I recognize her face, but I don't know her name. Had she not stopped me, I would have nodded and continued on. But she grabs my arm, and demands, "Are you still going to the gym, because I haven't seen you." "No," I acknowledge. "Why?" she insists, "I mean besides all the usual excuses." I am tempted to answer. Tempted to watch the smug certainty slide off her face as she confronts my unexpected tragedy. But I just smile. "I have my reasons." She studies me for a moment, both judge and jury. "I believe you," she declares, as she finally releases me.

"You can't stay six months pregnant forever"This woman remarked on only my behavior. But it is only one of several encounters lately that have left me wondering about the way women consider other women's bodies to be public property. Usually the script reads like this. "You've lost weight." The conscientious observer remarks approvingly. To which I remind them gently, "I was pregnant. I'm not pregnant anymore. You can't stay six months pregnant forever."

This is a no man's land, a land where weight loss is truly a loss. I would happily trade places with my burgeoning neighbors, but I didn't make it to the third trimester. Instead I delivered a stillborn at the end of the second trimester, and returned home to begin the process of becoming un-pregnant, without the accompanying adjustment to motherhood. It took about seven weeks, until I felt the accompanying rush of vitality that usually characterizes my non-pregnant states.

Still every time someone remarks on my weight loss, I am overcome with a renewed sense of loss, perhaps because these comments are always intended as a compliment. This is true even for people who are aware of the loss, as though they have forgotten the impact pregnancy has on a women's body. But pregnancy is not the only private process that impacts the body. Sickness, grief, pain and marital disharmony, can all lead to weight loss. Weight loss is not always a cause for celebration. Sometimes it's a reason to cry.

The body itself is clothing for the soulAs I write this, I wonder about the way women seem to consider other women's bodies to be cut off from their personal stories. The Torah anticipated this problem, and provided a way to wake us up to the reality that the person we are passing on the street is more than just a body waiting to be judged on its aesthetic appeal. The laws of tzniut (dressing modestly) teach us that the body itself is clothing for the soul. By de-emphasizing the body we are declaring, I am not a body. I am a soul wearing the body's clothes.

This is a powerful message to declare about ourselves, but it is not intended to only apply to us. Taken one step further, the process of learning to view other women as internal beings, each with their own rich personal heritage, is to grant every woman we meet a gift that allows them to transcend the narrow confines that society attempts to imprison women within.