Yesterday, a pregnant friend of mine got very irate on Facebook that men and women do not, as a rule, get up and offer her their seats. I made the mistake of joking, “Well, you chose to get pregnant.” Er. She didn’t take that kindly. You would have thought I’d said, “You chose to smack your head against a brick wall.” My dear, that was not meant as an insult.
Here are 6 reasons why people may not offer a pregnant woman their seat.
1. People who look as if they are lazily reclining in the seat YOU should be in may have legitmate issues that prevent them from standing comfortably too. That strapping young guy? Maybe he has a heart problem. That young lean-looking woman? Maybe she’s been cleaning toilets in building offices since 3 a.m. and is exhausted. Not every handicap is visible and not every person sitting is doing so because they could just as easily stand. Non-pregnant people get bone-tired too.
2. I realize that you are aware at all times of your pregnancy but, believe it or no, no one else is paying much attention to it. If someone didn’t offer you a seat, there’s a pretty good chance she or he just didn’t notice your pregnancy. Maybe she's reading a book, or studying, or engrossed in her thoughts. Maybe she has a family member who is sick, or she just got laid off, and maybe she's thinking about things other than your unborn child. It happens.
3. The first time you assume a woman is pregnant and ask about a due date or congratulate her and she gives you a horrified look and you realize she’s not pregnant, believe me, that is the day you develop a crippling aversion to making the assumption that everyone with a big, round belly is pregnant.
4. You did indeed choose to become pregnant (presumably). You must have known that this could mean occasional discomfort and inconvenience. If not, I pity you in the delivery room.
5. Not all pregnant women want to sit down, and after you get a bunch of declines, you may stop prioritizing an offer, or even think about it. It’s sort of like the time you offer a homeless guy food, and he declines it. The next time you see a homeless guy, you might not offer him food, even though this guy would take it. Make sense?
6. Those of us who have never been pregnant or not known anyone who was pregnant -- and this can be a lot of people in their 20s or early 30s -- genuinely don't realize that being pregnant can make standing uncomfortable. We see Amy Poehler rapping on Saturday Night Live when she looks ready to burst with baby, and think that's the norm. Sometimes our seat hogging is genuine ignorance, not willfull rudeness.
Here's some advice: If you’re a pregnant woman who wants to sit and no one is hopping up, instead of stewing silently (or on Facebook) about it, try saying, “Hi, I’m pregnant and really uncomfortable right now. Would you mind giving up your seat?” If the person declines, you at least get the satisfaction of giving him or her a withering look.
Do you always offer a pregnant woman your seat? If you're pregnant and want to sit, do you ask?