Nope, just nachos.
I fumbled around for an answer, bouncing like a pinball between an outright lie that would make her feel comfortable (‘Oh, I’m five months’) to a bald statement of fact (‘I’m not pregnant’).
I’ve never been petite. I’ve never been slender.
But nor would I describe myself as ‘looking with child’. Let alone looking like I’d been with child for four or five months.
But on this day, apparently I did.
I was working on a paper in a mid-sized country town on the Northern Tablelands, and had been sent to do a story I can barely recall — I think it was about a guy in his 60s who was going to do a marathon (60 seemed sooooo old then — it was definitely newsworthy). His wife asked me to stay for a cuppa.
I do remember thinking I looked pretty fab that day, decked out in a sunray pleated black skirt and one of those massively outsized, riotously coloured jumpers that were all the go in the '80s. Mum had knitted it to my specifications: emerald green with arrows in red, blue, yellow and orange. Flat black loafers. You can see why I might have turned heads.
As the runner’s wife handed me my tea, she asked with interest: “When are you due?”
There is no more awkward moment than being asked about a baby that doesn’t exist by a woman you don’t know when you’re in her house sipping tea and representing the local paper.
I fumbled around for an answer, bouncing like a pinball between an outright lie that would make her feel comfortable (‘Oh, I’m five months’) to a bald statement of fact (‘I’m not pregnant’). Blotchy red patches broke out on my neck. I felt deeply, deeply embarrassed. And emotionally crushed.
But I held it together. The lie won out, albeit in it a mumbling kind of way. I remain eternally thankful that a) I was able to turn the conversation back to her husband’s imminent heroics and b) I never saw her again, thereby avoiding the necessity for tales about my fictional offspring.
I went home and cried. I didn’t tell a soul. And even though I tried to wear my favourite jumper again, I never did — all I could think of was how fat I must have looked in it.
That was decades ago. It took me years to tell the story with any semblance of humour.
So I have more than a bit of sympathy for celebrities when they’re featured on magazine covers with straplines pointing to their ‘baby bumps’ — real or fictional. Because that cringe-making moment comes flooding back.
It happened this year to Zara Phillips (granddaughter of the Queen, talented equestrienne and wife of English rugby star Mike Tindall).
She turned up at Ascot in a yellow Paul Costelloe dress that did, without question, show off her tummy. She then patted her stomach “protectively” — and with that innocent action, she set the royal baby rumour mill spinning.
Except there was nothing to “protect”.
Zara won a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, and has a daughter, Mia, born in January 2014. She has said on the public record there will be no more children until after the next Games in Rio.
A spokesman for the Queen’s granddaughter later confirmed that fact, telling the Daily Mail: ‘Zara is not pregnant – her plans remain the same in terms of her preparation for Rio 2016.’
If it was tough for me, imagine what it must have been like for Zara, having to say to the world ‘Not pregnant. Just a big meal last night’.
And this week, Princess Mary might — or might not — have ‘miracle’ baby news for us. ‘TWINS AGAIN’ we’re told — although there doesn’t seem to be any official confirmation out there. Nicole Kidman has been through this a gazillion times — once because she reportedly made a toast at dinner with water rather than wine (because toasts can only be made with wine — unless you’re pregnant).
Speaking from experience, it’s not a nice thing to hear if you’re not. In a world where the most desirable women have flat stomachs and ridiculous trends like the belly button challenge catch like wildfire (look it up — it’s insane), you’re being told you’re big. Bloated. Maybe even fat.
None of that matters when you’re harbouring new life. But it’s pretty mortifying when you’re not.
I mustered up the guts (pardon the pun) to tell my workmates my story of phantom pregnancy. I thought I’d be the only one — surely this didn’t happen regularly?
But three or four others had been through the same thing. And all of us were still just that little bit embarrassed.
But one of them had the best comeback ever.
“Just say: ‘No, I’m not pregnant. But I am going home to burn this outfit’.”