A quick way to embarrass a Meg

Out on my lunch break yesterday, I was looking to unwind. Though it was just a normal, run-of-the-mill Monday, my anxiety level was pretty high. I needed to get out of the office, find myself a soothing activity and decompress.

So, naturally, I went to the bookstore.

There’s only one in town, friends, and I used to work there. It’s been years, though, so I don’t often run into anyone I  know from my retail days — or if I do, I’m generally happy to see them. Despite the fact that I’m always in a hurry and don’t always seem approachable, I try to be friendly. When you say hi, I say hi back. You know — like a normal, polite adult.

Enter a former coworker, a man I worked with for years. It had been a while since we’d seen each other . . . years, even. He was always friendly. We got along fine.

After spending a leisurely few minutes browsing the shelves and planning what to blow my $25 gift card on, I walked up front to make my purchase (Anna & The French Kiss, by the by). The gentleman ringing me up was not the coworker in question. He appeared out of nowhere and, being the unobservant person I am, I didn’t notice him.

So he called out to me, waving.

“Oh hey, so-and-so!” I offered a wave and a grin in return. “How are you?”

“Good — and you?”

“Oh, good. Just working . . . the usual. Good to see you!” I called, glancing at the rapidly-growing line of customers behind me. Everyone hates the person making idle chit-chat with a cashier when 1,786 people are waiting to be rung up, friends. Everyone. I didn’t want to be the subject of an angry mob all waiting to get back to the office in their precious 60-minute span. Plus, I had other errands to run.

But he called out to me again.

“Oh, Megan . . . are you . . .” Long, long, long insanely awkward pause. Long. “I, um, don’t quite know how to say this . . .”

And this is the part where I started getting a little antsy. Didn’t know how to say what? We haven’t seen each other in years, we don’t know each other incredibly well — what wouldn’t you “know how” to say? I figured it was probably about my ex-boyfriend, who was once a coworker, too. People ask me about him from time to time. No big deal.

But the pause . . . oh, the pause. It stretched on forever. I could have cooked dinner, set the table and scarfed down my spaghetti in that pause. In order to make it a smidge less uncomfortable, I laughed awkwardly as my coworker glanced from my chin to my midsection with his mouth agape. And my stomach dropped right around the time he squinted and said, “You don’t have a bun in the oven, do you?”

I’m pretty sure my face went up in flames. Six sets of eyes turned to stare at me; my legs felt like jelly.

“Um . . . no.”

“Oh! Okay . . . you just . . . ” He gestured wildly to my torso, eyes traveling over the cinched-waist of my houndstooth coat. My non-maternity coat. “I thought . . .”

“No,” I cut in again, too mortified to assuage his obvious embarrassment.

And then I slipped away, tweeted about it and drowned my sorrows in buying random stuff at Target that I probably didn’t need but wanted because I was OMG REALLY UPSET and INSULTED. I asked my coworkers at the paper for honest feedback: does the coat make me look with child? And they all said no. Maybe they were just afraid of incurring my wrath, but everyone said no.

Men (and women) have been dumbly asking ladies if they’re expecting since the beginning of time, I’m sure, but here’s my question: WHY? Even if I were, it’s none of your business. I’m definitely not, but if I were? Well, I wouldn’t be gushing about the news with you, Random Former Coworker. Why risk the chance of me not being pregnant, like today, by asking that question?

It was an honest mistake, and I know he felt bad. That was clear. If I’d been the one to ask someone about a “bun” and had to take in the shocked, embarrassed look on their face, my day would have been ruined.

But it wasn’t. Because I would never ask someone that.

And now I can never go back to that bookstore.

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35 thoughts on “A quick way to embarrass a Meg

  1. Great story, Meg. I could just see it happening…

    Don’t be angry with the man! It’s humans in general. When you’re pregnant you’re public property. People ask you about it (how much longer?), people want to feel the bump (some ask first). It’s part and parcel of being pregnant.

    You just looked healthy and happy, with a glow, I suspect. A bit like a pregnant person. Or you looked a bit pale and bothered. Yes, that also is a pregnant person. Why do I write “person”? It’s just the women who get pregnant. 🙂

    • I’m sure you’re right! I’d like to think I just had that confident, healthy glow about me. And I can definitely see that you’re right about pregnant women becoming public property . . . my poor coworker, who is due next week, has to field probing hands rubbing her belly constantly in the hallway. That will make me crazy someday (someday!), I’m sure.

  2. I’m so sorry this happened to you, Meg. Some people really are just clueless. Asking a woman if she’s pregnant is just something you should never, ever do. When she’s ready to talk about it – she will. Until then, just zip it, I say.

    The previous commenter is right about the foibles of humans, though. They ask the most inappropriate questions and solicit the most unwanted advice. As if that’s not enough, once you do have a baby, you’ll find that complete strangers want to come up and touch your child’s hands or feet. That used to infuriate me. I got to a point where I’d see someone coming toward my babies and turn in another direction. I wanted a shirt that read: Back off stranger! My kids put their hands and feet in their mouths and I don’t know if you wash your hands! Yeah, people can be astonishing – in good ways and bad.

    I hope you have a great day. And enjoy your new book!

  3. People should know to never ask that question unless they’re absolutely 100% sure. Someone asked my sister when she was due right after her son was born and she cried for a week. That guy must need glasses!!

    • This happened to me to…I was holding a newborn and a woman (not even a guy, but a proper woman in her 50s) asked me if I was pregnant. Talk about depressing.

  4. What an ass. You’d think that the average human would know better, but it seems to happen again and again. Personally? I never ask, because another mistake you can make is asking a recently pregnant person if they are pregnant, and it is just as awkward. If it is someone I actually care about, then I find out through friends!

  5. I would never have the gall to ask someone I barely knew whether or not they’re pregnant. I don’t even like bringing it up with people I for sure know are pregnant. But wow. People are really…dumb. I’m sorry this happened to you during an anxious work day as well.

    Enjoy your book and your Target treasures! Target sprees always cheer me up 🙂

  6. Oh no! True story: Sometimes I buy Target maternity clothes. Often they’re just empire waisted or a little bit more stretchy, but they’re so pretty! Much prettier, I believe, than their regular clothes. So I am always afraid someone will recognize what I’m wearing is maternity and ask if I am pregnant! When I was a nanny and I would take the baby out shopping, people would ALWAYS come up and touch him. It would make me so mad!

  7. Oh my goodness, what a bonehead! I thought everyone knew by now you *never* ask that question even if you’re 95% sure. I don’t know what it is about even the hint of being pregnant makes people your body is their business. I’m sure you didn’t look like you were pregnant at all and this guy clearly is socially awkward, though I have to agree with the first commenter that you probably looked happy and healthy and that’s why he asked. However, this would have totally ruined my day as well. 😦 I’m sorry! Hopefully Anna and the French Kiss will be so good it will take your mind off this.

  8. Ha, the other night, I saw an aquaintence who I hadn’t seen in ages, and I know for a fact that she is due in May, I felt awkward asking her if they know the gender of the baby!

  9. Yeah, that’s an uncomfortable moment. I’ve discovered there’s also an uncomfy moment AFTER one has a baby when people who don’t know or keep up ask if you’ve had the baby. Sometimes months after the fact. Awesome (HORRIBLE). I’m sure it was just a stupid man-mistake. No worries about the coat.

  10. Totally. Lame. I agree, people should really stop asking that question. I’ve had people give up their seat on the subway for me! (not pregnant either) I’m sure you look perfect. This bulky winter clothing is just not a good look for anyone! 🙂

  11. How horrible! I work at a public library, and I had a customer ask me that once. So annoying. My dad has been the rude asker once or twice, and felt so bad that he now has a no-ask policy. At all. In fact, while he was visiting me once I had some girl friends over for a game night. One of the girls was actually 4 days past her due date and about the size of a small elephant. We mentioned something about her having the baby and my dad said, “oh, are you pregnant?” Never assume.

  12. Oh goodness. That’s like the one thing you NEVER assume when it comes to a woman. :/ Sorry you had to deal with that–happily, we’re all here on your side and can shower you with love and laughs! *hugs*

  13. OMG! THAT sounds like fun (okay, not really). It was funny- when I was pregnant with my youngest son some friends who we hadn’t seen in a while came over. I was about 4 months along. They kept looking at me funny until I realized that we hadn’t told them about the pregnancy, and they were afraid to ask!

    When I was pregnant with my middle son a friend of ours came along to another friends house (who he had never met). “Jackie” had given birth about six months ago and when our friend “Michael” asked when she was due, she was mortified. Not good at all.

  14. OhmygodohmygodohmyGOD!! Seriously, if you “don’t quite know how to say this” then you probably shouldn’t be saying it. It’s like when my husband says “don’t get mad but…” well now I’m already mad so what were you going to say? The good news is that anyone standing in line could not have been mad about you chitchatting if they overheard that conversation.

    I swear sometimes it is the shirt/coat. My friend (who is a petite little thing) had a shirt that she loved but she swore that every time she wore it someone asked if she was pregnant. I didn’t truly believe that it happened with strangers until we were walking home from dinner in downtown Sacramento and someone passing asked if we had any change and then asked if she was pregnant…so random!

  15. Most polite well mannered people would not ask that question…it just is not the correct thing to do…you can go back to the bookstore…with an “I don’t care” attitude…you can do it…and if not…thank goodness for Amazon…have a great day and force yourself to forget about this…

  16. Who asks that??! The things people say…

    You can totally go back to that bookstore – if anyone should be embarrassed, it’s Mr. Let’s-Ask-Inappropriate-Questions.

  17. I will never understand why people ask that.

    I was working as a secretary once and someone I knew pretty well asked the same questions. The dress I was wearing immediately went to Goodwill, even though I loved that dress. Looking back I would have dealt with it differently, but ah well.

  18. Never, never, EVER have I asked that question. I can’t help but wonder what has happened to etiquette and propriety in this world. So many people have foot-in-mouth disease … and it bothers me.

    Tremendously.

    It’s not how I was raised. It’s not appropriate. And it sure isn’t acceptable.

    I’m honked off just reading about that insensitive, etiquette-impaired guy. I personally wish more people would err on the side of caution with their words.

  19. Unfortunately people learn the hard way never to ask that question. I’m so sorry that happened to you when you were just trying to make your purchase and get out the door. His timing was weird also to ask you that in front of a line of people like that. He just sounds like a clueless person.

    I understand you not wanting to go back, but if anyone should be embarrassed about the situation it should be him. Hope you enjoy your book anyway. It is a good one 🙂

  20. Oh that sucks! I’ve never understood the need people feel to ask that question to complete (or near-complete) strangers. Even if I knew the person, I would first ask around to see if anyone else had heard something. And if no one had? Well, I’d still wait until the person in question announced the news. Sorry you had to go through it, and I’m sure your coat makes you look skinny. That guy was just being dumb. 🙂

  21. If it makes you feel any better – and I’m sure it really doesn’t – if that guy has even an IOTA of self-awareness, HE will be churning internally over the extreme idiocy and insensitivity he displayed. And it’s entirely likely that now HE will never be setting foot (should he ever successfully pull it from his mouth) in that bookstore again.

    • And I forgot to mention it, but I’m sure you looked just fabulous. More likely he recently heard that someone you guys worked with back then was now preggers, and got confused as to who. So all that Eyes-Up-And-Down-Incredulous-ness was probably him thinking “I swear I heard she was pregnant (so I should congratulate her) but Dang she sure doesn’t look it.”

  22. Hi there,

    New to your blog, just popped over from ivy league insecurities.

    Seriously WHY do people ask people if someone is pregnant when they are not 150% sure? I actually am 7-months pregnant and around a month ago, I started getting a whole lot of people staring at me and smiling and then not knowing what to say and to break the uncomfortable situation, I would just say, “yes, I am pregnant.” I will never ask because of the very situation you describe.

    Ugh, sorry this had to happen to you today!

  23. Oh no Meg! I’m sure my jaw would have dropped to the floor if that would have been me! I think our age has a lot to do with people insinuating we are on the “pregnancy pact.” I am not kidding that at least once a week at work people mention/question me being pregnant. Granted, I’m normally feasting like a heiffer, or discussing my latest craving or willing to pay my entire pay check for a cupcake. I admire you telling this story. I always get very self conscious and put those questions back in the part of my brain with my braces, glasses and scrawny arms from Jr. High!

  24. Oh my, why do men do this?! I’m sorry do women really do this to other women? This happened to me for the first time (and knock on wood, only time) in my life when I was wearing a large winter jacket at my OB/GYN for my annual appointment. Someone’s husband turned to me and said ‘so are you pregnant too?” I was like “dude, women go to the gyno’s for all kinds of reasons other then just having babies, they just don’t have to bring their husbands for that!” I mean seriously, shut it!

  25. Oh, what an idiot! You would think that, if lacking common sense, the guy would have at least read/watched on t.v./seen movies with enough of those situations that he would never dare ask without the assurance this was really the case! I’m sure you looked just beautiful 🙂

    I had a similar situation on our last trip, when a really bad-fitting shirt (now thrown away!) and my mimicking of having eaten too much led the driver of our “shuttle” between places to think I was pregnant. He insisted I sat in front where there would be less bumps, and I didn’t have the courage to tell him he was wrong. Eeeh awkward!

  26. How mortifying! This is why you should never ask. Especially if you haven’t seen each other in a few years. At least he felt bad about it!

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