This week has been an eye-opener in so many ways. It has been a sensorial feast of lessons of a sociological nature to say the least! All of a sudden, with the nice weather and subsequent exposure of baby bump, the world and her aunties seem to want to stop and talk ~most of the time ~simply because of the bump itself. I have witnessed complete strangers walk up to me feeling the need to have a pat on the belly protrusion and share their very own stories of pregnancy , birth, sometimes even the conception for crying out loud! I’ve been left wondering whether there’s an innate vulnerability perceived by people when they see a ‘lady in waiting’ which draws them into conversation. In any other situation, idle chit chat would have been avoided at all costs with these people. Don’t get me wrong; I love it! But one can’t help wondering why such great expectations automatically bring out the better side in otherwise dead-pan or ignorant people.
Take this morning for instance. I decide to poddle along to the local cafe/bistro for some alfresco working with a smoothie or two. As I settle at the table and start de-canting my writing equipment, the bistro manager bounds over with a smile as wide as the grill on a Humvi , stating very loudly ” shut uuuuupp, I never knew you were expecting!!”… ( or rather, “shu’ uuuuuup” in full Towie fashion…. she should start offering out free glottle stops with every 2 lattes..). As well I know she is talking to me, I find myself looking around the bistro to check there isn’t a long lost friend of hers sitting behind me , surreptitiously. … maybe she’s stuffed a cushion up her jumper for a prank! But, no… the colourful display of over-exuberance is indeed reserved for me and before I know it,the normally monosyllabic girl is perched next to me showing me photos of her cousins newborn; cooing and enthusing madly. Once I’ve recovered from the temporary shock, I respond in kind and calmly pass the time of day with her, but all the while think to myself ” why on earth are you being so friendly when during the last eighteen months of my visits you’ve looked right through me with a resigned haughtiness?” I half expect her to announce all coffees on the house and jump up onto the tables, turning all Andrew-LLoyd Webber on us, but thankfully not. Once she’s collectively exhausted the subject , me and herself , she totters back to the till smiling at her latest discovery.
Not content with that, my next stop is for assisting duty at eldest child’s school trip to the local church. Having been halted six times between the bistro and my car, I arrive at the classroom only to be met by 30 excited 9 year olds staring at me as though I’m an extra terrestrial being, then clambering at me for a touch of the baby bump once more. Questions start flying at me from all directions ” are there two in there? how do you know?” “how will they come out?” “”how did they get in there?” (Oh God, how do I get round THIS one??), ” when will they be born?” “” are they heavy?” etc etc etc.. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s all boys crowding round, asking! The girls merely stand around curiously, sizing up the situation , exuding thoughts of ” Lord save me from looking like THAT when I grow up!”. The last week has been very much a constant trickle of happy visitors to baby bump land in this vein of interaction. The cheery, jocular,optimistic comments are welcomed in buckets of course, but being a sociolinguist, I am constantly intrigued by the transformation in the behaviour of people I’d previously observed to actually be quite rude and lacking in social interest. Long my it reign , but I can’t help asking whether these are the people who’ve been dying to talk in the past but have been shy due to no common ground, whether they’re intrinsically miserable in some cases, but are genuinely heartened by the news of new life/lives or whether, in the transient nature of today’s western society, it’s a bit of temporary entertainment~ to become tomorrow’s chip wrapper? Either way, it fascinates me almost as much as the pregnancy itself!
©Tess Egerton 2013