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.