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Since When Did a Woman's Stomach Become Anyone's Business But Their Own?

Since when did a woman's stomach become another's property and why don't people think before they speak?

A few months ago I attended a beautiful wedding shower for an old friend. I have recently lost 20 pounds and was feeling good, I went out and bought a new shirt with some shirring in the front and a new sweater and felt like a million bucks. I went off to the party. I was able to catch up with old friends, meet new friends, I was having a ball until it happened ... the dreaded question most women, unless you are expecting hate, "Are you pregnant?"

For a moment I will digress ... it is a question most women and now most men should know, you do not ask another woman. A woman who is expecting and either far enough along or wishes to share the news, makes it well known through her
verbal and non verbal language that she is expecting. The clues are rubbing her
belly, holding her lower back, referring to herself in the plural, saying things such as, "when the baby arrives."

Now, back to the story, I looked at the woman, who I hadn't seen in over 20 years, and said to her. "Oh NO! I was just having this discussion that it is so frustrating losing weight after having kids in that there are certain parts of the body that
bounce back quicker than others and I have always struggled with weight in my
stomach, Ugh! It is so frustrating." I laughed, she awkwardly apologized, and I went on my way ... devastated. I tried my best to diffuse the situation and not show I had been rattled.

The next day, the headline in the paper was about Drew Barrymore sporting a "bump" the titled asked the question, "Is she or isn't she?" At the same time another Hollywood starlet Reese Witherspoon's bump was under speculation. I began to wonder what effect the media's fascination with the bump had to do with the question I was asked about my own stomach the prior day. Why are we so obsessed with women's bumps/stomachs? I wondered, how come when I was pregnant with my first child strangers felt it was their right to come up and grope my stomach, patting it, squeezing it and how come post baby people feel it is their right to comment on it too.

I know I am not alone. I have friends who have recently given birth and people who knew they were pregnant and had seen them weeks before the birth makes comments to them, "So when are you having the baby?" Other friends have been told, "I thought you would lose the belly after the baby was born?"

Come on people! How ignorant! How silly! How thoughtless.

How come we don't think before we speak? There is an actual moment of time in
between our thoughts and words, they are designed so we can actually think
about whether this is the message we want to convey and if the message could
possibly hurt another's feelings. Thinking before speaking and thinking about
the consequences of our words has far more to do with just comments about
women's stomachs, it has to do with being kind and decent. It has to do with
respecting ourselves and others and treating people as we want to be treated.

So, a few days later I went into the same store where I bought the shirt, wearing
the shirt, to return a necklace that had broken. I went up to the counter and told the woman I would like to return the necklace because I wore it to a shower this past weekend and it broke. She then responded, "Oh was it your baby shower?" and laughed. I took a deep breath and looked her straight in the eye and said to her, "No it was a friend's wedding shower. Are you telling me that I look like I am nine months pregnant and could have been attending my own baby shower this past weekend?"

She was silent and began processing my return. I asked again, she looked up at me and said, "I was joking." I then calmly said, "You didn't answer my question" and repeated it. She finally looked up and said "No." I then went on to tell her how I have been losing weight after the birth of my third child and that my stomach has always been a problem area.

She then responded, "I said something stupid, I have children too and know the struggle, I am sorry."

She then offered me a discount on shopping for the day. I told her I would no longer be purchasing clothes at this store because I am wearing a shirt bought there and it is unflattering to my body and makes me look pregnant. I went back an hour later and returned all the items and walked out the door liberated.

For anyone and everyone who has their struggles, whether it be weight, height, another body part that you struggle with or insecurity you may have, you are not alone! People make comments sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally that stab us right where it hurts. Please remember that they are ignorant and although it hurts you shouldn't take it to heart. Also, remember that if you feel comfortable you can tell them that it hurts your feelings and walk away.

For everyone, and most of us have, who have said sometime without thinking that was not nice or may be taken by the receiving party as not nice, you have an opportunity to pause and think before you speak. Once words are said they can't be taken back but if you do say something that is taken the wrong way, you can always say, "I'm sorry that is not what I meant."

And for goodness sake, let's stop our obsessing with baby bumps, six-pack abs, backsides, etc., and let everyone (celebrity or not) live and let live.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

maria claps July 02, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Alicia-may years ago, after my third child, I was sitting getting a pedi in town and the matron of the store asked me "you have baby in there?" I said no. She then went onto ask again "you sure you no have baby in there?". At this point, it actually became funny to me that someone would dare be so bold. I laughed it off and still laugh about it to this day. I would never do that to someone so I found her boldness to be so bizarre that it was funny and it kind of served as a wake up call to me that maybe I did need to exercise a little bit more. Its just human nature for people to comment on what is perceived as a baby bump and I dont think it is said with any malicious intent. Its never really bothered me, but I enjoyed reading your story!
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) July 02, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I am so sick of hearing about celebrity "baby bumps." Remember seeing something about Katy Perry (still married then) when someone took a photo of her during a trip to NYC, after which she explained how much she loved the food in New York, and maybe it was showing a bit after a few days. Give the poor girl a break to eat to her heart's desire in a place with great food. Thank God most of us aren't stalked by paparazzi!
JenniferB July 02, 2012 at 04:07 PM
It also bugs me when the media has to go on and on about a celebrity gaining weight. I remember for weeks seeing stories about Alanis Morrisette gaining weight. Slow month in the news?
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) July 02, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Jennifer B: And what kind of negative message does that send to young girls or any grown woman on whom you can "pinch an inch?"
maria claps July 02, 2012 at 06:07 PM
Our culture is obsessed with celebrities...I could care less. It even shocks me that the Natl Enquirerer, Star, etc actually still print and function. But I guess there are people that buy that crap still. Oh well.
cv July 02, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Demi Moore is the poster child of what a celebrity really is in our culture. Starving and using drugs to stay thin just to stay married to a thirty year old. If thats what its all about i will stay a little chubby thank you.
Alicia R. Camlibel, Ph.D., LPC July 02, 2012 at 08:03 PM
Ladies, thank you for all of your comments. The point of the blog was to share a personal experience that lends itself to an important lesson of thinking before speaking and remembering you have some time to assess how you message will be received before you say it. Also people all have insecurities and we all need to be sensitive to say things that could be taken the wrong way. I believe our societies fascination with celebrities weight, youth, and baby bumbs does play a negative role as well it more about taking responsbility for what we say and how we say it.
Jon July 02, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Problem solved! http://www.amazon.com/Pregnant-Womens-Shirt-Colors-Small/dp/B001YIYKJ4
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) July 03, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Ha, Jon. Oddly enough, although I've never had anyone call me pregnant when I wasn't, when I WAS pregnant, and for various reasons didn't want to say anything, I had people staring at me and making remarks about how I was getting fat. So I actually thought of having a t-shirt made saying, "I'm pregnant." Which sort of goes back to the original point of this blog. Is that a unisex t-shirt?
Sue M July 03, 2012 at 01:57 AM
I've gotten the "are you pregnant" once or twice since kid #2 -- My thyroid went underactive, and the belly fat came and stayed in all the wrong places :-(
Jon July 03, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Hi Linda, that one is not unisex. But the listing says "This design also available as a men's Tee shirt, and a men's hoodie and sweat shirt in our other amazon.com listings." So I guess you can buy one for your favorite beer drinker!
Kay July 03, 2012 at 01:00 PM
Ah, I wasn't aware that babies were formed in 'the stomach' ...what a phenom!
Becca July 03, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Great lesson Alicia. People should also remember to pause and think before an email is sent too. Sometimes we feel bolder since we can't see the other party's reaction and without the benefit of facial expressions things can totally be taken differently than was intended.
sammy July 03, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Actually, i thought it was more of an article about how we all are too sensitive and respond in such a negative manner to such situations. If the media wants to obsess - so what. I am not sure, but no gun to my head forcing me to read this crap! On the other hand , the salesperson apologized, tried to show empathy and you used it as a club to exact revenge on her , or was it on YOU ? Many times our sense of vindication is justified by rationalizing - how dare her, him, they, or them: but conversely , we should look inward and decide ! Is this just small stuff - and or not most things just "small stuff" ( my thanks to Mr. Carlson, the author ). I think you could have made your point and showed some class by letting her off the hook.
Alicia R. Camlibel, Ph.D., LPC July 03, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Thanks Becca. I agree with you. I tried to use a personal example to illustrate that we need to think before we speak, regardless of the situation and that we also need to remember when we are the "receiver" of a message that hurts are feelings we do have control of how we feel through by thinking to ourselves anything from they are ignorant to telling them how we feel. However, there are also times we need to learn to assert ourselves and feel comfortable telling people what they said hurt our feelings. I questioned the sales clerk because after the statement she laughed and then ignored my question. Sometimes in life people need to point out to us what we may have done or said they could have hurt another or was not right. Finally I wrote the article to say that it comes with being human that we have sensitivities and insecurities that are conscious or unconscious and that is okay too.
Alicia R. Camlibel, Ph.D., LPC July 03, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Sammy, the article was meant to discuss that we all have insecurities and we do have control over our reactions as well. However, I fail to see how question a smirking sales clerk is attacking or classless on my part. Maybe I was the first one to make her think about what she said or says to others. For some that incident may have been small potatoes but for others hurt emotions may take some time to shake off. In fact, I agree with Becca who posted a few posts down. It is one thing to point out another perspective or opinion on a topic, it is another to call someone names or make assumptions and do it via a comment on a blog or an e mail. It goes back to the original point of the article...we should all think before we speak or write.
Sue July 04, 2012 at 07:49 AM
During an encounter with anyone that is somewhat unknown to me, I strive to make a connection to "break the ice". Although I've been lucky to have never asked such a question, I'm sure I've nervously stuck my foot in my mouth a few times. As with your sensitivities on your outward appearance some of us need a little leniency when it comes to saying the wrong thing. I'm sure you taught the sale person a lesson but one I'm sure she already had learned before you returned the items. I think she deserved a little compassion instead of the attack. I believe we all just want a connection especially when one is in the role of service. The poor girl just needed a pass on that one. I'm sorry people are so insensitive to your insecurity as their words do hurt. I try to diffuse my sensitivities by thinking of that nervousness of trying to connect. I usually walk away more liberated by being silent and knowing that was the best they could do to connect with me.
Mrs. Smith July 04, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Alicia, you are a Ph.D, I understand you probably try to be a little more politically correct when you deal with strangers who ask probing personal questions. The average person doesn't have to be that way, however I also feel that teaching a person a lesson may deter them from making the same mistake when they spot someone whose belly isn't flat. An aquaintance or stranger asking me 'Do you have a baby in there?' would have prompted a firm 'No' with an annoyed look. If the person asked me 'Are you sure?' (like maria claps' post) I would have told her I already answered that question and now she was being rude. A good friend would never put you on the spot even if you were trying to keep a pregnancy a secret for a while. The question that really ticked me off when I was pregnant was 'Are you going to breastfeed?' Geez, a perfect stranger has no business asking that question - ever!
Sally July 04, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Sue, asking a perfect stranger if they are pregnant is a heck of a way to make a connection with them. The sales clerk could have easily discussed anything from the weather to how sorry she was the necklace broke. I took away the message of not only thinking before we speak in any situation but agree with Dr. Camlibel, how come people feel it is okay to comment on body parts and size, especially stomach size? If it were another body part that was the problem area would people be commenting on that? If someones backside is large would the sales clerk have looked at her rear end and said, "Oh I see that you just had a baby." Also, I have worked in retail and the key to selling clothes is to make people feel good about what their bodies and what they are wearing. Good for you Dr. Camlibel for sharing a personal story and trying to help people see from many different perspectives.
Betty W. July 04, 2012 at 01:03 PM
I find it interesting that so many people took the side of the sales clerk. She made a thoughtless comment and should not have made regardless of the situation. I also didn't come away from this article that it was mean or nasty to return clothes that were not flattering. I also feel that it take courage to nicely stand up for yourself and that Dr. Alicia is modeling that in this article. I have had the pleasure of participating in communities lectures that Dr. Camlibel has given and she is professional, approachable, and makes people feel that no question is stupid and does her best to address concerns. Sharing personal stories in her blogs is very brave and illustrates that she is human too and understands individual's struggles.
Pat July 04, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Kay, it seems you have illistrated the point of this blog perfectly, if you can't say (or write) anything nice, don't say (or write) anything at all! Sarcasm comes for the Latin root to tear open and it is not okay.
johnelle July 04, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Sammy, how was it vindictive to return clothes that weren't flattering? Also, the sales clerk only apologized after the fact.
stacie bohr July 04, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Team Dr. Alicia. Why can't someone share something that is obviously expressing the "bigger picture" without being chastised for it?
Hookerman July 04, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Funny.... a woman at work is pregnant, and when I told her I wasn't aware, she looked at me and said; "What?!? You actually think I'm this fat"??? Seems we're damned if we do, and damned if we don't.
Alicia R. Camlibel, Ph.D., LPC July 04, 2012 at 10:50 PM
Stacie, I think it is wonderful that people are expressing all kinds of different opinions. Isn't this the point of a blog and social media...to get people talking and debating? Thanks everyone for all of the comments.
Alicia R. Camlibel, Ph.D., LPC July 04, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Lol...yes at times we are damed if we do and damned if we don't!
sammy July 05, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Emotional Intelligence is something we need to teach at the earliest of ages.
genesko July 05, 2012 at 09:47 PM
many years ago, while about 7 months prego with my last one, I was interviewing for a new job. I really wanted to go get out of where I was and this would be a promotion for me. I said nothing about my "condition" and neither did the interviewer. (I was quite big already) I got the job, started it and came back 6 weeks after giving birth to my new job. My boss, who was very friendly, later told me he got reprimanded (by His female boss) for hiring a pregnant woman who could just up and leave for months leaving the spot vacant again. But he didn't feel it was appropriate to ask, especially since, maybe, just maybe, I carried extra weight rather poorly and wasnt pregnant at all. I appreciated his thoughts because I might not have gotten the job otherwise! Moral of the story: it's no one's business until it HAS to be someone's business.
Alicia R. Camlibel, Ph.D., LPC July 05, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Thanks for sharing. I was hired for my last full time job under a similar situation. I was 9 months pregnant and hired and it wasn't until I accepted the position that we discussed the pregnancy. It is common sense and emotional intelligence.

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