Dear strangers or loose acquaintances who lack a sense of personal boundaries,

Although you don’t know me, please touch my pregnant stomach whenever you see me at the doctor’s office, the grocery store, or the local YMCA. No worries if I’m walking to the bathroom to give a urine sample, figuring out whether a product is on my list of foods I can’t eat, or trying to suppress a wave of morning sickness so I don’t puke in the pool. Please interrupt whatever I’m doing to give me a hearty rub.

You see, my baby bump is in its prime petting stage. Like a giant bouncy ball, its round shape is so irresistible that you’ll instantly forget its owner is a human person with feelings. When you see me, before uttering any form of greeting, give my bun in the oven the same noogie you used to give your kid brother.

Or perhaps you can treat my preggo eggo like a magic lamp that may grant you three wishes if you polish it vigorously enough. Of course, I can’t make your wishes come true, but I can bestow the gift of refraining from smacking your hand like a parochial school teacher and demanding to know whether your mother ever taught you any manners.

No need to RSVP or even ask my permission before touching me, a woman preggers in the seemingly never-ending times of COVID. My KN95 mask is practically a billboard that reads, PLEASE MAKE PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH ME, STRANGER, beckoning you to approach with your dry, germy coughs. Consider this your official invitation—not that you need one—to let your dirty digits linger as you surprise me by gently caressing my watermelon.

Of course, I may squirm, startle, or swear when I unexpectedly feel your hand on my stomach. Don’t take that as a sign that I don’t enjoy your unwarranted bodily contact. You know as a woman, anything I say can be translated into a “yes.” Clearly, you can tell by my knocked-up state that I am a sensual woman who is game for some heavy petting, so lay those unwashed hands on me, babe.

Though my pea in the pod is the sign of a major life event, the nature of this invitation is informal. Come dressed as you are, whoever you may be. Yes, old man winking at me, you’re invited. I appreciate your saying, “Nice job, son,” to my husband as you grab my bulbous baby bungalow, giving it a firm squeeze.

By all means, my neighbor who has never said hello, you’re invited too. Let this be our chance to finally connect. Suddenly, my plump prenatal palace has transformed me into a person worth acknowledging. Go right ahead, briskly pat my belly like you’re dribbling a basketball. Though you don’t even know my name, please try to convince me to christen my newborn as your namesake.

Of course, girlfriend of a distant relative, I’d like to invite you as well. Although this is the first time we’ve met, it seems like the perfect opportunity to stick your head against my colossal child casa and ask whether I can make the baby kick on command. Get in there, mere inches away from my fertile lady garden, and I’ll clench my sphincter as tight as possible so I don’t accidentally fumigate the garden!

Everyone’s invited to stroke, fondle, grasp, clutch, snatch, hold, and grope my pregnant belly. Touch it as much as you want, for as long as you want, because you know I can’t just waddle away, and my feet hurt. I am nothing more than a vessel for another blessed child. Step right up and witness a woman in her most useful form!

And after I’ve had the baby, feel free to go back to leaving me the hell alone.