By far the most common craving of pregnant women is not to be pregnant.
-- Phyllis Diller
Is it just me, or are there a lot of women out there who look pregnant but aren't?
I have noticed many in recent months who appear to be in what we used to say was "the family way" because they are comfortably attired in what I still call a "maternity top."
It's a blouse sort of thing that fits tight under the arms but poofs out below. Like a lampshade.
"Those aren't maternity tops," says the only resident of my house who has worn one.
"Really?" I ask.
"It's called an empire waist," she says.
"OK," I say.
"Why?" my wife asks with a growing tone of apprehension. "You didn't suggest some woman was pregnant when she wasn't, did you?"
"Of course not," I lie.
But we all know I wouldn't be discussing the subject if it hadn't gotten me into trouble.
Actually, the truth was more like a casual query at work where I said something like, "Hey, is Maybeline pregnant?"
I asked a co-worker with both polite sensitivity and practical curiosity. Such things are good to know because we like to celebrate the special times of colleagues and maternity leave might alter the vacation schedule.
"No!" shrieked the woman I had asked in that subtle decibel level women use to announce fires and Brad Pitt sightings.
After the third such faux pas in recent months, I finally got the point: Never, ever, ever ask, hint or suggest a woman is pregnant.
To paraphrase the late football coach Woody Hayes, "Three things can happen and two of them are bad."
He was talking about football offense; I am talking about an offense to women.
The three things?
First, the woman might not be pregnant. She might just be fat.
She doesn't need you to remind her.
She doesn't want you to remind her.
Second, the woman might be pregnant but doesn't want to admit it. There are a variety of reasons for such reticence. I won't get into them.
Third, the woman is pregnant but just hasn't gotten around to telling you yet.
Leave it that way.
Don't spoil her surprise.
Let her choose the moment.
When she does, respond with polite, but good-natured sensitivity.
That's what I do.
"Wow," I am likely to say. "Looks like twins, too!"