A few weeks ago, I was talking to a young couple I’d never met before at a party. The woman looked a little rotund. Toward the end of the conversation, she mentioned she and her husband were expecting a baby.
Oh! Reliable information! Confirmation of a pregnancy! I plunged right in with all kinds of questions about due dates and the sex of the kid and where they were planning to have it. I love talking about pregnancies and babies and can chatter and inquire all night, if required.
Still, it’s something I never, ever guess about, unless I know for a fact somebody is pregnant. This is why: Years ago, my friend Cheryl told me about gaining weight in her twenties. That was bad enough — hauling around an extra 30 pounds or so. But she cratered when a co-worker asked her when her baby was due. She got to tell the woman that no, she wasn’t pregnant, and both women were mortified and Cheryl swore she cried for three weeks straight after the untoward event, although she did break for several meals a day, since being insulted always makes you hungrier.
After hearing about that awful ordeal, I learned my lesson. Somebody could be giving birth right there in front of me and I wouldn’t whisper a word about pregnancy till the baby crowned. That’s what happens when you grow up as an overly polite Southern female: You ignore the obvious for as long as you can. Anything’s better that than giving offense.
“Did you notice my bump?” Campbell Brown asked Jon Stewart last night on The Daily Show. Well, no, he said, he hadn’t. But she had a bump and she was two or three months pregnant and all I could think was, Good lord, I not only don’t notice bumps (which, in my day, were known as “showing”), but I am also capable of failing to notice beach balls right in front of me.
A few nights ago, my husband came home and announced the young couple I met had had their baby. As I estimate it, they must have been about eight months into their pregnancy when I failed to notice it. But pregnancy or birth confirmations always make me curious as hell. Details! I want details!
“How much did the baby weigh?” I asked my husband.
He didn’t know, of course. Men — Southern, Northern, Western, Eastern, overly polite, overly impolite — almost always fail you at a time like this.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)