Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I just entered the second trimester of my first pregnancy (very excited!) and had a fainting episode. I talked to the doctor, and I am otherwise healthy. However, every day I take the metro to work, and I cannot handle standing up for the whole ride, especially in the morning. I risk fainting and falling, which is dangerous right now.
The obvious solution is to just ask for a seat when there’s not one available, but I don’t really look pregnant or unhealthy. And — this is the real issue — I am painfully shy. The thought of spontaneously talking to strangers to ask them for the favor of standing up for me makes me ill! So far I’ve just been waiting for a train with a seat and enduring the longer commute. What else can I do?
Carolyn says: Force yourself out of your comfort zone far enough to ask for a seat.
I wish I had a better answer for you, but your circumstances have had their say, and it’s this: You find another way to commute, you keep waiting for emptier trains at the cost of a longer commute, you risk fainting, or you ask for a seat. That’s it.
Since you’re about to become not just a mother, but also the official spokes-adult for another human being, whose initial helplessness can put this in life-or-death-responsibility territory, this is an excellent time to practice pushing far enough through your social fears to be an advocate for your baby’s needs — and a parental model for using one’s voice. It’ll feel hellish at first. I expect you’ll not only get better at it with practice, though, but also feel stronger for it, maybe stronger than you’ve ever felt.
Congrats on your coming baby. Now go tell that metro what’s what.
Just say, loudly enough for several people to hear, “Would anyone mind giving up a seat?” I can just about guarantee someone will. Asking one individual for a seat can be problematic because that one individual might have a legitimate but not obvious reason to need to sit, such as arthritic knees.
Carolyn says: A bigger social leap, but also a good point, thanks.
When I was pregnant, I found that the people who most willingly offered to give up their seat for me were youngish women and — surprise! — teenagers. I assume the women had some empathy for my situation, but to this day I can only speculate why the teens were so nice. But if you have to ask for a seat, these two groups of people might be the most accommodating and the easiest to approach since you are shy.
And please always remember that most people really like the opportunity to help a stranger in a small way; even if it makes you feel awkward, it makes them feel good.
Carolyn says: Always happy to give teenagers some good PR, thanks.
E-mail Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, or chat with her at 11 a.m. Friday at washingtonpost.com.