As mature adults, we should be compassionate about the occasional social faux pas. Still, there are exceptions.
Here's one: Never, ever, ask a woman if she's pregnant, unless she's hobbling up and down outside the maternity ward with a helper holding her arm and a large basketball-sized object under her jumper.
The pre-baby perspective - Sue White
I have a handful of friends who never wanted children. I couldn't be happier for them. But for me - it was different. I desperately wanted a child and but took a long while to get there. My little boy is almost two now but I still recall every time and place this question was asked of me. It began over a decade ago - right about the time I began wanting a child:
Once, a passing acquaintance stopped me on the stairs and started not with "Hello" or "Nice to see you" but "Oh, are you pregnant?"
Me: (In my head) "I just had a miscarriage two months ago, thanks for reminding me."
Me: (Out loud) "No." Followed by an incredibly awkward silence.
Later, I could have answered: "No, because I'm on the hellishly long list for fostering; it's driving me crazy," or "No, because I've decided I'll give IVF a go." Neither of which I was keen to discuss with random people on the plane, taxi drivers, or people I hadn't seen for years.
Today, friends would have dozens of their own variations. Repeated miscarriages. Discussions with their partner about how many kids is the right amount. Endless cycles of IVF. None of them probably want to talk about it.
So people - do you really need to ask? Surely, there are a hundred other - non invasive - ways to make small talk? And if there aren't, cut the women in your life some slack and talk about the weather.
The post-baby perspective - Ginger Gorman
In primary school, I was bullied. Because of dad's job, I'd lived in England for a while and had an accent. The kids in my grade taunted me, calling me posh and fat. (I wasn't really either). No one wanted to be friends with me.
So guess what? I've never felt that flash about my body or the way I look.
Like Sue, I remember every single time someone has asked me if I'm pregnant when I wasn't. Every. Single. Time.
Once, a nurse at our medical clinic asked me the dreaded question a few months after my second daughter was born. When I replied "No" she was so embarrassed, she added insult to injury by telling me I looked tired. Perfect. Fat AND tired.
Then there was the time I was recovering from severe post-natal depression. After maternity leave, I went back to work producing a fast-paced weekday ABC radio show.
One day, I put on a pretty dress with peacock feathers all over it. A seasoned politician came into the studio, ready to go on air. Right before she started her interview, she popped the question. I started crying. It was hard to breathe. I've never worn that dress again.
There was the time another acquaintance asked me and without thinking, I replied: "No, clearly I'm just fat."
Just last week I turned up to interview someone and she immediately wanted to know if there was a bun in the oven. Guess what? I've got polycystic ovaries. Without boring you with medical details, it means I put weight on easily - by just looking at a piece of cake - and it's really hard to get it off.
Too much information? This is where I politely remind you that you were the one who saw fit to dive right on into my personal life in the first place.
The rules: Here's what to do now
By now we're pretty confident you see our point. But just in case you need a little more assistance, here are four easy rules to follow next time you're dying to know if someone is pregnant:
1. Just don't ask. At the forefront of your brain hold on to this thought: It's actually none of my business.
2. Then remind yourself: I could be wrong. It's just not worth seriously offending or emotionally devastating this poor woman who, let's face it, is probably a stranger or acquaintance otherwise you'd already know the answer.
3. Even if you don't care about the other person's feelings, think about yourself: Do I really want to risk a socially awkward situation that has no easy exit?
4. The upshot is that you should only spring into action - and pop the are-you-pregnant question - if the woman is actually in labour. At which point, you can offer to call a significant other or offer a lift to the hospital.
There. We hope we've cleared that up. Don't ever do it again.