Men aren't the only ones guilty of asking this particularly sensitive and inappropriate question. In fact, my experience is that women are way more likely to embarrass themselves on this gaff than men, at least twice as often.
The question isn't how old are you or how much do you weigh.
The question you should never ask a woman is "are you pregnant?"
Most people assume a pregnancy is a joyous time, something to celebrate, and for the vast majority of expecting mothers it is. However, the question may be borderline disrespectful and flat out rude to ask; it isn't really any of your business.
The sensitivity of this issue cannot be overstated.
Why would a woman care if you ask if she is pregnant?
For starters, she may be pregnant and not yet ready to make her status public. This brings up issues of how it might affect her professionally. What if she is discriminated against?
What if she is waiting to announce her pregnancy until she knows she has crossed the risk threshold of 13 weeks when the incidence of miscarriage is dramatically reduced?
What if she just recently miscarried late-term and while struggling with her loss, your nosey-ass comes in and wants to know all of the intimate details of her life?
What if it is an unwanted pregnancy? Not to say the baby will or won't be wanted upon birth, but you can't assume the pregnancy is happening under positive terms.
What if she is just overweight and carries it all in the middle?
What if she is struggling to conceive, has gone through rounds of hormone therapies and has gained abdominal weight as a result of her failed attempts?
What if she has diastasis recti and you are making her feel like an alien because her body didn't "bounce back" the way it once was?
People have been asking me if I was pregnant since I was in my early twenties. It has always caused me a lot of emotional upset and mental discomfort. The reality is, I have an interesting physique in that I DO LOOK PREGNANT even though I'm not.
For me, the question brings up too many issues around body image and how our society expects a woman to look in order to be a worthy, lovable person.
During my first pregnancy, an increasing number of people were asking me around 8 weeks if I was pregnant. It was awkward, to say the least, because there was still a risk of miscarriage and I wasn't ready to make the big announcement.
I could have lied, but aside from the fact that I'm a terrible liar, I pride myself on honesty.
Replying "it's none of your business" seemed a bit harsh to say to friends and acquaintances who know me to be open and warm.
In the past 5 years, I've had two babies and my body has changed. I developed diastisis recti, a condition where the two halves of the abdominal wall separate, and I look even more pregnant than I did before.
The constant inquiries as to whether or not I'm pregnant have forced me to deal with my own body image issues. I've learned to embrace my body and the way I'm put together, and not allow how others see me crush my self confidence.
Though somewhat emotionally challenging, this experience has ultimately been a gift. I now have the tools to help other women who struggle with body image issues and self confidence so they may know their own worth and go for their dreams.
The point is this: you should be more afraid to offend a woman by asking if she is pregnant than by not asking. Ultimately, it's none of your business unless she wants it to be your business.
Kristin Misik is an Inner Confidence Coach and NYC based Acupuncturist who helps women cultivate self confidence in their body and business. You can connect with her at at www.kristinmisik.com.