After spending nine weeks wearing a 33-pound “Empathy Belly’’ suit to supposedly simulate being pregnant, a GQ writer has reached a humbling conclusion.
“I learned that I’m not man enough to be a woman,’’ writer Benjamin Percy told Steve Harvey on TODAY Monday. “This suit just underscored that.’’
Percy, who details his time in the suit for an article in the March issue of GQ, wore a contraption on the outside of his clothes that was specially designed by Japanese scientists. He describes it in the article as “ribbed with stitching, and made from nylon thick enough to bend a butcher knife. Its breasts are as round and hard as tennis balls. And the belly beneath them swells with a giant gel dome zippered into a sleeve."
He wore two suits for the story, a rudimentary version loaned from a Japanese company and a state-of-the-art device connected to a computer that adjusts to replicate the various trimesters of a pregnancy. The reaction from women was fairly unanimous: Gimme a break.
“I was expecting to get a nice pat on the back and instead women were completely fixated on the suit’s inadequacies,’’ he said. “They wanted me to have heartburn roiling up my throat, they wanted me to have varicose veins rising like garden hoses up my legs, (and) they wanted me to pee every five minutes and to be constipated for a week. They wanted to jab me full of hormone-oozing needles, essentially. Once they saw me in the suit, they’re like, ‘Nice try, wuss.’’’
Tongue firmly in cheek, Percy also claimed hardship for having to wear the suit during the hot summer months.
“This is in the most arm-pitty time of the year during July and August, so I started smelling kind of fungal and rashed over,’’ he said. “I was glistening for nine weeks.”
With several friends who are stay-at-home dads and roles shifting in many families -- from the days when grandfathers never held babies and fathers never changed diapers -- Percy wore the suit as part stunt and part experiment to deepen his empathy for what women experience during pregnancy. Also, as he put it, “to make up for my mouth-breathing, hairy-chested, caveman deficiencies.’’
He wore the suit while doing everything from mowing the lawn to chopping wood to doing push-ups. “I wear the pregnancy suit to a neighborhood gathering, where the men slug me in the gut and the women tenderly pat my back and say ‘Bless your heart’ and my 6-year-old son pulls me aside and tells me I really ought to take the thing off, I'm embarrassing him,’’ Percy writes in the article. “Of course I expect the attention - the funny expressions, the eager hands, the endless questions - but that doesn't mean I like it. I am reminded of the strangers who would approach my wife, once she started to really show in her second trimester, and put their hands on her stomach without asking. She always smiled at them through gritted teeth, because she knew what I know now: When you're pregnant, you become public property.’’’
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After experiencing a fraction of what it’s like to be pregnant and realizing he is not man enough for the task, Percy also realized one other thing. “I’m never putting on this suit again,’’ he said.