Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Maternal Mortification

by Marjorie
We went to the grocery store today and we were in line at the check out. I've unloaded my groceries and am waiting while the woman in front of me completes her transaction. She's a mom with a 2-year-old on her hip -- like me, only I've got a 5 year-old in the grocery cart as well. Her outfit looks carefully chosen (unlike mine) and she has a cute little pink and green handbag that looks like it would have come out of the pages of Prep if the novel had been illustrated.

My 5 year-old, who is closer to this woman than to me, says to me, "Mommy, that lady looks pregnant."

Oh my goodness. Knowing that I was fully present in the moment and wanting desperately for the moment to pass without further ado, I said nothing.

The woman said in a friendly/sarcastic way "Thanks."

The most I could do was scrunch up my eyebrows at Suzanne as if she had said the most bizarre thing I had ever heard in my life. I don't know what my expression actually conveyed -- I don't think I scowled and I might have had a slight smile that might have said "don't kids say the darndest things?" I hope not -- I was trying to communicate that the idea was so absurd that it needed no respone. But basically, I couldn't think of a thing to say to make the situation better and was pretty sure that anything I said would make it worse. Reflecting on it, I think it was the way to go, if I tried to correct Suzanne, she would have argued her point.

The woman didn't look pregnant, but she was a bit lumpy and her clothing style did not conceal the lumps. Her tummy was rounded and if she had been pregnant, it would have been pretty early in the pregnancy -- Suzanne would have definitely argued her point and might even have been persuasive.

Afterwards, I tried to explain to Suzanne that one never makes any comment about a woman looking pregnant. I even tried to tell her that such comments were interpreted by the person to mean that you thought they look fat. I don't think she got it. But maybe she understood enough to not say anything in the future.

Its karma -- I can recall asking my mother about a woman's facial mole in an elevator. The woman was really nice about it -- she said that lots of children found it interesting. I remember thinking that I didn't find it interesting, that I found it ugly -- luckily for my mom, I did not say that part out loud. She was embarrassed enough as it was. The next occasion was when I saw a Hindu woman, I asked my mom later about the forehead marking and I recall her thanking me for waiting until we were alone to ask. So, by the law of karma, this should be the only instance of my child embarrassing me -- right?

How do you handle such situations? I've got this feeling that my karma has not been fully expiated and I should be prepared for the future.


Blogger Anne Zelenka said...

Oh, that's awful. But not as bad as the time that I asked my neighbor "did you have the baby yet?"

Her answer: "yes, two days ago."

Oops. Why would I ask a dumb question like that and not "how are you doing?" since I didn't know whether she'd had the baby yet. She still looked nine months pregnant, but I did too right after having my babies.

Anyway, when my kids say embarrassing things I chastise them loudly. I would have said something like "Anna, that is not a nice thing to say and it's not true." But Anna wouldn't have argued with me about it; neither would Henry have. So you had a difficult situation to contend with. Sounds awful!

11:15 AM  
Blogger Marjorie said...

Two days postpartum does look still pregnant -- I've heard my mom ask a woman when she was due and she was not expecting -- ouch.

The only thing I could think that I might have done was apologize. If my child had bumped into her or taken something from her, I'd apologize. Here, she unintentionally hurt someone's feelings -- I think an apology wouldn't be out of line, but I just clammed up.

5:33 AM  
Blogger dgm said...

i had a similar incident when jade was 4, and i was pregnant. we were in the grocery store and we passed a man with a huge belly. she said, "look mommy! he's pregmented too! he's gonna have a baby like us!" fortunately, we were mobile and headed in the opposite direction so i didn't have to make eye contact with the poor man.

like you, i had to tell her not to make comments like that. i had to think about how to phrase it though because i didn't want to suggest that being fat or large was necessarily a bad thing--i didn't want to start down the road of creating body issues with her. in some ways, i worried about this part of the incident more because most adults know kids say the darndest things!

5:55 AM  

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