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April 2, 2009

Was I overreacting by being annoyed with a “random” woman patting my belly?

Question: I’m 8 months pregnant and today while I was waiting in line at Macys, a woman behind me patted my belly and kept saying things like “Wow, that’s gonna be a big one!” I found myself getting REALLY annoyed, but I didnt say anything. Was I wrong to get upset?

Answer: Ick, ick ick! I don’t know who decided it’s ok to touch the bellies of strange women, but count me out – on either side of the belly-touching. I don’t like being touched by strangers in ANY part of my body, personally (it’s the Scarborough in me, I guess), and I have to say I think being touched on the stomach is extra-creepy. What if she had missed and accidentally grabbed your breast instead? That would have made for an interesting situation!

I would bet any amount of money that your belly-touching friend is a mother herself, though; there seems to be something about motherhood that makes mothers feel they have the right to get involved in other people’s pregnancies. (Having never been pregnant myself I can’t speak to this phenomenon, but I’ve seen many a belly victimized by it. That said, you certainly were not wrong to get upset; it’s your belly, your business.) It’s the same mindset that allows mothers to offer unsolicited advice on everything from getting through labour pains to toilet training.

Under ordinary, non-pregnant situations, we don’t go around rubbing each other’s bellies (or at least I hope not!); in fact, you could have someone arrested for assault for such unwanted touching. While I do agree that there is of course something very special about an anticipated baby, the situation does not require special rules that state belly-touching of strangers is suddenly alright. There seems to be this notion, for some people, that a pregnant belly is an open invitation to public molestation.

In such a situation again, look the person straight in the eye, block their hand, and simply say, “Please don’t touch my belly, thank you.” Then turn around, and ignore them. You wouldn’t let just anyone touch your baby, right? Touching the belly is basically the same thing; you’re within your rights to determine who touches you (and your unborn!) and who doesn’t. If they are not totally mortified for upsetting a pregnant woman and insist on continuing their behaviour, seek assistance from the cashier; they can get security for you. Some people might think that’s an extreme reaction to something harmless, but you have every right to take such a step if it means putting an end to unwanted touching.

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