Never assume that a woman is pregnant (and other lessons I’ve learned)

January 12, 2007 | By | 3 Replies More

I have long known that one should never ever congratulate a woman for being pregnant unless one knows (really really knows) that she is happily pregnant. 

About seven years ago, my wife told me that one of the women living in our neighborhood was pregnant.  This surprised me, because I knew that Sally (not her real name) had told me that she had no interest in having children.

About an hour later, though, while I was walking about a neighborhood art fair, I saw Sally.  I walked up to talk with her.  I commented that we hadn’t seen each other for quite a few months.  She gestured toward her abdomen and stated “I’ve put on some weight since then.”  I had noticed that she had, indeed, gained considerable weight.  Therefore, I stated “Congratulations!”

She asked, “Congratulations about what?”

I instantly knew that I had broken a very basic rule and I was now paying for it.  Sally wasn’t pregnant.  I quickly mumbled something like “congratulations about this year’s art fair.”  Sally was a volunteer in charge of the art fair.  She looked at me as if I was acting strange, but then we talked a bit more before parting ways.

When I got home, I asked my wife how she knew that Sally was pregnant.  She said that one of the other neighbors had told her.  I had assumed that my wife had talked to Sally herself and learned about Sally’s pregnancy firsthand.  Instead, rumor had been turned into a fact.

Thus, the rule: Never assume that a woman is pregnant.

Addendum: a few months after the incident, I told Sally the complete story about this incident, because I was worried that she would might be wondering why I was acting so strange to congratulate her for nothing.  After I told her the story, she told me that she did not even remember that we had that conversation.  So much for setting the record straight.]

Today I drove to Memphis, where I will be attending the National Conference for Media Reform sponsored by (see the link that is currently running on our homepage).

Memphis is about a five-hour drive from St. Louis.  A few hours out of St. Louis, I stopped at a fast food restaurant and I was greeted by a nine-year-old boy behind a cash register.  I looked at him, then looked at him again. The thought occurred to me that I should even take his picture, given that this establishment would allow such a young child to work there.I assumed that he was at the restaurant to help one of his parents, though, then again, he was wearing a uniform and he was apparently in charge of the cash register (although there was no one in line in front of me, so I hadn’t yet seen him do any work).  Then, it occurred to me that he was possibly engaged in some sort of school project.  It was clear, however, that he was no more than nine years old, because he was about 4 feet tall and had a very young face, a young voice and young mannerisms. I had no doubt.

I looked at the menu for a moment, then looked back at him, extremely curious about why a nine-year-old boy would work at a fast food restaurant.  I asked, “You look a bit young to be working in a restaurant . . .”

He looked at me quite seriously and stated, “I am 17-years old.” 

I immediately felt like a rude fool and I only could think of placing my order, which I did.

I glanced at him a couple more times and worried that I had hurt his feelings, but decided not to say anything, lest I drive home the idea that he looked too young to be working at a restaurant (although he might have thought that I thought he was 15).  I can’t imagine that I was a first to comment on his youthful appearance.  Lesson learned?  I’m not sure . . .

I’m in Memphis now, getting ready to attend the conference.  If you follow the conference link at, you will see the impressive lineup of speakers that will be making presentations this weekend.  I will be attempting to report on some of these proceedings at this blog.

In the meantime, I am safely in my hotel room.  I will not stray out of my room and make any comment to anybody about their appearance. 


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Category: Communication, Meaning of Life, Whimsy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, the number 1 of the Top 10 stupidest things men do is ask "when's the baby due?" when the putative mom isn't pregnant. Been there. Done that.

    Also, after your restaurant foray, I hope you liked the spit on your meal.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Nor will I assume that a 70-year old woman is NOT pregnant.

  3. Karl says:

    "Thus, the rule: Never assume anthing about the condition of anything that could have gotten to appear that way in any number of ways.

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