the belly, the body and aren’t you huge

by Ms. Joy

I’ve been trying for a little while to get my thoughts organized on the matter of growing larger, particularly in light of being told every day I’m huge (no shit – I’m 6 months pregnant and 5 feet tall, exactly where does the weight go?) and the ensuing media storm around Jessica Simpson’s pregnancy weight gain with such vile descriptions as “fat”. Getting bigger I can handle, when one is a Turducken it is to be expected as the baby needs somewhere to go. With my kids, it is straight out in front of me, at least by a foot and that is where all the weight I gain throughout this pregnancy will stay. From behind, I do not look like a turducken. At the market a couple of weeks ago, a wine seller came to ply his wares to me … until I turned around and nearly knocked him over because he was standing too close. What I cannot stand is being told constantly that I’m “just soooo big”, accompanied by gestures usually reserved for describing the girth of Santa Claus. The incessant comments about My Body. The words can be couched around “the belly”, making it more of an inanimate thing, rather than a significant part of my body. The fact remains that when you are pregnant, you are public domain and ought to accept the comments with more tact than the person giving them.

At no other time in a woman’s life is it appropriate to comment so intimately on a woman’s body than when she is pregnant (obviously, I mean to her face – we can all be a catty bunch). There is a certain degree of decorum surrounding our public interactions and one of those is that it is rude to point at someone’s body and give your opinion, unless you are a medical professional, and even then a doctor has tact.

My thoughts have been a jumble lately around why it bothers me so much to have someone, from across a room or other public space, point and exclaim, “The belly! IT’S SO BIG! LOOK AT YOU!” or actually call others to come and look at me as if I were a damn sideshow freak. I take care of my lady ‘stache, thank you very much. Oh, maybe because IT’S MY BODY YOU ARE STARING AT, so thanks.

Women’s bodies are constantly under scrutiny, for being too thin, too fat, too beautiful, simple, mousy, flabby, pasty, too dark, too light… anything and everything (check out this post). I do not know why it changes from passive aggressive talking around the woman where she may or may not hear to when you are pregnant and it is said to your face, perhaps because people have this concept that a pregnant body belongs to the community because it is not just the woman but also a future generation in there. This has as much to do with norms as our own beauty insecurities. By pointing out that I do not have the body I used to have, and will likely never have again (only a proximate guess at it), the commenter and myself are fitting ourselves snugly into established beauty rules that are archaic, crappy and ought to go, but that also dictate that there is a standard and neither one of us is fitting into them, so we might as well be miserable about it.

There is a beauty standard and not one of us really knows what it is, but we sure as hell can tell you what it is not. Everyone.

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