REVERB 14, Day 6: Biting Back. We All occasionally find ourselves having to deal with an incredibly unpleasant individual. Think back to such a situation: if the gloves were off, how would you REALLY have liked to have dealt with them?
Getting pregnant was something that I never anticipated doing. I was so vehement, in fact, about NOT having children, that more than one close friend texted with condolences, rather than congratulations when I DID decide to take the plunge. (“Oh, Jen! Oh!. You’ll see, sometimes accidents can be the greatest blessings…..”) But that’s not what I’m here to address. Those cats were just reacting genuinely to being blindsided. I only mention that to give you a clear idea of just how sure I was in my decision to move forward. This was a choice born of a complete about-face; months and months of thought went into it. My options were weighed and measured and then weighed and measured again for YEARS before the needle settled at “Let’s Do It.”
By the time I chucked the birth control for good, I was more than reasonably sure I’d considered every con. I was prepared for the sleepless nights and the labor pains. The Old Man and I had discussed in very clear terms what types of parents we wanted to be. I read the blogs and the books and the websites. I’d mentally picked over my friends with kids, and kept a checklist of both good ideas and shit that I would/will never do EVER. If you know me, you know I’m speaking the truth when I tell you, I WAS PREPARED. Even looking back, I’m hard-pressed to find something to point out that was worse, or, more accurately, more difficult than I’d considered.
What I WASN’T ready for, what no one mentioned, is the degree to which I became public property once round with child. The millisecond that my news was no longer secret, my inbox exploded with advice. “You’re going to want to….” “Say goodbye to sleep….” “You’re not going to taste that wine are you?” “I can’t believe you’re still working out….” “Has anyone talked to you about the dangers of vaccinations yet?” “When I was pregnant with little Timmy, I would have NEVER done xxxx….” No topic was off-limits or too private. People lost all boundaries. The judgement was swift and complete. EVERYONE had an opinion, and the more clearly I stated that I wasn’t interested, the more loudly they all spoke, because, well, I just wasn’t experienced and they, of course, KNEW BETTER.
I handled all of that pretty well. I learned quickly that there was no being tactful. People needed to be told clearly, and firmly that their advice was not wanted, and I managed to navigate that space without losing friends or offending anyone too terribly much (unless you WERE offended and kept quiet about it…in which case, I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt, but, you WERE overstepping).
What I didn’t handle well were the multitudes of strangers who felt that my body as a pregnant woman, was something that they could feel free to touch without permission. Somewhere, someone made up a wive’s tale that it is good luck to rub a pregnant woman’s belly, and, as such, you should do that, even if it’s someone you’ve never met before. In total, I would estimate that I was groped by no fewer than fifteen separate times by people I’d never met before; people who would approach me in a store, or in a parking lot, and, with nary a word, lay their hands upon my ample stomach.
It was horrifying. For about the first six times, I was aghast and responded by almost shouting, “Get your fucking hands off of me.” This was never the response that these strangers were expecting, and many told me that there was no reason for me to be so rude. I would expound on the inanity of that logic, but I’m sure you get it. It took me by surprise every time, and through my disgust and mortification, I couldn’t come up with anything better.
I was discussing this with a friend over messenger one night, when she made a suggestion that I would seize upon and run with for the remaining duration of my pregnancy. And so, this prompt turns into, not What Would You Have Rather Done, but How I Put The Best Idea Into Practice.
The Scene: Checkout line number 7, Safeway
The Players: My Very Pregnant Self and Middle-Aged Male Stranger
My Very Pregnant Self: (minding my own business, quietly waiting in line to pay for a cartload of groceries)
Middle-Aged Male Stranger: (creeping up to the side of MVPS, leaning in VERY CLOSE and exclaiming, while placing both of his dirty, hairy, strangery hands on my stomach): OH! You’re pregnant! Do you mind if I touch you?? (already touching)
MVPS: (without saying a word, I look MAMS in the eyes and lay my right hand gently but firmly on the front of his pants where his genitals are located)
MAMS: (eyes POP! open, hands recoil in shock, jumps back two feet and stares at me in disbelief, confusion)
MVPS: (Innocently) “Oh, I’m sorry, are we not doing that thing where we as strangers touch each other inappropriately without permission?”
MAMS: (gets the point, apologizes and fumbles away)
With thanks to Leslie and apologies for using her material. It was just too good not too, and served me well for many months.