Sunday, August 31, 2008

Of Bellies and Bumps

When I was in my early 20s, I weighed about 30 pounds, give or take, more than I do now. I was always healthy: I ran a lot, but I also ate and drank a lot. You wouldn't have called me fat, but you might have called me big or round, or some other such gentle euphemism, and, despite the claims of my loved ones to the contrary, you would have been right.

During this period, I went to Bermuda with my father. Actually, I was supposed to go with my father, but somehow the fact that one needed a passport to go to Bermuda escaped me, and I arrived at the airport only to turn around and go home, instead of to Atlanta where I was to meet my father to fly together to Bermuda. It wasn't a big deal: I rescheduled everything for later in the day, somehow notifed my father, without cellphones, and everything was fine, except that I landed in Bermuda by myself, a round hippie kind of chick, presumably with some sort of luggage inappropriate to a resort island, and no distinguished bearded older gentleman to protect her.

I don't know if it was the age or the changed flights or the hair or the clothes, but they went for me. As the distinguished older vacationers cruised through customs, the immigration officials painstakingly went through every corner of my luggage. They checked the little bag with my toothbrush and opened my box of tampons. At that point I was getting a little annoyed, and when the woman searching my stuff asked "what's this?" just before she opened the box, I replied, loudly, "Tampons!" but she still opened it.

I was partly on the verge of tears, and partly on the verge of calling in the troops, because the irony was that my dad was spending a lot of time in Bermuda those days consulting for the government, and was at that very moment, I believe, meeting with the Minister of Tourism. But then it got worse.

The woman reached across the table, poked my belly, and said, "What's this? A baby?" To which I replied, indignantly, and incredibly proud that I was not crying, "No, I'm fat." She clearly realized at that point that she'd gone too far (did she think I had drugs strapped around my middle?), and my belongings were hastily replaced in their bags and I was ushered out the door. At that point, I was so relieved to be out of there, that I don't think I even told my dad.

Needless to say, this experience, not to mention my general body image and feminist ideologies, has made me very sensitive to the shouts of "Baby bump!" that seem to accompany any photograph of a female between the ages of 15 and 45 whose stomach is anything less than pancake flat. These days, I'm not a big person at all, but I still have a belly. M, who is fabulously gorgeous, thin, and perfect, has a belly. Today at the pond, I saw exactly one female whose belly was flat, and she looked fine, but so did everyone else. And the pregnant females, of whom there were many? Uh, what they looked was pregnant.

I'm going to refrain from commenting on the question of who gave birth to Trig Palin unless rumor is proven true (and while it just seems too strange, we all know about truth and fiction). But I am thinking that this totally sucks for Bristol Palin, whatever the truth of the matter. And I hope that her mother will be able to take time from succoring the imminently hurricane stricken and stoking the campaign fires to reassure her teenage daughter that it's quite OK to have a belly.


Lucy said...

Here's the 43-year-old, whole-wheat-eating, morning-running, girl-encouraging mom, bemoaning the belly-hip-thigh of middle age and panicking because none of my pants fit right anymore. Ten minutes later I read this. Oh that I could be as evolved as you. Or have the dough to buy some new pants.

In my twenties, I was twenty pounds lighter, and people - women - frequently told me I was too skinny. Nevertheless, I had a belly, as does my thin daughter.

Getting addicted to your blog, my dear!

Libby said...

The whole belly thing struck me as well, though I've never been thin (with or without belly). I sort of hope SP's not the mom, just because it would be so interesting...but I feel for the daughter. (Bristol, is it? Or Willow? I keep confusing the names...) Whether the child is hers or not, she's in for a rough ride.

jackie said...

Now that we know Bristol is pregnant, the amount of scrutiny and judgement she will be under is only intensified. Sigh.