I hear this at the gym few weeks ago, as I pack up my bag to leave. I turn slowly to see a woman in her sixties, smiling at me, raking my brain through all the incredible feats of courage I was able to accomplish in the last five minutes. Nothing comes to mind.
I let out a tiny sigh, and seek clarification, even though I already know how this is going to end. I have gotten this “compliment” before – like that time I wore a sleeveless dress to a wedding, and was surrounded by the bridesmaids, gushing at the arm definition: “You are so brave!”. It always comes from women, and is often followed up by “Good for you!”.
“Well, yeah!”. The woman is just beaming now. “To expose your belly like that!”
I look down.
Sports bra, tank top, Reebok shorts, athletic socks, shoes. I picked up this neon orange tank in Miami, so I could blend into the gym crowd a bit more – among polyester onesies, and neon lycra body suits. The tank bares the belly even on my non-pregnant days. Now, the bottom of the top hikes up over the bump, showing about three inches of bare skin.
“Ok…?“ I shrug. “I am at the gym, not an opera.”
“Oh yes yes”, nods the woman. “But still! To show it like that, you must be pretty confident!”
I look at the offending belly again.
“Why? It’s so cute.” At this point, I am sincerely trying to understand.
The woman pauses, and then starts to backpedal. “Oh, it’s probably just my age talking. When I was pregnant, women always covered up.”
“Why do you think they did?”.
I see her thinking.
“I am not sure”, she finally shares.
I didn’t think she’d come up with a specific reason. Because there isn’t one. Just like there is no reason for why women’s breasts are plastered all over magazine covers, but three inches of belly exposed by a pregnant woman, is seen as brave and radical.
PRO TIP:Unless I am walking out of a burning building with someone else’s child in my arms, perhaps, do not start your sentence with “Wow, you are so brave…”. It usually leads to a backhanded compliment. And if it’s up to ME at all, you will end up asking yourself questions you won’t have answers to. Or, perhaps, just feeling awkward.