There have only been two times in my history when my-life-has-been-on-my-sleeve – that is, strangers have really been able to tell something about me because of my appearance. The first time was around university age, when for a while my hair was boy-short and dyed bright blue. I guess that told strangers that I was… weird? Or silly? During that time, strangers were sociable and friendly with me. They found me approachable. People would talk to me or ask me questions as though we were already friends. They would give me a friendly smile, as though they knew, just from my appearance, that I was a nice person. It was really interesting, from a psychological / anthropological perspective! It was also a really nice feeling. It was like cutting through the bullshit and the coldness of normal stranger-to-stranger interactions, and made it more human(e)-to-human.
Of course, the second time that I’ve experienced this life-on-your-sleeve business is while being a pregbot. Smiles on the train. Shop assistants walk over and say, “Gosh, will you be able to finish your shop before you pop? Need any help?!” People offering to help, left right and centre. Chit-chat with strangers: “When are you due?”
They can all tell something about you and your life from your appearance, and it makes you more relatable and approachable. It’s incredible. (It makes me think: maybe I should start wearing T-shirts with my favourite band, or something… so I can share part of me and my life, all the time.)
And it’s not just with strangers… you become more acknowledged by everyone. Acquaintances, distant relatives, high school contacts, relatives, parents, close friends… everyone has questions, everyone wants to talk about the pregnancy, everyone asks how you’re feeling. Do you know how rare that is? How often do you get asked, with true care, “How have you been feeling?” By a vast range of people. Over and over.
Everyone, I think, is somewhat fascinated / or / they have experienced it themselves, and they have a lot to say (and think) about it.
My point is…
It reminds me of this quote from Oprah. (I know, what? I’ve never watched Oprah and I know nothing about her, or her show… I have no opinion about her at all. But I remember reading this and it stuck with me.)
I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?”
I think we all want growth, we all want contentedness, we all want… to love, and to be loved, and so on. And I agree with Oprah – we all want validation / to be acknowledged. It’s something we don’t talk about much, or do much about. (And, stupidly, it’s often one of the things that companies deem unimportant – performance reviews, or one-on-one chats? Piff poff, no time, our employees don’t need that!)
In this pregbot phase, we get reams of validation. It makes you see how little you’re validated usually, and how amazingly different this period is for women – at least six months of constant validation (and when the baby pops? I will have to see, but maybe it’s for the first six months of babyhood too?). I mean, aside from the whole miracle+baby thing, no wonder women reminisce fondly about being pregnant, and are attracted to the idea of being a pregbot again!
Imagine if there were other ways to drench people with validation, in other parts and times and places of life? Imagine how marvellous it would be! (I could start by earnestly asking everyone, “How have you been feeling?”, but I bet I’d get weird looks. I’m just imagining the coffee cart man at the train station now… yep, I’d get a weird look.)