Pale Gurl – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of a Tan
Comedian Joleen Lunzer’s first column on SmartFem
Certain Things Women should Never ask Another Woman
While sorting mail in the lobby of my office last week, I heard one of my coworkers ask, “Are you pregnant?” I smiled thinking of the lady with the cute baby bump I was about to see as I looked up. However, when I looked up, I realized it was just me. My smile turned to shock when I realized that my coworker was asking ME if I was pregnant. I am most certainly not pregnant and felt almost paralyzed with humiliation. This was the first time anyone had ever asked me this question. And right then in my head I cursed the bag of Mike and Ikes I had just eaten for breakfast. “How dare those delicious and chewy candies make me appear to be with child,” I thought to myself.
Finally, after what felt to be 15 minutes of awkward and complete silence, I was able to form a coherent sentence as I responded, “No, I am not pregnant. Thank you.” Unfortunately, I have this habit of thanking people even when they don’t deserve my gratitude. I blame my Minnesota-nice upbringing and being raised by a mother who instilled in my brother and I to always, “Kill em with kindness.” She would then add, “Even the jerks.”
As a young girl I was witness to many occasions where individuals would be outright rude to my mother. Once, while at a bank, a teller (who appeared to be completely annoyed by our mere presence) didn’t even greet us as we approached her window. Instead she looked at us with a scowl on her face and bluntly asked, “What do you want?” Instead of calling attention to her lack of customer service, my mother gently placed her hand on the teller’s hand and in her most sincere voice said, “Yes, thank you. I would like to make a deposit, but first I want to make sure that you are doing okay.” The teller perked up and seemed surprised by my mother’s concern. The situation soon turned into a therapy session as my mother listened intently to the teller’s troubles. She explained that she wasn’t herself lately because she had lost her father the week before and the bank would not give her that week off to grieve. By the end of their 30 minute conversation, Rebecca (we were now on a first name basis with the teller) and my mother planned to meet for coffee that upcoming Friday “to talk.” I realize this is extreme kindness, but it’s the way my mother was and still is and some of it definitely rubbed off on me.
After I confirmed to my coworker that I was not pregnant, I could feel my cheeks become flushed as I fumbled with the mail in my hands trying to make an escape without having to make eye contact with a person who I now considered to be the definition of evil. I hadn’t felt this much shame since 8th grade when David Paul pointed to me as I stood in a large group of new friends at Prosperity Rec Center in St. Paul, Minnesota and yelled, “Gross! Look at her face.” As an adult, I now forgive David and realize that his cruel words were most likely fueled by the shame he felt about having two first names.
Yet, as I stood in the lobby feeling embarrassed and overweight, I quickly became disgusted because this inconsiderate question was asked by a woman. I always assumed that we women had an understanding. I thought we understood that there exist certain things that we should never say or ask one another.
Some of these things include:
- Are you pregnant?
- What happened to you? You used to be so pretty.
- You look unhappy. Is it because your kids are deviants and your husband is cheating on your with a younger woman?
- You sure eat a lot.
- Are you that dumb or are you just pretending to be?
- Who did you have to sleep with to get that job?
- If I were you, I’d hurry up and find a man before those eggs dry up.
- Are you always so sweaty?
- Is it hard having adult acne?
- I’ve gained quite a bit of weight and was hoping I could borrow a pair of your pants until I get down to my normal size.
How could my coworker be unaware of the universal lady rule: Never ask a woman if she is pregnant until you see the baby crowning. Even if I were at Target standing in line with a woman who was proudly caressing her 8 month pregnant belly with her hands while reading a magazine called, “Please Ask Me If I’m Pregnant,” I still wouldn’t ask.
Once I informed “Nancy” (the name has been changed to protect the guilty) that I was not with child she replied, “Oh, I thought you were because of the way your dress is fitting you.” Her response caught me off guard. What was she doing? Was she not embarrassed to have accused a woman of being pregnant who was not? I was expecting her to do the right thing. I thought she’d apologize profusely while following up her apology with an excuse like, “I don’t know what I’m saying today because I’m drunk.” Instead she just looked me up and down as if she were studying the fit of my a-line floral dress.
I’m not delusional and I admit that I am no Jillian Michaels here. I will also admit that once I entered my 30’s, I eagerly graduated from the bikini to the tankini, but I never thought that my stomach appeared to be carrying life inside of it.
After this incident, which I now refer to as Baby-Gate, I’ve tried to avoid “Nancy” since last week; however, our paths crossed once again as I walked into our office kitchen on Monday morning. I kept my head down and only made brief eye contact with her as she walked toward me. I gave her an artificial smile hoping that we would simply pass each other without words, but “Nancy” couldn’t help herself. “Wow girl you look really tired,” she said to me with a sickened look on her face. Without a second thought I stopped and said, “Well that’s not very nice. First I look pregnant and now I look tired. You really need to work on your people skills.” I was sure that this response would shut her up, but instead she looked at me and said, “Nah. I’m good,” and then walked away.
As I walked back to my cubicle, I felt defeated. “Nancy” didn’t seem to care that her comments hurt my feelings. I went to the restroom and examined my stomach and eyes for any sign of babies or exhaustion. For a brief moment I let her words affect my body image as I stared into the mirror and thought, “Maybe Nancy is right.” Once back at my desk, I remembered that I was a comedian and that I had seen the movie Mean Girls at least 229 times so I should be able to handle “Nancy.” I swiftly stood up and walked right up to the front desk where she was sitting and said, “You were right Nancy, I am pregnant (I then paused for effect) and it’s your husband’s.” Her facial expression turned from pompous to shock in the matter of seconds and I walked away with my faux baby belly protruding proudly. Sure, I may get a call from HR in the near future, but to me, it was worth it.