It was our wedding anniversary on Monday. The husband had planned all sorts of special things to celebrate our seven years of marriage. We spent the morning wandering along the Haiku Trail – a walkway accentuated by rocks engraved with short poems. We held hands as we strolled through the park. With our three biggest in the hands of their grandmother, the baby was our only chaperone. No one whined or begged for ice cream. Everything was right with the world.
That evening, after a casual lunch of doner kebabs, we prepared to head out to a local French restaurant. The husband had made the reservations after reading online reviews of all the eateries in town. The French place was popular. I was excited.
I took my time getting ready: showering, hair straightening, making up my face. I tried on (and discarded) two dresses before I settled on a deep orange tunic that didn’t even fit the last time I attempted to wear it. With shapewear holding my stomach in, I felt good. Confident. Mr. P whistled at me. My efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed.
We arrived at the restaurant and waited awkwardly at the bar, unable to locate our server. Until –
“Bonsoir!” boomed a voice from across the room.
Everyone looked. How could they not? A Frenchman yelling in the middle of a restaurant is not something you can easily ignore. I imagine my husband, the shy one, hated every moment of our introductions. Being forced to say hello to someone halfway across the room, with an audience, is not exactly his idea of a good time.
The Frenchman acted like he knew us, ushering us to our table with forced familiarity.
He asked how we were, were we good? were we good? and then –
“And the baby..?”
It took me a moment to realise what he was implying. His hand held, fleetingly, a few inches out from his stomach.
The bastard thinks I’m pregnant.
I sat at our table wishing we could leave. Every good thought I’d had about myself over the course of the day had been destroyed. Tears pricked at the back of my eyes. I’ve been trying so hard, I’ve given up sugar for fuck’s sake, and I still look like a whale. I’ve carried four different, full-sized babies within my body in the last seven years. Each one stretching my abdomen further than I’d ever thought possible. Each one leaving new scars, extra padding, looser skin and weaker muscles. Why am I being judged for this?
I’ll never understand why so many men feel the need to comment on women’s bodies, as if it’s their place to pass judgment. This Frenchman was the second man this year to ask me if I’m pregnant. And on both occasions I’d been making an effort to look good – paying attention to my hair and makeup and purposely selecting clothes that concealed my saggy mummy tummy. So what gives? I can’t walk down the street without passing a man with a stomach large enough to house two infants, yet I put on a dress and go out and men assume my slight swelling must be a result of pregnancy. Are they really that stupid? I can’t imagine any woman, ever, approaching another woman to ask if she’s got a baby on board. Unless you’re 100 percent certain that someone is pregnant, you do not comment. You just don’t. Surely that’s not a difficult concept to grasp.
I see a lot of blog posts and tweets these days about body positivity. They say society has unrealistic beauty standards for women. They talk about accepting everybody for who they are, and say that every woman is beautiful no matter what her size. Rolls, cellulite and stretch marks are to be both expected and respected. We need to stop judging. We need to stop assuming. We need to look each other in the eyes and ignore the rest. And I agree. I agree with all of it. But right now I just don’t see it happening. I don’t see anyone making that change in thinking. After the comment, the hand gesture, made by an obnoxious restaurateur, I feel like less of a person because of the body I’m in. I feel like I’m not enough.
We ate our dinner at that French restaurant. I sipped my soup, burnt my tongue on my coq au vin, and ordered petites choux for dessert because I’d been made to feel like the fattest woman in the room, and that’s what fatties do, isn’t it? They order dessert? I regret eating the custard-filled pastries now. I didn’t enjoy them, couldn’t enjoy them, and they just made me feel guilty. I’ve been harping on about life without sugar, but I ate more than my fill that night. It was meant to be a celebration. It felt like anything but.
Thankfully my husband took me out to a feel-good movie afterwards.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is well worth the money if you get the chance to see it.
– Fern xxx