I was overweight until I was in my 20s, but I’ve never stopped feeling self-conscious about my body. Having my parents and my pediatrician tell me I weighted too much did a number on my body confidence. Even when I got myself down to a size zero (mostly through overexercise and measured portions), I couldn’t feel satisfied with my body size. So, when I was in the late stage of my first pregnancy, I was extremely sensitive to comments about my shape. I imagined delivering some biting responses to people who said I was “all belly,” since I didn’t always think of these comebacks on the spot. Even if I had, it would have taken some level of bravery I had yet to obtain at that point in my life to actually say them.
After enduring the typical taunts about my body from boys when I started filling out training bras in fifth grade, I thought I would grow up to be spared such entitled commentary from my adult peers. I’ve been catcalled at every size, though, so I my hope was very short-lived. Then I became pregnant and was shocked all over again. The liberty friends and strangers alike took in sharing their thoughts about my morphing shape was just, well, unreal. It didn’t matter if these comments came from purely good intentions, they always felt horribly invasive to be on display for public commentary just because my pregnancy was evidenced in a physical way.
So for those who have trouble finding a suitable comeback to people who tell you you’re “all belly,” (like I did) here are some choice responses:
“I’ll Take That Over ‘No Brains’”
Rude remarks deserve sick burns. I’m not going to normalize people’s entitlement to comment on my body, whether I'm pregnant or not. Unless I specifically asked, “Hey, do you mind analyzing my physical appearance? Because it’s really important that I hear what your thoughts are on something that has absolutely nothing to do with you,” no one is welcome to vocalize their observations. They can think whatever they want — that I’m glowing, that I’m a huge cow, that I’ll never fit myself in that sliver of a bus seat — but they can’t say it.
“Yes But It’s Temporary, Unlike Your Classlessness”
This is a slightly less aggressive version of the above response. It’s still a comeback with a bite, but it’s only mildly more civilized. A dig to one’s level of sophistication, and adherence to a code of manners, is not as cutting as a shot taken at one’s intelligence. Still, I’d totally feel justified using this particular comeback, because it is not classy at all to talk about someone’s midsection.
“Don’t Be Jealous Of My Curves”
This is my favorite reply because it takes a judgmental comment and spins it positively. The only catch is that I’d have to be totally confident in my pregnant body to deliver this answer convincingly. Given that I had a lot of body image issues that were exacerbated by pregnancy, I’d have a tough time embracing my pronounced belly.
The good thing about being pregnant, though, was that it caused me to realize how my body served so many other purposes than trying to squeeze into certain clothes or fit into what society had considered to be "beautiful" or "acceptable." As I progressed throughout my first pregnancy, the perspective of my body shifted. I no longer hated so many things about it. Instead, I began to feel in awe of its capacity to house and nurture a growing human. It was capable of so much more than fitting into skinny jeans.
“Well Some Day Maybe You Can Be The Target Of Unsolicited Comments On Your Body, Too”
This response is an attempt to enlist the offender’s compassionate side, so it will only have an effect if that person has basic human feelings and is capable of empathy. In other words, this will not register with bullies, narcissists, and anyone who pretends not to see a pregnant person on the subway in order to avoid giving up a seat.
“That Means I’m Better Than You”
Admittedly, I did feel superior as a pregnant person. I was doing all the things a 30-something New York City working woman would typically do and I was growing a whole other person inside of me. I felt pretty smug about it, I won't lie.
“Do You Need To Borrow My Elementary Human Anatomy Textbook?”
Honestly, those "all belly" remarks make it abundantly clear how little some people know about body parts, or the fact that pregnant women have more than one. I don’t know if I’d be able to summon all the snark necessary to deliver this comeback, but I’d be willing to give it a shot (if I never had to see the other person ever again).
“And You’re All Skin. Like, It’s All Over You. Are You OK?”
Pointing out the obvious sometimes shuts them up. Sometimes.
“That’s What She Said”
This is intended to shame them for being unoriginal, but I’m guessing it might have the effect of stunning them into silence because it’s really apropos of nothing. Or, in a better case scenario, this person will be delighted by your Michael Scott reference and the two of you will devolve into a repartee of one-liners from The Office, which is almost always the best use of one's time.
“All Of My Belly Gives Zero F*cks About What You Think Of It"
There came a point in my pregnancy when I was too tired and uncomfortable to put energy towards anything other than finding physical relief. I didn’t care about my hair. I wasn’t worried about being polite to strangers. I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste time concerning myself with what other people thought about my 10-months-pregnant belly.
“That’s Because I’m The Best At Being Pregnant”
If someone is going to take the time to evaluate my size in the throes of pregnancy, then I guess they are concerned with how I’m measuring up. If the size of my belly is in indication, I’m kind of killing it as a pregnant human.