It's a Muffin Top, Not a Baby Bump. Now Leave Me Alone!

What to say when people think you're pregnant - and you're not

Mariah Carey says she wouldn't let husband Nick Cannon see her pregnant body because it looked so "rancid." My girl Sofia Vergara (of the empowering K-Mart commercials no less!) has said she thinks she'd "look horrible" pregnant. And last week's episode of The Office was devoted to Pam's insecurities about her 50-pound pregnancy weight gain. "Obviously, you're at an all-time low," Dwight tells her when she asks him if she's still attractive. 

So here's what I don't understand: If the whole point of beauty, from a natural-selection perspective, is to help us spot ideal mates with whom to breed, why do so many women hate looking pregnant? Shouldn't pregnancy be the absolute pinnacle of beauty, seeing as it advertises how very fertile you are? Shouldn't even those of us who are not at all pregnant crave that knocked up glow, those fertile curves?

Instead, "you look pregnant" is pretty much the last thing any non-pregnant woman wants to hear. If we aren't asking "does it make me look fat?" about a new outfit, the first question is always: "Does it make me look pregnant?"

Dwight tells Pam that men realize they can't immediately impregnate pregnant women, so they don't think they're pretty. But that doesn't explain why a woman who isn't pregnant and doesn't want to be impregnated by anyone, anytime soon -- let's call her "me" -- feels so mortified when she gets mistaken for pregnant -- like I do, several times a year.

It happened again last week at the dermatologist's office. The nurse was running down that standard list -- "Do you smoke? Wear sunscreen?" -- and then, all casual-like, "When are you due?" At first I thought she read my chart wrong, but when I said helpfully, "Oh no! I'm not pregnant," she turned around, stared at my midsection, and asked with genuine surprise and a twist of judgment: "Oh really? You're not?" 

Here's why it's so awful to be mistaken for pregnant when, really, you're not: it's a perceived lose-lose. As a pregnant friend said when I recounted this later, "Even pregnant women don't want to look pregnant until they're super pregnant." Until then, they just feel fat. And if you aren't pregnant, the only other explanation is that you've gained weight in your middle, which society has deemed the absolutely least attractive place to gain weight -- because it makes you look pregnant. 

But this makes no sense. Pregnant women are, in fact, beautiful. They glow. Their bodies look alive with purpose because they're creating a million new cells every minute. It's only our modern day beauty standard -- which weirdly puts big boobs on an otherwise curve-less body -- that has erased our appreciation of this. 

In fact, we should find curvy bellies sexy for the same reason we do curvy hips: They're great for child-bearing. That's why most adult women's bodies have stomachs that curve at least slightly out, not in.

So here are three ideas for what I'll say next time someone mistakenly assumes I've been knocked up: 

The straightforward fact-check
"I'm not pregnant, I'm on my way to yoga," is what I should have said to that nurse because I was, and maybe my outfit (leggings, tank, flowy cardigan) confused her. You could also say, "I'm not pregnant but I do eat really well!" Just make sure you stay matter-of-fact -- don't start apologizing for your wardrobe or your body. Because you shouldn't.

The teachable moment
"I'm actually not pregnant -- guess that's just one of the many things you can't tell by looking at my body's size and shape." Go with this approach only if you've got the time and energy for a whole conversation about this.

The Turn Around (my favorite)
"Oh no, that's not a pregnant glow. I'm just super attractive. Thanks for noticing!" Because saying someone looks pregnant? Should be a compliment.  

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