I’m on the New York City subway during rush hour, en route home from work. The train’s crowded, and I’m clinging to a pole. It’s been a long day.
I catch the eye of a man sitting down. He glances at my stomach and gestures toward his seat.
“You want to sit?” he asks.
Eeep. It is clear this man has mistaken my post-baby bump for an actual one. Only there is no baby in there, just some pasta from lunch.
Back when baby-doll tops came back, everyone and their mother looked knocked up. I knew better than to ask, although I’ve made some bad pregnancy calls, most recently with a waitress at a restaurant who had a prominent protrusion.
“Hey, when are you due?” I asked after she took our order.
“I’m not pregnant,” she said, flatly.
“Oh!” I back-pedaled. “That’s always happening to me!”
Except it hadn’t, until this particular moment on the train. It was inevitable: I never had the flattest stomach to start with, and it’s never quite recovered from having two kids, or I’ve never recovered it, or something like that.
And so I do the only thing I can think to do: I fake it.
“No, thanks,” I tell the man, sweetly.
And then, I put one hand on my belly, push it out, and smile beatifically. I even try to summon up some glow. I do everything except pretend puke on someone from pretend nausea. Because damned if I am going to admit that my so-called pregnancy is actually pooch.
And when my stop comes, I nod at the man and walk carefully off the train, me and my pasta baby.