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Father To A Faux Baby

My grandfather-in-law is in his mid-sixties and could easily pass for mid-fifties. He runs marathons, rides a Triumph Daytona, and is entirely in possession of his marbles… in short, he has absolutely no excuse (as my own far older and rather senile grandfather has) for putting his foot in his mouth so regularly and extensively as he does.  There’s not an ounce of malice in him, he just hasn’t acquired the habit of thinking about things before he says them.

Of the many agonizing episodes I could relate, one stands out with excruciating, teeth-clenching clarity. My partner and I were visiting his grandparents at their house, and we were all out in the front garden drinking ciders, weeding, tidying and generally pottering. My grandfather-in-law was trimming the hedge by the front gate when an old school friend of his daughter (my mother-in-law) walked past. She stopped for a brief how-d’ye-do and within a minute or two the afternoon’s peaceful comfort was shattered by that cliche of well-meaning recklessness, “So when are you due?”.

As the woman was pretty obviously just overweight, my partner, my grandmother-in-law and I all froze and stared at each other in open-mouthed horror as the hot embarrassed silence drew ever longer. After a beat the poor woman replied that she wasn’t pregnant, and my grandmother-in-law hastened in their direction to smooth things over and change the subject. Before she could reach them, however, my grandfather-in-law had subjected the woman to a moment’s critical gaze, and after a thoughtful pause had asked her with sincere concern, “Are you sure?”.

There was nothing we could do, the blunder was irretrievable. I caught the woman’s eye as she mumbled something incoherent and fled; I can only hope she read my apology in my eyes. My partner’s entire family has heard this story now, and knowing the man in question as they do it is frequently the subject of hilarity. I can appreciate that the whole episode is actually very, very funny – but I think you had to NOT be there. 0905-11

If I had been the woman, I’d have leaned closer to your grandfather-in-law and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, but loud enough to actually be overheard, “I won’t tell anyone you are the father if you won’t.”   And then laughed quite heartily.

Addendum: To anyone tempted to write in the comments that had you been the recipient of such a faux pas, you would melted into a flood of tears, collapsed in agony on the ground, weeped inconsolably for weeks on end and your life ruined, please read my further thoughts in the “Comments”. I publish these stories so you can learn how to respond with grace and a little humor.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • PrincessSimmi September 6, 2011, 10:51 pm

    Ooh, huge pet peeve! I HATE people asking me when I’m due – yes, I’m chubby, yes, I do have huge boobs, but I am NOT pregnant. My favourite was the little girl and her mother. Mother asks when I’m due. I answer I’m not, I’m just fat. Little girl chimes in “Why are you so fat?” I answered her with the truth – I have an underactive thyroid that means I’m slightly above average weight and I can’t lose weight easily. Nowadays, I tend to play up the ‘is she or isn’t she?’ so I can get a seat on the train, not because I’m pregnant, but because my scoliosis makes it incredibly painful to stand for long periods.

    When people ask me if I’m pregnant now, I usually answer with “I hope not!” and start laughing.

  • Stepmomster September 7, 2011, 12:36 am

    I have had MANY comments on how many months am I, when are you due? Boy or girl?

    My favorite is “Boy or Girl” because I always answer “Boy, I’m naming him Ronald McDonald” Sometimes they get it, sometimes they don’t, but the shocked laugh I get makes it less embarrassing and more hilarious.

  • Ari September 7, 2011, 1:36 am

    I get the ‘when are you due’ question a lot due to my weight and how I carry it on my body.
    Depending on the month they ask me in, I say either the 31st of September, November, April, or June.

  • Edhla September 7, 2011, 2:14 am


    If I had someone ask if I was pregnant (or assume I was), I’d be humiliated and crushed and have my day (week?) ruined, but not because of the implication that I’m overweight. (I have a mirror and know I am 😉 ). As someone who dearly wants children and has become increasingly terrified I might never get that chance, a thoughtless remark like the above would devastate me… it would be like twisting a knife. See also the above comment about the cashier who was asked about being ‘due’ when she had just lost her baby. There are all sorts of things going on with people’s private lives that are more complicated than they seem… it’s not just being offended about one’s weight.

  • TheVapors September 7, 2011, 2:34 am

    I agree with admin, what exactly would bursting into a puddle of tears do to defuse the situation? We should assume, even when someone is doing something incredibly rude (and this question falls on the rather light side of rude) that they’re not doing it on purpose. That their mouth is working faster than their brain, or they just didn’t realize it was a rude act. Or… as soon as it leaves their lips, they’re thinking “Why oh why did that come out of my mouth? Oh gosh, now I feel so awful for saying that.”

    Yes, we should all be so lucky as to always think before we speak every moment of every day, but even those with the best intentions still make mistakes. I’m human. I’ve been there after saying something without thinking about it and wanting to sink into the floor.

    Humor is great for many of these situations. And humor on the part of the person who is on the receiving end of a thoughtless comment is the best.

    My two favorites that I’ve heard from other women on various sites:

    Person A: “Are you pregnant?”
    Person B: “*laughs* Oh no… but the night is young!”

    Person A: “When are you due?”
    Person B: “*with a smile* About 9 months from whenever I get pregnant.”

    I have to add that I had a good chuckle about Yarnspinner’s tale. I’m glad you were able to handle it so well!

  • Bumlet September 7, 2011, 3:10 am

    As a mid-thirties overweight woman with a belly and large chest, I have been asked that a few times. It took a couple of embarrassments to figure out what to say. “When are you due?” “About 32 (or current age) years ago. But from what I heard, I was a week late.” If they don’t get the hint, I’m absolutely blunt and make them feel moronic for the assumption. It used to embarass me, but I’m much more comfortable with my size and shape now so it doesn’t bother me. I am happy with myself how I am, and I will not let someone else make me feel bad for it.

  • Mum with 3 kids September 7, 2011, 4:42 am

    I absolutely agree that you should choose not to let a remark ruin your day. But there are limits, and this (questions about pregnancy) is a very sensitive area to many. I’ve been pregnant and insecure, fearing for a miscarriage, and at that time would have been completely crushed had I been asked about pragnancy-related things. I’ve also been trying to conceive and very emotional about the lack of success … When you’re constantly on the verge of tears, the last thing you need is someone making assumptions.

  • Suzanne September 7, 2011, 10:00 am

    Oh no! So mortifying! I took a belly dance class once and, while most of us wore little cropped tops, one woman was wearing a full body suit. She had tiny arms and legs and was very thin except for her large, round belly. To add to that, she was standing in the “pregnant lady” pose – both hands in the small of her back and her stomach pushed out. I was trying to get to know everyone in the class an so I asked her when she was due. I got a pretty nasty response from her.

  • --Lia September 7, 2011, 10:10 am

    I notice one positive thing reading these stories. In every instance of someone asking “when are you due” or “are you pregnant,” the asker was genuinely mistaken– and embarrassed when corrected. I was starting to imagine a scenario where a bully has figured out the perfect way to get away with an insult: Pretend they’re congratulating on (or curious about) a pregnancy when they’re really saying “FAT! FAT! FAT!”

  • Suzanne September 7, 2011, 2:50 pm

    When I was buying a baby shower gift, the clerk asked me when my baby was due. I just said “I’m not pregnant, just fat”. She seemed embarrassed but I laughed and told her not to worry about it. I’ve accepted that I’m fat and it’s (mostly) a descriptor like hair color now.

  • Bint September 8, 2011, 11:21 am

    Someone asked my friend this when she had just had a miscarriage. She said nothing at all. She couldn’t. She just walked off.

    That is why some women cannot respond with grace and humour. That is why you don’t ask if a woman is pregnant – not because they might be upset at being thought fat or they are ridiculously over-sensitive. It is because it is an incredibly sensitive and upsetting aspect for many women for very good reason. Asking this is stupid and crass in the extreme. If you get grace back, it’s more than you deserved, frankly.

  • Enna September 8, 2011, 12:26 pm

    @ Anna – yes most of the time it isn’t worth crying over although, some women have body-image issues or may have had a miscarriage so it is insensative in that respect. Also when people like in the OP’s case the Grandfather just did not let it go, that made it rude – he clearly embrassed the lady so much she felt so uncomfortable she “fled”.

  • Jen September 9, 2011, 7:48 am

    I was reading this post and all the responses last night and thinking back to how this happened to me over 20 years ago. Buying a milkshake, more overweight than I am now (which is actually not that much), and the shop assistant asked me when the baby was due. Goodness my twins were 2, and I really shouldn’t have been having that milkshake. Anyway I got over it, eventually 🙂 Funny though, when I told the shop assistant that I wasn’t pregnant she said how that always happens to her friend, and that her friend gets upset, hhmmm you think she might have learnt something from that…. anyway funny that I still remember that all happening.

    Then today something happened I just have to share with you. I have been feeling bloated lately and a bit too fat and decided to go to the newagency to buy a diet diary and also picked up one my regular buy magazines. In the queue, I found myself behind an ex-colleague I hadn’t seen for quite a while. We chatted and then I put my purchases on the counter when she had finished, and she turn to me and asks Are you pregnant? Well, I just laughed out loud, I couldn’t believe it, it was really funny. The magazine I was buying started with the letters PRE and she thought it was a pregnancy magazine. It came with a Flat Belly Diet book – which as I said to her, I obviously needed (along with the diet diary). Thank goodness over the years I have developed something of a thick skin and learnt not to take these things to heart. I think she was a bit embarrassed but it was quite funny to me, especially after reading these stories last night. The other thing is that I’m 45 and a grandmother of 3 already, so it’s very unlikely (impossible) I would be having any more!

  • Michelle P September 9, 2011, 12:58 pm

    I agree with admin not to let it ruin your day, but have to respectfully state that not all of us can come up with a witty response on the spot.

    I have to agree with posters on here who’ve stated that rude people do not deserve a witty response. It is rude to assume any woman is pregnant, period. It’s no one else’s business. If they want to talk about it, they will.

    I was barely fifteen when I was in a store with my mother. I’ve never been skinny, but certainly did not look nine months pregnant. My birthday was in a few days, and I said to my mother, “only a few more days!” A woman standing nearby said, “For you to give birth?” I was so shocked I didn’t say a word, neither did my mother.

  • Etta Kett September 9, 2011, 3:43 pm

    I got the “When are you due”, when I was quite overweight, from a nurse of all people. In front of a full waiting room. I just gave her an eyebrow and said, “No, I’m just -fat-” with a teeny bit of a condescending tone to it. I didn’t see the look on her face after, because I turned away. But I bet she never did that again….

    If I wanted to really rub it in, I guess I could have added, I can’t be pregnant, because I’m infertile, but thanks for your concern, but I took it easy on her.

  • Cat September 10, 2011, 12:09 pm

    Fat can be fun. I was in a car accident when the car in front of me had to stop suddenly. I was able to stop but the large, heavy car behind me did not and rear-ended my economy car, pushing it into the car ahead of me. The folks in front spoke Spanish and English, me only English, and the man who caused it all spoke only Spanish. Being overweight, I was wearing a loose-fitting top. The other lady assumed that I was preggers and lit into the guilty party with some Spanish words I have heard but would never use. She had the poor guy thinking he had nearly killed me and my “baby”. I thought he was going to cry.

  • Linnie September 11, 2011, 10:37 pm

    I don’t understand how people can mistake overweight people for being pregnant… Obviously I’ve seen my fair share of overweight people and they NEVER look pregnant to me.

  • Chippy September 12, 2011, 4:41 pm

    I find the best response to “When are you due?” is a curt, “I’m not pregnant.” Usually it makes the person asking feel uncomfortable enough to realize their faux pas.

  • Compelled to Comment September 12, 2011, 6:28 pm

    I have had several major surgeries with the result being that I do not have a flat stomach anymore. I had a lady ask me when I was due, and when I repsonded that I wasn’t pregnant, she continued probing about my “bellly”. I did tell her I had several surgeries where I was cut across my abdomen and she kept asking what about. As she was a “paying customer” at an event I was volunteering for, I was at a loss as to how I could respond without being as rude as she was being. Thankfully, one of the other volunteers noticed something was wrong and asked for me to help them with something.

  • TT September 14, 2011, 12:15 am

    Just for the record “Don’t be silly, I’m a boy.” can either be a hilarious response (especially when you’re in clothing, such as a swimsuit, that makes it very clear you’re lying) that sends the friends standing beside both parties into gut-wrenching laughter –
    Or you could end up drastically confusing the girl who is, apparently, the most clueless woman alive, because she will look you up and down several times and then say in a horrified whisper “This is the girl’s bathroom!”

  • Javin September 19, 2011, 5:21 pm

    I get this all the time. And it still hurts. And I’m a guy. Q.Q

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