Brass neck

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.


26 responses to “Brass neck

  • bionicbrooklynite





    i mean really: i live among rude, nosy people. but COME THE FUCK ON.

  • May ProblemUterus

    Yeah. What she said. Seriously, WTF?

  • a

    Having frequently been the subject of office gossip, I can certainly empathize. However, my experience is slightly different – I always knew that the ignoramuses (ignorami?) were talking about me, so it was a pleasant surprise when someone would actually grow a pair and ask me a question rather than speculating out of earshot.
    How do you restrain yourself from hitting people with all of those lovely, heavy, lengthy tomes? Such a handy weapon – it seems a shame not to use it!

  • kylie

    Wow, and you were very restrained. I had someone ask me why I had taken a couple of fmonths away from soccer at my first game after my miscarriage- in a crowded dressing room. So I told her. Awkward silence all over the place. But strangely enough, never got asked any prying questions again.

    My office is tiny (7 people) and everyone bar myself and one other person, has children, mostly under 8 years old. My boss’s wife had a miscarriage a couple of years ago (in the second trimester, so pretty awful), so I figured I was on reasonably safe ground. The result- he spent the next year freaking out about how to replace me when I went on maternity leave- he seriously had conversations that had the line “when kylie goes on extended leave…”. That has stopped now.

    Apparently however, there have been comments by people at the parent company that I am quite direct in expressing my opinions. I don’t fill the typical aussie girl personality of “nice to face, bitch behind the back”, as I grew up in the USA and went to an all women university- where the idea was to express my ideas.


    • kylie

      Should add- I don’t think all australian women are like that- just that the expectation seems to be that they place nice and agreeable leaving a seething mass of resentment underneath. Something that is fairly usual all over the world, but sometimes it feels likes Australia missed part of the feminism movement, and this is one of those areas

  • Jenny F. Scientist

    I generally think the appropriate time to ask a woman “Are you expecting?” is when she’s about… six months pregnant. As in, unmistakable. Before that is fraught with awkward rudeness!

  • Carrie

    Wow. That’s just Manners 101. When someone is ready for you to know that they are pregnant, they will tell you. Is wrong to hope that maybe someday soon your co-worker will get stuck in an elevator for with Emily Post for four or five hours?

  • Carrie

    Sorry, I need to correct myself. I wish for your co-worker to get trapped in an elevator with Peggy Post (Carolyn Hax would also do nicely), Emily’s granddaughter and heir to her etiquette throne. Because while your co-worker is obnoxious and rude, my wishing death or seeing ghosts on her would be a bit much.

  • minichessemouse

    Oh no. No No No!


    You should have found the largest book on etiquette and manners you have and *accidently* dropped it on her head . . .

    mind you I have been in *Awkward* situations myself (nowhere near as awkward as yours) and have kept calm and carried on, still the little sea of rage inside is hard to get rid of.

    Many many haugs.

  • g

    I agree. Nothing said unless head is on view. Also, tactless way of asking, tactless indeed.


  • Wombattwo



    I can’t believe anyone would have the lack of tact, sensitivity and compassion necessary to say that! (Oh, except for my MIL I suppose…) Just… HOW RUDE!!! If you don’t want to/can’t hit her in the face with a heavy textbook on astrophysics (or something equally enormous and heavy) can I?


  • Solnushka

    Oh. My. God. Just oh my god.

  • Carole

    I’m aghast, AGHAST. How [i]extrodinarily[i/] rude! And not only to ask the question but to blurt out that it was the subject of tea-room gossip! What a singularly charmless cow.

    While it is indeed none of their fucking business, I’d love you to march into the next tea-room coven and tell them that if your fertility is such a concern that they better have some facts and then give them the facts like cold hard bullets so that they all felt really, really small and embarrassed and stupid. And then I would complain to the boss about them so that he/she did the same. And then I would pee in the kettle before they had their next gossip session and coat all the mugs in some dreadful lurgy (botulism or something). But then I am a vengeful bitch. You might stop before that….

    Ooh, I know. Get H to do all of the above. I bet he would and that would be even more of a slap for them!

    You probably won’t do any of the above, and you are probably quite right. But we can dream about it a bit, can’t we?

    Lots of hugs.

  • Shannon

    I think probably not your style, because you are kind and caring, but I would go back and have a word with She Who Thinks She Ought To Be the Company Spokeswoman. She does need to know that not only was her approach not respectful or appreciated, but that you would prefer to not engage in this kind of discussion. Ever. Hopefully it will prevent someone from being hurt by her crap approach in the future. And that actually enquiring about people’s procreation status or hopes is actually a no-no in the workplace, although people do it all the time.

    I also still get those questions and have done for years. I have never, ever appreciated getting those, not while in treatment, not while pregnant, not now. There are areas you don’t go in, and like someone said above – unless she’s crowning, you don’t ask.

    I’m so sorry, May.

  • Hairy Farmer Family


    Lemme at her. Just…. lemme at her.

  • Korechronicles


    Lining up alongside HFF,,,and I’ll bring the largest, heaviest tome from our library as well. Manners for Dummies might do it.

    • Korechronicles

      Need to put my glasses on. The Grammar Ninja has passed out on the floor as I have used three commas instead of an ellipsis. I blame the swap from work keyboard to midget laptop.

  • Lilian

    I like everyone else, am aghast! People. Mad and stupid.

  • twangy

    GRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, stupid colleague! Grrrrrrrrr!!

    AND, she didn’t even have the grace to be embarrassed!
    Words FAIL me.

  • katyboo1

    Grrrrrr. Words fail me at the total lack of charm, tact, diplomacy and manners displayed by this woman. May she have itchy pants all the days of her life.

  • Womb For Improvement

    Fucking hell.

    I suppose the wonderful thing about people is they NEVER cease to amaze me.

    But seriously.

  • Betty M

    Astonishingly rude and tactless. Happens a lot though. I have been congratulated on impending babies a number of times when none was anywhere near in the offering. Post IVF weight never being a good look. I have also often heard speculation on other people’s potential good news in the office. For many it just seems like the thing to talk about when they have exhausted the tv, their weekends, and who fancies the new bloke in Accounts. Doesn’t excuse any of it of course but I do wonder why they think it’s ok to ask such personal stuff straight out to someone who isn’t their best bud.

  • Quiet Dreams

    Back when I was married and so people felt more permission to stick their noses in my (lack of) reproductivity, I had a few encounters with work folk like this. It sucks, sucks, sucks, especially since you can’t get out of seeing them regularly. This has me steaming mad for you.

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