head onto campus to teach.  My increased weight and blooming midsection were on display for all to see. 

Now, I wonder, how many overweight, 30-something women in the prime of their childbearing years haven’t had this experience:

[passing you in the hallway] “Hi, Miss.  Wow, congratulations!”

[Blank stare.  Congratulations?  Did they just announce a promotion and I missed it?  Did I win the lottery and not realize it?]. “Congratulations?  On what?”

[Blank stare, followed by uncomfortable silence]. “Uh, congratulations on your, you know, upcoming addition.”

[Truly stumped]. “Addition? To what?”

[Longer silence. Visibly uncomfortable now]. “To your, your family.  You know, um, er, uh. . . because you’re expecting.”

[Blood draining from face.  Light-headed silence.  Following the thread to its inevitable conclusion]. “Expecting?  Expecting what?”

[Desperately glancing around for a loose floorboard, garbage chute, natural disaster, abducting alien, or any other exit strategy] “Um, a baby? I mean, aren’t you–?”. . . . .

It makes sense, really.  When students see a 30-something woman gaining weight at such an accelerated pace, and especially when said 30-something tends to carry most of her weight in her abdomen (I’m a pear-shaped person, and it all settles on that expanse between waist–such as it is–and upper thigh, though at least that means I’m less prone to sudden heart attacks), well, when they see that kind of weight gain, they most naturally assume that the 30-something is pregnant.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “Oh, when are you due?”  To which I’d reply, in a voice shrinking with humiliation, “I’m not pregnant.”  After the 27th incident or thereabouts, I’d gotten over being mortified, and it basically just started to piss me off. 

Now, seriously, what kind of person asks someone else if she’s pregnant without already knowing the answer? I would never dare to pose such a question unless the last words the woman had uttered were something like, “Oh, by the way, I’m pregnant, I mean with child; you know, expecting a baby, in the family way, with a bun in the oven, and and I’m going to be giving birth to a human infant in a week or so.” 

After years of awkward conversations concerning my faux fecundity, I decided I had to combat this pattern somehow.  So I came up with a battle plan:

  • The next time someone asked if I was pregnant, I would smile sweetly and respond, “Why?  Do I look pregnant?”
  • If someone asked me when I was due, I planned to say, “In —-,” and name the previous month. In other words, if the inquiry came in January, I’d say I was due in December.  Let the questioner do the math and figure out I couldn’t possibly be pregnant yet. Either that, or I was the next miracle to be profiled on Unsolved Mysteries.
  • If anyone asked whether I was pregnant, I’d answer, “No, I was pregnant until a couple of days ago, though.”  Hah!  Now let’s see what kind of quip s/he could come up with! 
  • My favorite:  I intended to have a custom T-shirt made, to wear whenever I gained uncomely amounts of weight in a short span, emblazoned with the words, “I’m Not Pregnant, Just Fat.” That way, I could avoid the whole uncomfortable exchange entirely. 

This embarrassing question hasn’t been directed at me in recent years, thankfully, mostly because I’m now too old for people to think I’m pregnant any more.  Or maybe my weight has redistributed, and now I’m just fat all over instead of only in my belly.  Either way, I am grateful I haven’t had to deal with it.  Of course, just because I’m not asked that question any more doesn’t solve the real problem of my freqently erratic weight gain–but that’s another issue entirely.  

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