DEAR ABBY: When did it become permissible for people to rub a pregnant woman's belly? I'm 31 weeks pregnant, and everywhere I go (and I'm not exaggerating) someone walks up to me and starts touching my stomach. A day doesn't go by that it doesn't happen.
I am at the point where I cringe when someone gets too close. Abby, these are people I know -- some good friends, some acquaintances -- like hairdressers or teachers at my daughter's school. One woman touches me every time I see her. When my daughter made a comment to me about it, the friend responded, "Oh, it's OK if I rub mamma's belly. It's just me. She doesn't care if I rub her."
I thought, "Oh, really? I don't recall giving you permission!" I'm a person who needs my personal space, and the fact that it is constantly invaded is about to push me over the edge. When did it become OK to touch someone like that? Am I unreasonable to regard this as invasive? Should I stand there and just allow it? -- PREGNANT AND PARANOID IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR P and P: You are not the first expectant mother to ask these questions. For some reason, people -- sometimes even strangers -- feel compelled to reach out and touch a pregnant woman's stomach. Because you feel it's an invasion of your space, it is up to you to speak up and let them know it bothers you. They are not mind-readers, and because you have not objected, they think their touch is welcome.
It might be helpful to visit a T-shirt shop and have a few custom T-shirts made for yourself. On the front of one, the lettering might read, "Don't Touch the Merchandise!" On another, "Hands Off!" Or, "Look, But Don't Touch!" Add them to your maternity wardrobe, and the offenders should get the message.