Keep Your Seat, I’m Not Pregnant
By Vivi Rathbone.
The first time someone asked me if I was pregnant on the subway, I was embarrassed.
Claire and I were standing near the doors in the B line. In between the Carlos Gardel and Pueyrredon stations, a homeless child, who was juggling balls for spare change, came up and addressed me while pointing at my stomach. It was my first month in Buenos Aires, and I couldn’t understand his Spanish. I was confused as to why he was speaking to me, and a young man jumped up to give me his seat.
“Estas embarazada?” (Are you pregnant?) The young man asked me.
“No.” I responded in shock. “No, no.” I shook my head, not my finger.
He sat back down. Claire comforted me. “It’s a flowy dress, you don’t look pregnant.”
The second time someone asked me if I was pregnant on the subway, I was impressed.
It was 14:00 on the dark E line during winter. The Independencia Station was crowded, and I didn’t get a seat. A man stood up and asked me loudly if I was pregnant and tugged my elbow gently to sit down.
I shook my head and smiled: “I’m not pregnant, pero, gracias.”
He nodded and sat back down. I couldn’t tell if he was relieved to be relieved from his chivalric duty.
‘Does this coat make me look fat?’ I wondered to myself.
The third time someone asked me if I was pregnant on the subway, I was devastated.
My first year living abroad was a whirlwind of powerful emotions, and on this day I was feeling particularly low. It was 20:30 on the D line, I was in transit to meet my amigas for dinner in Palermo.
“Estas embarazada?” A seated young man asked me quietly.
“Que?” (What?) I couldn’t hear him.
He jumped up and asked it louder this time. “Estas embarazada?” Everyone looked at me.
“No. No estoy embarazada!” (No, I’m not pregnant!) I said, and my emotions got the best of me. Hot, angry tears spilled out of my eyes. I felt terrible about myself. I was so sensitive about my appearance. I had lost twenty pounds since I had arrived in Argentina, and apparently I still looked fat. I couldn’t stop quietly crying.
A woman looked at me, sympathetically.
‘She probably thinks I’m crying because I WANT to be pregnant.’ I thought to myself.
That was not the case. I just wanted people to stop implying that I looked fat. The man who had offered me a seat looked very uncomfortable, and avoided eye contact when he got off at the next station.
Once I was in a crowded bus when a man quietly offered his seat to a woman next to me.
She sat down and pulled out her phone. The bus was crowded, I was tightly packed between several people. I could easily read the messages this seated woman was sending on her blackberry. I read them because I’m a verified voyeur with an insatiable curiosity.
‘A man just gave me a seat on the bus because I look pregnant. I’m never going to eat again!’
It was all I could do to stop myself from putting my arm around her and telling her I understood. How dare that bastard use chivalry to imply his thoughts on her weight. The worst part was that he was sincere! Of course I remained quiet, only because I didn’t want to admit that I had read her private text messages.
The last time someone asked me if I was pregnant on the subway, I was wearing my green raincoat.
It was misty outside, and my skin was dewy and my hair was frizzy. I stood holding the rail facing the seated passengers. A middle age woman caught my eye.
“Estas embarazada? Te queres sentar?” (Are you pregnant? Do you want to sit?) She mouthed to me, and made a hand motion to offer me her seat.
“Do I look fat?” I asked her, making my expression clear that I was teasing her.
“Nooo, nooooooo.” She smiled at me. “Your skin is glowing, and I couldn’t tell what was under your coat.”
“Aaahh por supuesto. Sos un amor.” (Oh, of course. You’re a sweetheart.) I winked at her.