In the main, and excepting some notable wankers, I have found that people are very nice to pregnant women.* A little too nice. All this seat offering and bag carrying and smiling and spontaneously sharing memories of one’s own children as tiny tots – sure, I’m enjoying it immensely, but also, it is making me suspicious. Perhaps – subconsciously – everyone’s being so lovely because I’m behaving as I am expected to under white supremacist settler colonial patriarchal capitalism – reproducing more white babies for THE MAN to exploit in his factories and tech start ups so that the West can stem the tide of immigration.**
I proffered this theory at a party, and my friend Michelle suggested, using her words, that maybe people were nice to pregnant ladies because they they know pregnancy can be hard and they want to be helpful; she also suggested, using her eyes, that I might be mad.
Both her words and eyes are probably correct, but riddle me this: why are people so nice to pregnant ladies and so not nice to women whose small children are having demonic public screaming fits? Hmmm? They could also do with a little help and an encouraging smile and perhaps your anecdote about the time toddler Timmy locked himself into the car on a hot day and shrieked until he passed out and you had to call emergency services, couldn’t they? But instead you are scurrying past them, perhaps even rolling your eyes.
I think the truth is somewhere between my original Butlerean proposition that the social sunniness of pregnancy is a reward for conformity to the gendered expectations of the heterosexual matrix and Michelle’s counter-proposition that actually people are sound.
I’m wearing a sort of costume at the moment, you see. And what the costume seems to communicate to the world is: there goes a nice lady. My usual combo of hairy legs and scruffy t-shirts simply does not communicate loveliness in the same way as a big roundy bump in floaty maternity wear.
But why is the pregnant lady the nice lady?
Firstly, she is almost a Mum. That means she’s almost your Mum. She’ll wash your clothes and make your dinner and put a plaster on your boo boo and kiss it all better. You love Mummy!
Nextly, she is selfless, as women should be. She is so selfless that she is sharing her body with a being that is stealing all her iron*** and deregulating her blood sugars and she knows this and even encourages it. Did you know that if pregnant rabbits don’t get enough vitamins or if caribou don’t get enough sugars, they spontaneously abort and wait for a better time to reproduce? Not humans – we’re like: take it; take it all; I don’t need haemoglobin; all I need is sweet, sweet babies! It’s biologically mandated self-sacrifice and it’s not very feminist. But also, if you gave me the choice – if you said, “in case of malnourishment would you rather express courier all your iron through the placenta or would you like to keep some of that shit for yourself?” – I’d be like FEED THE FOETUS. Because my brain has been colonized by my parasite belly, just like those poor ants that get hypnotized into committing suicide by killer fungus. In conclusion to this point, which admittedly has become a little unwieldy, society likes zombie ants but caribou face much stigma.
Furthermoredly, the pregnant lady is a pleasing, non-threatening combination of sexy and sexless.**** There’s a bit in Simone deBeauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter where teenage Simone has just learned the facts of life and she’s incredibly embarrassed and confused by public announcements and celebrations of pregnancy. As far as wee Simone is concerned, those preggo sluts might as well be shouting “Bitch Got Laid” and showing everyone their junk in the middle of the drawing room. And teenage Simone has a point: pregnant ladies imply sex.
But the pregnant lady cancels out her sins through good old-fashioned Christian suffering. She is not the rampant fornicator desiring sex for its pleasures – no, no. Rather, for her, the results of sex are puking, bleeding gums, sasquatch feet, achy loins, eternal naps, and feeling like she might piss herself in public. Soon, she will have her nethers stretched to bijiminy, then relax into a year of raw nipples and sleep deprivation. Good enough for her. And good enough for society.
Finally, the pregnant lady knows that family comes before career, and we like that in a woman. She knows that women’s careers decline after they decide to become parents, while men’s progress more rapidly, but she has decided that her professional development is less important to her than being a mother. This is good and right, and any woman who feels otherwise is an unnatural caribou. Anyways, nice ladies are excited to exercise the exclusively feminine power of gifting a male partner a promotion and a raise using only their uteri.
Being the Nice Lady is a lot of responsibility; sometimes – in spite of all the much appreciated kindness – I need to escape the costume for a while; to change into a different one. It’s hard to disguise a barrel sized Torso extension, but I’ve found a way: I simply pull my tank top up over my belly, put on a baseball cap, and become Andy.
Andy is a a middle-aged Englishman on holiday in Spain. He stomps around my apartment saying things like “Oi’ll tell you wot I don’t loike about th’ Span-yards … ow they all pr’tend they don speak English wenever it soots ’em and then wen you owe ’em a quid, suddn’ly they’re the Oxford English Dictionary” or “See this beer? Frog beer – Stella – two quid ‘ere, double that at ‘ome. That’s the EU mate, innit? A’ways stiffin Britain.”
Andy looks at the cat and he says “Neva loiked pussy cats. ‘orrible sneaky fings.”
He stands in front of my Frenchman’s computer screen and says “Wots this rubbish? Can you put on the footie please mate?” If my love declines, Andy launches into a tirade about the French, of whom he is not fond.
Nobody likes Andy. No one is particularly kind to him. But no one expects anything of him either. Andy keeps 100% of the iron absorbed into his blood stream and his fluctuating blood sugars are due entirely to an overabundance of two quid Stella Artois. He can be as sexy as he likes, belly or no belly – nobody’s business what his does with his tiddler ‘sept his missus, and ee didn’t bring ‘er, she only spends er ‘ole time complainin bout the food.
She’s at home with the kids, Andy’s missus. He doesn’t mean to bash the old bird.
She’s a nice lady.
* I say pregnant women and not pregnant people because I’d imagine that pregnant trans and non-binary folks don’t get quite the same level of public adoration.
** I am also an immigrant, of course, but no one wants to stem my flow. Because racism.
*** Did you know that pregnant people need FOUR TIMES the Iron the average male needs? Gentlemen, hand over your steaks. And that means you, Andy.
**** Not everyone seems to have noticed that I am sexless – I have been chatted up a surprising number of times while resembling a Beluga whale.*
* Okay twice. But It’s still surprising.