The Alcohol Culture Strikes Again, and It's Still My Womb, My Business
A man walks into a bar.
Man: I’ll take a water.
Bartender pours the water.
Friend: You’re not drinking?
Friend: You’re not drinking?
End of discussion.
A woman walks into a bar.
Woman: I’ll take a water.
(Tactless) Bartender looks at woman’s stomach: Oh! So you’re pregnant?
Woman (cheeks burning, fists clenching, fury rising): No, just overweight. Thanks.
Woman sips her water, feeling murderous.
Friend: Water two days in a row, huh? So when’s Baby B coming?
Woman stifles urge to throw water in friend’s face, suddenly wishing it was alcohol so it would burn their eyes if she did.
Woman: I just want to fucking go home.
No, this isn’t a bad joke with no punchline. This is how it goes—at least where I’m from. If a man orders a water or club soda with lime at a bar, the choice is marked by nonchalant acceptance by his peers (mostly), even admiration for his courage to abstain. For a woman?
Well, of course if she’s not drinking she MUST be pregnant.
And of course that means it’s YOUR business (yes, I mean you!) to call attention to it. I’m sure if she is pregnant, she isn’t waiting for the perfect moment to share that wonderful news with her friends and family and is perfectly thrilled to spill the joyous, life-changing miracle with you when you question her drinking or food choices from a barstool. And she’s definitely not scared that her secret will come out too soon, so why not tell everyone as soon as the line on the little pink stick turns blue because things like miscarriages happen to other people, and it would be no biggie explaining, “Yeah, I know I said I was pregnant before, but…”
And if she isn’t pregnant, this is probably the eleventh time she’s been asked and had to defend her choice not to drink, so of course she’ll slap on a smile and be completely thrilled to get you up to speed. Yes, I’m sure she’d love to explain her fertility troubles over a virgin vodka soda, or delve into her struggles with weight, or—even more personal—her trouble controlling just how much she drinks. Or, perhaps, she’s not in college anymore and doesn’t need to toss one—or twenty—back just to have a good time…though chewing on ice cubes at a bar while everyone else imbibes is slowly becoming her least favorite thing on earth to do.
In case you haven’t noticed, this is still a hot button. Last year I abstained from alcohol for five months after my trip to Brazil. Close friends and family knew, so that made it easier to navigate—though explaining that the decision was part of a protocol from a spiritual retreat was met with more than one skeptical eyeroll. Within the past few weeks I’ve stopped drinking again. And I’m not enjoying it. I don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why, but I’ve had to give one (okay, several) to prevent the pregnancy rumor mill from roaring to life…again.
Can’t a woman just decide to do something nice for her body?
When I say, “I’m not drinking,” I shouldn’t have to follow it up with, “because I’m on a liver cleanse,” to provide a satisfactory reason to pass on Sunday double bubble or a delicious craft cocktail on a Saturday night. If you think it’s easy keeping my bottle of blended red corked during Monday night’s Bachelor in Paradise episode, you’re sorely mistaken. But I’m doing the best I can because my body needs help right now. Why is this simple decision to forgo spirits so intensely frustrating that I’ve been awake since five a.m. crafting this post in my head, wondering if I sound too bitchy (and do I even care?) and should I wait a month to publish since I might feel more compassionate and understanding by then?
Deep down I know that no one means any harm. Who isn’t excited about babies—particularly when someone else is having them? I’m just as guilty since the first thought that pops into my head when I see someone who normally drinks alcohol sipping water is that she must be pregnant. It’s ingrained, and I have no idea where it comes from, other than the innate perception that married women of breeding age are biological time bombs. Whatever the reason our pregger’s radar is so high, the message I want to convey on behalf of myself and all women is if you think someone is pregnant, DON’T ASK. It’s not your business. If she is pregnant, she’ll feel uncomfortable if she’s not ready to tell you. If she’s not she’ll want to throw her fucking water in your face for the suggestion.
So, for the love of sweet baby Jesus, have the respect and compassion to keep your thoughts, opinions, and whispers to yourself. Please. Thank you. Amen.
In the meantime, I’m not drinking alcohol right now. It sucks and I’m crabby. Don’t make it worse by fueling ranty posts like this.
And, if one day I should conceive, that’s for me to decide how to share (spoiler alert, it won’t be because you asked) because it’s still My Womb, My Business.