I am minding my own business, well, minding my place of employment’s business, as I am after all paid to do, at 10 in the morning, somewhat caffeine-deprived, in a state of mind that can best be described as ‘vague’ also ‘auto-pilot’. And up trots one of my lesser-known colleagues, and without so much as a ‘good morning!’ she asks me: ‘So, are you expecting?’
She accompanies this extraordinary conversational sally with a highly expressive gesture indicating the wearing of a watermelon in the waistband of one’s trousers.
‘No,’ I say, flatly, brusquely, in tones indicating this is very much not a subject I am prepared to be forthcoming on. I wish very much I’d said something more to the point, such as ‘mind your own fucking business, bitch,’ or, possibly, more reasonably ‘that’s an extremely personal question and not one that I’m prepared to discuss with you.’ But we were in the middle of the stacks and prolonged personal discussion is not encouraged.
Nevertheless, undaunted, she goes on: ‘You see, we were all discussing it in the tea-room, and I said I’d ask you!’
I give her a look. It is normally the sort of look I give dog-turds in the middle of the pavement, but she seems cheerily oblivious and adds ‘well, it’s not like you look really, you know,’ *watermelon gesture* and at this point I turn on my heel and stride off.
Because hitting her briskly in her yammering cake-hole with Richard Gross’s 900-page tome on psychology would probably create more problems then it solves.
I have been working at this particular place of employment for five or six years now, and I have been utterly spoilt. Most of my colleagues are introverted and slightly geeky, and a lot of them are single, or have kids in their teens. They are not interested in babies and pregnancies or their colleagues’ private lives, or, if they are, they keep it to themselves. By and large, I have been extremely lucky, given the horror stories I have read on some blogs of nosy, tactless, oafish, smug, bitchy coworkers. And work, therefore, tiresome as it could be in other regards, and stressful as I find some aspects of it, was always a safe place, where the infertility-and-miscarriages part of my life could be put aside.
And now this.
It’s not just that the nosy bitch asked That Question You Do Not Ask Any Woman Who Is Not Actually Crowning (my God! Such appalling manners! I am appalled!). It’s that she let me know she and several other colleagues have been gossiping about me.
My poor tummy is often bloated, especially in the week after my period and the week of ovulation. It’s too painful to hold it in and it seems to inflate like rising bread when I get really hormonal. It’s a bugger, but there it is. And OK, I am off sick a lot and there was a big fuss last week because I had to rearrange the entire week’s work schedule to create enough shift-swaps to get the morning off to go to yet another hospital appointment. I can see why this would set off someone’s pregdar. Well, it would set off mine. But here is the thing. I wouldn’t ask. I wouldn’t gossip about it. Being curious doesn’t give me any right to know. If someone tried to gossip with me about a colleague, I’d say ‘well, if she wants us to know anything, she’ll tell us. If she doesn’t tell us, it’s because she doesn’t want us to know anything. Did you watch the Great British Bake-Off last night?’ I can safely say that this is what I’d do because this is what I do do, at work at least, when someone’s health or private life comes up in conversation. [Caveat – with friends and family, I am less restrained, what with being human and fallible. But I’d still NEVER go and ask ANYONE a question like that. Never. And have told various relations not to be so bloody nosy about whoeveritis on occasion too. So].
And now I know, every time I walk into the tea-room, the office, that some of my colleagues have been gossiping about me. Speculating, eyeing, judging, making assumptions. And I hate that. I hate it so much. Work is no longer the infertility-and-miscarriage free zone. And as well-meaning as my colleagues may very well be in their chat (hmph), I fucking hate that I’m the subject of it. And that they’re so colossally wrong in their assumptions.
And that I’d give my fucking right arm to be able to answer ‘well, yes I am!’, and stick my belly out with pride.
And that it’d still be none of their fucking business.