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Tue, Feb 02, 2010
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A belly awkward situation
by Clara Chow

STANDING in a crowded train during rush hour, I was checking out my reflection (hello, slinky, curve-hugging

dress!) when I heard a little voice calling behind me: “Auntie. Auntie. Auntie!”

Who, me?

Swivelling around, I looked down and saw an adorable young lad.

He gestured towards the priority seat he had just vacated and asked: “Would you like to sit down?”

Flashing him my most encouraging smile, I declined gently, explaining that I was getting off at the next station.

Wow, young people are so polite these days.

Then, it hit me: Thanks to my post-pregnancy baby paunch, he had mistaken me for being pregnant.

Almost three months after giving birth to my younger son, Lucien, I’m still getting the odd “When’s it due?” query.

At the paediatrician’s clinic recently, a pre-teen girl cooed admiringly over Lucien, before asking me point-blank if I was already having another baby.

And I’ve sometimes found it necessary to pre-empt new acquaintances who eyeball my belly with exaggerated delight by saying that I had just delivered.

Better safe than awkward.

Even American party-girl Kim Kardashian hasn’t been spared this foetus faux pas: Two months ago, she tweeted in a huff that a clueless fan had congratulated her on being pregnant, when it was actually her sister, Kourtney, who was seven months along.

But, back to the train incident.

Later, after I fled – I mean, alighted – from the train carriage, I wondered if it would have been ethical to accept the offer, given that I was no longer pregnant.

Strictly speaking, it would have constituted cheating.

Yet, I must admit, I felt tempted to continue masquerading as a pregnant woman, because I sort of missed all the tiny concessions you get when you’re in the family way – from being served more canapes by nice waiters at receptions, to coaxing better quotes out of interviewees sympathetic to a reporter working with a belly as big as a house.

When I posed the question on Facebook, a friend pointed out that it might have been better to graciously accept my Small Samaritan’s offer, otherwise he might feel rejected and stop being so chivalrous in future.

Another said: “Take it! It’s payback time for ‘chao kuan’ (Hokkien for inconsiderate) people who didn’t offer you a seat when you were really pregnant.”

Then again, it could be a matter of semantics.

A single, childless lawyer friend once marched up to an airline counter and declared: “I’m expecting.”

She was promptly given an upgrade. Justifying her pretence, she told me: “I was expecting, what. Expecting an upgrade.”

For people who are afraid to risk insulting a non-pregnant woman with the priority-seat manoeuvre, etiquette dictates that one proceeds with caution.

It could be a case of damned if you don’t and damned if you do.

As British comedian Jimmy Carr once said: “It’s better to see a pregnant woman standing up than a fat woman sitting down, crying.”

Since 2006, some railway operators and airlines in Japan give out “There is a baby in my stomach” maternity tags and buttons to expectant mums to wear, taking the guesswork out of giving up one’s seat.

Some local governments there also offer their own baby badges.

This is something that train and bus companies here might want to consider.

In my case, however, I should do the reverse and wear a button that says: “I’m not pregnant, I’m fat.”

Frankly, it’s not a big deal for me to be mistaken for a mum-to-be, especially by people who are nice enough to ask with concern.

Come to think of it, I am pregnant: Pregnant with possibilities, fertile with joy, and carrying within me abundant hope about the unexpected warmth people are capable of.

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