Being an English major, I was exposed to many odd texts. In one short story by M. Nourbese Philip, a woman mused about the fact that women’s bellies became public property when they were pregnant. People knowingly pet pregnant stomachs in a familiar way that they would never even consider if there weren’t a child in there. The woman in the story thought that such an action could rightfully be made on a man’s crotch, since it too was a bringer of life and logically should be given the same rights.
Now, I’m not advocating such a policy. Instead, I find myself more and more disturbed by the fact that complete strangers will engage my wife in fairly intimate exchanges simply because she is quite obviously knocked-up.
(Please note that I am not a “talk to strangers” kind of guy. I dislike people. I especially dislike people I don’t know. I have many friends that will strike up random conversations with strangers without any provocation, and it drives me nuts because I always get dragged into these impromptu discussions. Jasper and Kate Steele: I’m talking about you.)
This week, my wife and I went to a doctor’s appointment to do all the measuring, weighing, and peeing that goes along with producing offspring, but we made the mistake of booking a time at the end of the schedule, the time of the day where all of the delays that started at 8:00 that morning have backed up to make sure that you won’t be seen until at least an hour after you were supposed to be in and out. We sat there, talking quietly to each other, while I also scanned the room to guess what ailments the other waiting patients had (that’s what normal people do in a waiting room).
“Typhoid,” I muttered to myself. “Scurvy. Nasal STI. Being too ugly to live.”
“So when are you due?”
I snapped my head around to look at a middle-aged woman sitting across from us (I guessed that she was there because a cyst in her armpit had burst and released a stream of spiders that all climbed into her left ear to start a collective wax farm). She smiled crookedly at us, then pointed at my wife’s stomach, in case we were so profoundly stupid that we couldn’t figure out what she was asking.
Erin, God bless her, is a profoundly kind human being. She’ll happily talk to strangers that engage her, never once feeling the loathing for her fellow human beings that I have. She rubbed her belly and said, “May 15th.”
“Lovely, lovely,” said the stranger, nodding knowingly.
Now, in my head, I’m thinking that it is odd that people want to know when you are most likely to push something out of your privates. I briefly flirted with the idea of asking Spider-Cyst Woman when she planned on pooping next, but I kept my mouth shut.
“And do you know what you’re having?” the woman asked, smiling her odd, crooked smile again.
“A baby,” I wanted to say, but I again wisely stayed silent. My wife informed her that we were having a girl.
“I could tell,” Spider-Cyst Woman said, “because you’re carrying all in front and you haven’t gained weight anywhere else.”
- How do you know that my wife hasn’t gained weight anywhere else? (She hasn’t, but that isn’t the point; it’s the presumption that bothers me.)
- Those old wives’ tales are all crap, running at about a 51.3% accuracy rate.
- I’m pretty sure that you got the already stupid old wives’ tale wrong, anyway.
“Do you have names picked out?”
This question came from another stranger, a woman in camouflage pants with (and I swear to you that I am not making this up) matching camouflage nail polish. She was cradling an 8-year-old child that was wearing a pink tracksuit that I last saw on Carmella Soprano circa 2001. (I guessed that they were in there because the girl had eaten four small turtles alive and they were tickling her in their death throes.)
“We do,” said Erin, not feeling at all put out, “but we haven’t settled on one yet.”
“We couldn’t decide on boy names at all for this one,” said Camo-Nail Woman, nuzzling her squirming, turtle-filled child. “Luckily she came out a girl. But we had the opposite problem when we had a boy, since we couldn’t think of any good names for a girl.” She laughed at her own story, oblivious to the fact that I was in pain from the sheer blandness of it.
I buried my head in my hands.
“Don’t tell anyone what you’re naming her!” yelled yet another stranger, this one at the far end of the room. She had the look of someone that had only a surface understanding of sanity. (I guessed that she was in there because her knees had grown vestigial tongues that kept salivating through her sweatpants.) “People will keep offering their opinions and trying to get you to change it!”
“Yeah, I hate it when strangers offer opinion on things,” I muttered to myself. Erin cuffed me in the leg.
The conversation continued in this vein for some ten minutes, mercifully dwindling as each person was finally called in to the office to get turtles removed, tongues cauterized, or spiders extracted. We were finally alone in the office, me hovering protectively over an unborn child that had somehow become a public concern.
“If anyone tries to touch your belly,” I told Erin, “I’m grabbing their boob. No no, don’t argue. If your body becomes public property, so does theirs. Fair’s fair.”
“What if it’s a guy?”
I considered this for a moment.
“Testicle punch,” I said. “Testicle punch.”