No, it’s not a baby. It’s Cheez-Its.

So I’m standing in line at Stein Mart, waiting to pay for my Aunt’s birthday present – adorable towels with lime and lemon designs.  My mom is at the counter next to me, buying paper napkins with cake on them and a delicious looking at-the-register-impulse-buy caramel that we are to share.  Life is good.  Until.

Until the women in front of me turns around and says what I think to be “So what do YOU do?”. Hmmm – weird that she poses a cocktail party question to me as she is completing her purchase of underwire bras and BBQ tongs.

“Excuse me?” I politely ask, just to make sure I heard right.  I was a bit distracted by the thought of getting that caramel into my mouth.

{Who doesn’t love a hammock?}

She reaches her hand towards my stomach and says in a slow-motion robot voice, “Sooo wheeeen aaaaare youuuuu duuuuuue?” As in, when is that human that’s chilling in your uterus hammock going to grow legs and hike outta there?

I quickly recoiled away from her hand, stood up as perfectly straight as I could and stared at my flatish-pooch-but-not-washboard-abs-because-I-eat-Cheez-Its-sometimes “belly” and replied, “I’m not”.  I cannot tell you the look on my face, but it must have been horrific because she said awkwardly “Oh.  Well…I didn’t mean to offend you (Mmmk) but I work in maternity so that must be it.” And she walked away.

THEN.  Then the woman checking me out said “Jeeeeeesuuuuus Chriiiiiiiist. I mean, you aren’t BONEY, but you don’t look pregnant!” Um.  Thank you?

I rehash the story to Lil Kathy 3.5 seconds later as we are walking to the car.  Her face went from sheer joy (I’m going to have another GRANDBABY!!!!) to sheer disappointment (So you are saying you aren’t pregnant) in about .67 seconds.   Then she tells me, “See.  I always tell you that you need to stand up straight.  Suck and tuck.”  Right-o, mom. Noted. - Sorry I thought you were pregnant

At this point, most women would want to crawl into a hole and die, after demolishing two bags of Munchies, a double-decker taco and the rest of their kids Halloween candy.  And don’t think it didn’t cross my mind for a minute.  I could have gone there, and believe me – I have before.  I’ve done the self-loathing, the crying, the face-stuffing, the bottle of wine drinking.  And you know where it leaves me?  Awake at 4am, face down on the couch with cheesy fingers and a bell grande headache.

{What I was wearing during said interrogation. That’s Brad from Bodies Personal Training on the right- post photo shoot for a great freelance article I’m working on}

Not this time.  I know that I am strong.  Years ago, I made a promise to eat healthy, work out regularly and take care of my body inside and out.  If I have a little pooch – then I have a little pooch.  That’s just the way my body was made.  Sure, I could have a flat stomach like I see in magazines and on TV.  But that would require me to have a seriously strict diet and exercise routine, and that just doesn’t appeal to me right now.  Some people are born with 6 pack abs and cut arms, and don’t have to work out a day in their life.  Others have an unhealthy relationship with food and restrict their eating or binge in order to have the body they want.  Friends of mine work out exactly as I do, and have less body fat or more sculpted legs.  It’s the way it is.

Right now, I choose to be strong.  I make great choices 90% of the time, and whatever the result is physically, I am choosing to be happy with it.  Because where I’ve been before – that self-conscious, obsessive, frustrated place – is NO FUN. I still struggle some days with body image, of course.  I wish I could look you in the eye and say with 100% conviction that I love my body exactly as it is.  Not true.  But I’m getting there.  I’m working hard at it, and I’m getting there.  Because feeling strong trumps feeling skinny any day of the week for me. And like Marsha says, strong is the new skinny.

And when I AM pregnant, Lil Kathy will be the first to know.  Okay, second.  Husband might want in on that. And then the lady from Stein Mart.  ‘Cause, you know…she’s in maternity. By the way, Mom.  You can have the caramel.  Just in case.