DEAR ABBY: "Pregnant and Paranoid in Calif." (May 6) is rightfully troubled by the unwanted touching of her abdomen by strangers. When they do it, she should back away and gently remind them that it makes her uncomfortable. What she needs to know is that touching a woman's belly is a deeply rooted instinctual behavior. It is as natural as pulling your hand away from a fire. -- GAYLE FROM SCOTTS, MICH.
DEAR GAYLE: My mail was divided on this. Some readers agreed with "Pregnant and Paranoid," and others felt she needed to "chill out." Others suspected that she might be advertising her pregnancy by the type of maternity clothes she was wearing. A few of the responses gave me a belly laugh. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: In my culture (Hispanic), it is considered good luck to touch something you admire so that no harm comes to it. I'm sure no one intends to offend the expectant mother. In fact, it's thought to be positive karma (mojo). On the flip side, she can always say, "My tummy is like the Museum of Fine Art: Look, but don't touch." It's cute and will get her point across. -- ANGELICA IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: The fascination with a pregnant belly probably has ancient cultural origins. It was local custom in the Philippines for a pregnant woman to take the hand of a handsome man or beautiful woman and place it on her own budding abdomen, hoping to transfer those traits to her incubating child.
She should relax and enjoy a little gratuitous physical contact; some people have to pay big money for it -- like with massage or chiropractic. -- "WILL" ZAHAN, M.D., CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: When I was pregnant, I was treated like a queen. People opened doors for me, helped me with bags, acted as traffic guards as I crossed the street, and yes, patted my belly. It helped me realize that a pregnant woman carries an important "package," not just for her family but for the whole community. Children are a precious gift for all humanity, and I think that's why people feel warmed by the sight of a pregnant woman and reach out to give an encouraging rub. -- LOVED BEING PREGNANT (PATS AND ALL) IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR ABBY: Does "Pregnant and Paranoid" wear today's ridiculously tight clothing that is so in now? The clothing that I have seen pregnant women wear advertises their protruding bellies and, in my opinion, encourages people to notice and admire their bellies, implying there's an open invitation to touch them. -- OLD-FASHIONED GRANDMA IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR ABBY: A modest top that hides the baby-belly sends the message, "This baby is my private business" and will not attract the kind of unwanted attention that "Pregnant and Paranoid" described. -- HANA IN TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: I went through three pregnancies in 2 1/2 years, and I got sick and tired of complete strangers putting their hands on me.
To avoid it during my second pregnancy, I had a few T-shirts made. They read: "This is not public property." "Touch my belly and I get to touch yours." "Sure you can feel the baby. It'll cost you a dollar!" It got my point across without my having to be rude or confrontational. -- PROUD MOM IN WICHITA
DEAR ABBY: My favorite maternity T-shirt slogan is one I saw online -- "If you didn't put it here, don't touch it!" -- 22 WEEKS PREGNANT IN SEATTLE