Despite how much I kvetch and carp about the inconveniences and discomforts of pregnancy, I have discovered that there is one advantage for the enterprising. And it can be a big advantage, if used sparingly. If you play your pregnancy card right, you can get away with just about anything -- all you have to do is shrug your shoulders and say, "I'm pregnant," as if that explains away everything. It's the ultimate, "get out of jail free" card, which is a little more believable than the infamous "Twinkie defense." I can't tell you how many unwanted social engagements I've been able to squirm out of at the last minute with no better excuse than "I'm tired" or "just not up to it." And the beauty of it is, instead of giving me the usual grief, my friends get all sympathetic and concerned and beg me to stay home and get some rest. Sometimes they even apologize for having expected anything from me! If you haven't tried this yet, you have to. You'll be surprised and amazed at the stuff you get away with.
Even my husband uses the pregnancy card to get out of things. Turning in a script late? No problem, just explain your wife is pregnant and mumble something vague about contractions, and voila, an automatic extension is granted. Parties, social engagements, schmoozing events are all easily by-passed with the judicious use of the pregnancy card. The only downside is receiving frantic, worried phone calls from people when we don't show up to something. Everyone automatically assumes the worst has happened and calls us to make sure everything is okay.
Unfortunately, the pregnancy card doesn't work with everybody and there are always some persistent spoilsports who just won't buy your story. That's when you have to pull out the big guns and put a little fear of God into them. Usually, just putting a hand on my belly and wincing is sufficiently alarming. Most people will fall over themselves to offer me a chair, a drink of water or their firstborn -- anything to prevent me from going into labor in front of them. When my friends read this, I'm going to be in deep with them for pulling one over on them for weeks now. I can only say that I'm deeply sorry... suckers!
I would be lying if I didn't find this ginger handling with kid gloves amusing and a little enjoyable. For the first time in my life, I've been bumped up to the front of long public restroom lines and magically offered chairs. Everyone is extra nice to me and when we go out to eat, everybody kowtows to my food preferences because they assume that I simply can't stomach anything else. The only person I know who is wise to the sneaky ways of the pregnant is my father-in-law, who calls this behavior, "pulling a Margie Rosen." Apparently, he was playing poker with some friends and a very pregnant Margie Rosen refused to play her bad hand announcing, "I don't have to play this hand because I'm pregnant." Nobody seemed to be able to argue with this irrefutable logic and that was that.
Is it the Jedi mind trick or what? What mysterious force compels people to compliantly accept the capricious whims of pregnant women? My explanation is simple: naked fear. People are a frightened and uneasy around pregnant women. They're afraid that every ache and pain, every sign and groan is a sign of impending labor. The bigger I get, the more nervous everyone seems to be around me. Some days, I feel like Mt. Vesuvius about to erupt on the anxious citizens of Pompeii. People in my karate class regard me with genuine trepidation every time I wince at some pain in my back or touch my belly. They anxiously ask, "What is it? Are you okay?" as if they expect me to deliver the baby on the mat at any second. I actually have a fantasy, towards my due date, of laying down on the mat and crying out, "Quick, Boil Some Water! It's Time!" just to see everybody run frantically around in circles in frenzied panic.
It's the same reason you were able to get out P.E. class by clutching your stomach and complaining of menstrual cramps. If the teacher was a man, he couldn't excuse you fast enough. It's fear. Men are terrified of feminine reproductive stuff. Tampax, maxi-pads, and menstrual blood are all topics that are still taboo because it's an uncomfortable reminder that female genitals actually have a function beyond providing sexual pleasure for men.
But mostly, I use the pregnancy card to win fights with my poor, beleaguered husband. If I'm feeling especially crabby or irrational one day and he has the gall to defend himself against an unreasonable attack, I'll try to salvage the situation by crying out, "I can't believe you're arguing with me, I'm pregnant!" I know this circular logic frustrates him to no end, but when I'm backed into a corner, things get pretty ugly.
For some reason, I'm not at all ashamed to admit that I take full advantage of the pregnancy card whenever possible. It's merely an extension of using feminine wiles to get what I want or to get out of a sticky situation. I know it sounds hypocritical coming from a "feminist." I hate the baggage that comes from using that word, but I'll use it for lack of a better word to denote one who believes in equal social, political and economic opportunities for women. Although I've been pulled over several times for speeding, I've never received a traffic ticket. Why? Because the wide-eyed, helpless female act works every time for me. Not to mention conjuring a few crocodile tears when appropriate. My husband is incredulous that I can get away with this and grumbles about the unfairness of it all.
Unfair? I beg to differ. Maybe I am a shameless opportunist, but the harsh reality is that there are no socioeconomic advantages to being a woman. Now that's unfair! Any woman will testify to this. So sue me if I get a thrill of subversive glee every time I feel like I've leveled the playing field with The Man just a teensy little bit. Every time I get away with something because I'm a woman, it's a vindication, a snub in the face of that boss who couldn't keep his hands to himself, for that job that went to a man instead, and for every time I couldn't go out alone at night because it wasn't safe for a woman by herself. I know it's a case of situational ethics in order to justify my behavior. But you know what? I don't care. I'm pregnant!