A Stand-Up Kind of Town

Let it never be said that New Yorkers aren’t polite. Ever since my belly really popped over the last month or so, strangers have been showing the kind of consideration that would bring tears to your eyes.

At some point I started counting the folks who stood up for me on the subway and keeping track of demographic information, because it was fascinating. Here are the stats so far:

TOTAL: 13

MEN OF COLOR: 7

WOMEN OF COLOR: 3

WHITE MEN: 2 (both foreigners–one Russian it seemed like, one European)

WHITE WOMEN: 1

The one white woman may not even count, since she didn’t actually get up or offer me her seat; when a seat opened and we were both standing near it, she asked if I would like to take it. But it feels nicer to say 1 than 0.¬†The men of color have been black, Hispanic, and, as of today, South Asian/Middle Eastern (I couldn’t really tell and certainly couldn’t ask). Almost all of them have been young. Another black guy not counted here also put up his hands to steady me at one point when it looked like I might fall. I smiled at him in thanks and he nodded seriously like some kind of mid-century superhero just doing his duty.

This may be the best unexpected pregnancy perk: The random, sweet interactions with strangers with whom I would otherwise have no reason to even make eye contact.

If you had asked me what I thought the demographics of this kind of courtesy would look like, I would have been entirely wrong, because I would have guessed that the people most likely to notice and offer assistance would be the people most likely to identify with me in some way. Instead, it’s been the opposite.¬†Apart from the one white girl who only sort of counts, so far, my experience has been that the surest route to remaining on my feet in the train is to plant those feet in front of someone who looks like me. That’s pretty sobering. It makes me reflect back on my own train behavior. I have given up my seat, because my father set that kind of example for me growing up (he helped women carry baby-strollers and always held doors) but on lots of rides, I’ve also been so absorbed in whatever I was reading that I barely noticed what station we were at, let alone who standing in front of me may have needed my seat more than I did.

For now, I almost always smile and shake my head at the person trying to get me to sit, because I’m still feeling fine — walking briskly, going to the gym, wearing regular shoes. There’s no reason I need to sit down. As the summer gets hotter and this planet inside me expands further, I’ll have to adjust; but I don’t want to take advantage of anyone’s kindness before I have to.

That the kindness exists, though, makes me swell with joy.

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