By Mary Alice Cookson
It may not be illegal to pat a pregnant woman’s stomach just because it’s cute and sticking out, but it’s clearly annoying. It also falls under some states’ harassment laws – if the woman decides to press charges, that is.
Such was the case of a pregnant woman in Pennsylvania who’d had enough of a man pawing her belly without her permission.
When I read about it in the news, it made me think of a time when I was nearly two weeks overdue with my firstborn. A stranger in the grocery store followed me out to my car regaling me with details about his wife’s C-section as I hurried away with my cart. Why do people assume it’s fair game to “overshare” their labor and delivery stories with expectant parents?!
Other potentially harassing behaviors: commenting on a pregnant woman’s size or guessing (especially when wrong) about how far along she is – saying something like, “Looks like you’re ready to give birth any minute” or “Are you sure you’re not having twins?” or “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” (as if she’s intentionally keeping that bowling ball inside of her).
But you don’t have to be pregnant to fall victim to annoying behaviors. Consider the following:
- Being subject to other people’s cell phone conversations because they aren’t courteous enough to talk privately.
- Driving behind someone who drives way under the speed limit but won’t allow you to pass.
- Informing someone who’s “seat hopped” at a ballgame or theater performance that they’re in your seats and having them act indignant and storm off in a huff.
- Having to sit next to that audience member who sings through the entire concert – as if you paid all that money to hear him sing!
- Being on the receiving end of anyone behaving like any of the male characters in “Mad Men” – for example, the inappropriate use of the word “Sweetheart.”
- Being kept waiting in a doctor’s waiting room for longer than a half an hour only to then be put in a cold exam room wearing nothing but a paper johnnie. (The tactic isn’t fooling anyone. Waiting is waiting, even if the time is split between two locales and dress ensembles.)
- Having a big pile of cigarette butts on your lawn when nobody in your household smokes.
- Someone remaking a classic movie you happen to like and doing it badly!
But getting back to that pregnant woman taking a stand – While I applaud her for speaking up for herself, wouldn’t it be much nicer if we didn’t have to resort to lawsuits to get people to recognize their unacceptable behavior? And even better – if we tried not to annoy each other in the first place?!
Mary Alice Cookson is the associate editor of Boston Parents Paper.