Those Awkward Questions Women Get Asked – Lessons Learned by JH Mae – October 4, 2013

shelley mae hazenAre you of a “certain age?” Are you female? If you answered yes to either of these questions, perhaps you’ve experienced the following.

One day at my old job, an older woman who worked in my building approached me in the mail room and said: “Can I ask you a personal question?”

My immediate reaction was “no,” because I don’t like to answer personal questions and I barely knew the woman. But, being a polite person, I said “okay.”

She leaned in as if she didn’t want her words overheard and said: “Are you pregnant?”

I was stunned by her boldness. Yes, I am of that “certain age,” but the progress of my reproductive activities – or lack thereof – is not a matter for public discussion.

“No,” I said. “Why?” Rumors were the primo pastime in this particular work place and I thought perhaps people spent their afternoon coffee breaks discussing my nocturnal habits with my husband. Who knows?

This woman looked at my belly and shrugged. Then she patted her own stomach and said “I thought you looked like you were.”

This isn’t even the best part.

I responded with a sarcastic, “Gee, thanks,” and she thought the following would comfort me: “Maybe you’re just bloated.”

I’ll let that sink in for a minute.

Admittedly, I have a bit of “dunlop” (over my belt, that is); always have and always will. I’m 5’ 3” with a short waist and 25 feet of intestines like everyone else. Guts have to go somewhere.

But I didn’t tell her that. In fact, I told her she ruined my day and she didn’t speak to me for weeks afterwards.

My own wounded ego aside, I was appalled by this woman’s behavior. In her defense, she just wanted to congratulate me. I hear most people are happy when they find out they’re pregnant but I’m not one of them. Though I am of that age – when your ovaries apparently begin to expire – my husband and I aren’t going to have children.

Regardless of a woman’s intentions for her uterus, such a question is incredibly personal and a weird one to ask a stranger – or anyone for that matter – if you really think about it.

What bothers me is that women my age seem to have involuntarily forfeited the right to privacy. Since our wombs could birth future generations, I suppose people feel they have an interest in whether young women reproduce. It’s for the benefit of the human race that they’re asking such a delicate and pushy question, they may argue.

I get it it. But I’m a woman and not just a womb and my womb is not your business. This is not the 1500s and my husband does not need to sire an heir to the throne. So stop asking.

Frankly, I’ll be relieved when I enter menopause.  Maybe then people will start asking me if I have a benign growth in my belly instead of a baby. I’d be okay with that.

JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.

JH Mae is a feature journalist and short fiction writer based in rural northern New York.

She worked for five years at a local newspaper, followed by three years as a secretary.

She recently left the office life to pursue a full-time writing career and now works in her pajamas.

To learn more about here you can visit her website by clicking HERE

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  1. Good article, it brought a smile to my face.

    Yep if everyone thought before they spoke
    The silence would be deafening.

  2. Silence is golden! It’s a shame there’s so little of it these days. *s*

  3. Please do not get me wrong, I have nothing to say regarding your feelings on what you perceive to be privacy issues. One certainly has control of what they wish to reveal about themselves. However it is impossible to control the speculation of others.
    The part of your experience sharing that is simply nonsense is the suggestion that your height and body organs have an influence on your appearance of possibly being pregnant. Generally lacking enough exercise coupled with consuming too many calories results in body augmentation (being fat).
    Since the birthrate is lower and obesity reigns I usually tend to conclude that a fat female is simply that, fat or obese, pregnancy, unless really obvious is not the first thought to be honest.
    Age and weight are obviously still the first two items to avoid when conversing with as female. Error on the side of caution and keep your mouth on idle.

  4. I have on occasion encountered women who seem preoccupied with other women’s personal lives, however, the motivation behind such pre-occupation eludes me. Perhaps there’s something missing in the lives of the busy-bodies.

    Many years ago, men were asked some very personal and private questions . . . . usually by a cleric prior to getting married. Some clerics wanted to uphold the biblical teaching, “BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY” . . . . so they asked the bridegroom to be if “Old glory could rise to the occasion”.

    In some churches, the fellow who wanted to get married (to a young lady) quite literally “had to drop the drawers” before a gathering of churchmen . . . . to provide first hand evidence that he could indeed rise to the occasion . . . for the later purpose of being fruitful and multiplying after marriage (some clerics demanded to see proof of potency in order to sanction the forthcoming marriage . . . some church doctrine apparently forbade the impotent to wed).

  5. OMG Harry…….you must be kidding! We learn something new everyday. **smile**

  6. After a couple gets married in Egypt and in Colombia, local custom requires that the bride’s mother be present to witness her daughter’s first attempt at conception . . . . and then the sheets are shown to the guests to provide proof that the married couple has attempted to be fruitful so as to multiply.

    If the fellow is unable to do what is expected, the marriage is immediately annulled.

  7. With regard to women having to answer ’embarrassing’ questions prior to getting marriage . . . most clerics of most faiths will accept a doctor’s note advising of possible fertility . . . and of innocence in the reproductive department. Some physicians even specialize in re-constructive cosmetic surgery to provide proof of innocence to any clerics (or relatives, or busy-bodies) who inquire.

  8. Just curious what do homosexual couples do, do clerics use a different set of rules ? Would a doctor’s note raise a red flag?

  9. Hi David, its optional for clerics of some denominations of some faiths to officiate at same gender weddings. Other faiths strictly forbid such marriages . . and some of them ask for proof of potency, innocence and/or fertility.

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