the belly, the body and aren’t you huge

I’ve been trying for a little while to get my thoughts organized on the matter of growing larger, particularly in light of being told every day I’m huge (no shit – I’m 6 months pregnant and 5 feet tall, exactly where does the weight go?) and the ensuing media storm around Jessica Simpson’s pregnancy weight gain with such vile descriptions as “fat”. Getting bigger I can handle, when one is a Turducken it is to be expected as the baby needs somewhere to go. With my kids, it is straight out in front of me, at least by a foot and that is where all the weight I gain throughout this pregnancy will stay. From behind, I do not look like a turducken. At the market a couple of weeks ago, a wine seller came to ply his wares to me … until I turned around and nearly knocked him over because he was standing too close. What I cannot stand is being told constantly that I’m “just soooo big”, accompanied by gestures usually reserved for describing the girth of Santa Claus. The incessant comments about My Body. The words can be couched around “the belly”, making it more of an inanimate thing, rather than a significant part of my body. The fact remains that when you are pregnant, you are public domain and ought to accept the comments with more tact than the person giving them.

At no other time in a woman’s life is it appropriate to comment so intimately on a woman’s body than when she is pregnant (obviously, I mean to her face – we can all be a catty bunch). There is a certain degree of decorum surrounding our public interactions and one of those is that it is rude to point at someone’s body and give your opinion, unless you are a medical professional, and even then a doctor has tact.

My thoughts have been a jumble lately around why it bothers me so much to have someone, from across a room or other public space, point and exclaim, “The belly! IT’S SO BIG! LOOK AT YOU!” or actually call others to come and look at me as if I were a damn sideshow freak. I take care of my lady ‘stache, thank you very much. Oh, maybe because IT’S MY BODY YOU ARE STARING AT, so thanks.

Women’s bodies are constantly under scrutiny, for being too thin, too fat, too beautiful, simple, mousy, flabby, pasty, too dark, too light… anything and everything (check out this post). I do not know why it changes from passive aggressive talking around the woman where she may or may not hear to when you are pregnant and it is said to your face, perhaps because people have this concept that a pregnant body belongs to the community because it is not just the woman but also a future generation in there. This has as much to do with norms as our own beauty insecurities. By pointing out that I do not have the body I used to have, and will likely never have again (only a proximate guess at it), the commenter and myself are fitting ourselves snugly into established beauty rules that are archaic, crappy and ought to go, but that also dictate that there is a standard and neither one of us is fitting into them, so we might as well be miserable about it.

There is a beauty standard and not one of us really knows what it is, but we sure as hell can tell you what it is not. Everyone.

Hey Canada! (a blog tour and review)

A few months ago I received a bright and shiny edition of Hey Canada!, a quintessentially Canadian travel/adventure book for kids by Vivien Bowers. The premise of the book is that it is a blog written by cousins Alice and Cal as they travel across the country with their grandmother, hitting all the highlights Canada has to offer. The blog format translates only so well onto hard copy but the effect is that Hey Canada! is an incredibly fun and colourful adventure/reference book about Canada and the kids (Alice and Cal) certainly add a personal element.

Boy has recently discovered his daddy’s old comic books and he delighted in “Cal’s Historical U-Turn” comics that appear sporadically throughout the book. When our copy first arrived we immediately flipped through to Nova Scotia (of course) and then the scattered provinces that are home to family. I like the “reference” quality of Hey Canada!, the index and plethora of information is fantastic and came in handy when Miss N asked “What’s a Manitoba?” the other day.  Hey Canada! is not just a reference book filled with history and facts, though I have referred to it as such. It’s also an adventure book as the kids and Grandma keep losing Cal’s stowaway hamster and the cousins get into the usual kid-type shenanigans. The conversational tone lends itself really well to reading a chapter a day, each devoted to a province or territory, over the course of a week or two. Both Cal and Alice are well-drawn characters full of personality  and this comes through with the various “tweets” from Cal, his comics and Alice’s narration.

There is a really good mix of illustrations by Milan Pavlovic as well as bright photographs, some of which are instantly recognizable, such as the vivid Newfoundland jellybean houses set against the grey sky and Sudbury’s Big Nickel (which I saw on a road trip with my mom and brother when I was a child!). Hey Canada!  is a new way of exploring Canada on paper, it stirred memories for me and my kids were able to form connections to their country. The book would make a great addition to any classroom or home (I know a certain teacher who will be getting my copy).

Many, many thanks to Tundra Books for allowing me to participate in the blog tour (blogs acros Canada are taking part!). For a complete list of all the blogs taking part in the tour up until the big day on Sunday, go here. Also! There is a giveaway contest over at Goodreads that you should really check out! The contest ends in two days so in the words of Boy, “scoot, scoot skedaddle” over there and win yourself a copy.