Why is it that when women become pregnant, they automatically hand over responsibility for their own decisions to the great British public?
Recently the writer Marina Hyde tweeted that she'd been refused a filter coffee in Pret because she was pregnant. She archly said, "Why not issue a nationwide edict against staff giving medical advice? I imagine they don't warn overweight people off your sandwiches.". And she has a point.
A similar thing happened to me a few weeks ago. Having stood all the way from Huddersfield to Scarborough on a train (despite being quite obviously pregnant), I wandered into the station café and ordered a latte. The barista looked at my bump and said, "Really? Naughty!". He didn't know that it was my first coffee of the day, that the daily recommended allowance is 200mg of caffeine and that, though I have limited my caffeine allowance in accordance, the jury's still out on this particular "foible" anyway. And even if he did. It's actually none of his bloomin' business.
I ordered my favourite meal in a café recently (salami, cheese, houmous and olives), only to be told by a helpful queuing person that "pregnant women shouldn't eat salami, should they?". I was, to say the least, incensed.
First off, the NHS guidelines don't actually say that pregnant women shouldn't eat salami (though some countries do). I wondered whether I should have told her that in order to preserve her expanding waistline she really should have avoided that pain au chocolat she was about to chow down on.
I was at a weekend choir rehearsal recently and I DARED to pick up a pile of plates, only to be informed that I should NOT be doing so. I laughed back that I was pregnant not disabled and the response was enough to make me feel like I was intentionally murdering my foetus (ie it wasn't about ME, it was about my unborn child's welfare).
If I had stood there with a cigarette hanging out of my lips, I might have understood it a bit better.
During the latter stages of my last pregnancy I was on a train into town with my laptop bag. As I heaved it up onto the seat the conductor told me I shouldn't be carrying it. I told him I had to have it as it had my laptop in it and I needed it to work.
"Well then you should sue your boss," came his reply. Though telling him I was actually my boss gave me small pleasure, even as I said it, I felt a faint surge of guilt that I was putting myself through it (through actually carrying a fairly light Macbook).
Why do we treat pregnant women like imbeciles? Why is it that women can be company directors, prime ministers, teachers and movie stars but when it comes to being expectant mothers they are perceived to know nothing.
I'm not by any means condoning smoking when pregnant but poor old Stacey Solomon's foetus became public property when she was caught puffing on a fag.
Leeds mother-to-be Jenny Wright received actual verbal abuse from onlookers when she was seen running in her local park. Presumably (and I'm obviously generalizing here) the same people who thought it was ok to stuff their children full of sugary snacks on a daily basis.
Friends report strangers pulling them up for, variously, eating ANY CHEESE AT ALL, fudge (wtf?) and riding on a penny farthing.
One friend, Cathy Winston, a respected travel writer, who blogs at www.mummytravels.com says: "I've been travelling as much as I possibly can for most of my adult life.
I've visited 55 countries (so far) and I've even managed to make it part of my career. But as soon as I announced I was pregnant, almost everyone told me I'd have to stop travelling as if having a baby equalled going into some kind of Victorian seclusion."
Some airlines let you fly up to 36 weeks and travel insurers will still cover you as long as your pregnancy hasn't been complicated. "But according to everyone from professional acquaintances to even close family, it's not even an option," says Winston, "I even had a few concerned comments about a trip to the Isle of Wight, as I'd have to take a ferry to get there..."
Now excuse me, I'm off to ask my partner (he's a man so he should probably know) whether I should have another cup of tea or not.
What's the most annoying 'advice' a stranger has given you?
What foods to eat and what to avoid