Monday, August 25, 2014

It Takes A Village: Of Obnoxious Drunks and Foot-Grabbers

Baby Bjorn carrier
Evie crotch-dangling in her Baby Bjorn carrier
If you're not intimately acquainted with baby gear and baby-wearing, you may not be familiar with the controversy over "crotch-dangling" carriers and "frog-legged" carriers. What both types share is the dangerous exposure of baby arms and legs to the grubby hands of anyone who wants a baby fix.

Back the fuck off, you guys.

Heather called me out* in front of Midwife Amy for getting tense about nearly everyone other than my parents and Evie's Auntie Renee holding the baby.

"Some of Heather's friends are weird!" I said.  "I understand that she's comfortable with them holding the baby, and I'm not going to fight that; I just don't want to watch it."

Midwife Amy, in her infinite wisdom, nodded sagely and said, "You know, I felt the same way about my husband's friends when we had our babies."  (Hear that, Heather?  Amy agrees with me!  You're wrong!  I win!)

She continued, "It's hard to watch your baby with somebody you're not comfortable with, but I think one of the benefits of a child having two parents is that she's exposed to a broader range of people and ideas.  I just had to tell myself that my husband's friends might have something to offer our kids in the long term."
Evie's first meeting with Auntie Née


"But I still had to look away," she added.

I win!  I win!  Amy understands!

Nonetheless, I've tried to think of all these folks as members of Evie's burgeoning village.  They're resources as she learns about the world.  Her moms might not know much about, say, fishing or boating or mise-en-scène, but someone in the village does.

I felt pretty good about that conclusion, feeling like we were providing Evie a surfeit of resources for the future through our quirky community of friends, family, and awkward acquaintances.

Then, last week, we went out to dinner with friends and found our darling infant daughter with a woman-beating drunk in her face.

The guy is some kind of tertiary friend, blah blah blah, and I know the other folks at the dinner have a history with him that somewhat mitigates his character flaws.  I have no history with him, personally, other than seeing him obnoxiously drunk at their house, then hearing about how he busted his girlfriend in the mouth.  Each time I've encountered him, the fella in question has explained that his roommate/tenant is "a retard-- for real."  Awesome.

I have a standard level of disgust and annoyance where he's concerned (plus some confusion about how to interact with someone whose main claim to fame is hitting the lady who paid off his back child support).  I have a different level of disgust and annoyance when that person is leaning over our baby's car seat.  It's easier to compromise my own values than to compromise Evie's.

As we sat down at the table, I tugged Heather's sleeve and whispered, "I don't want him to touch the baby."  She nodded: "I don't either." So we covered the car seat with a blanket and hoped Evie would sleep through the whole thing.  (I wish I could have: woman-beating or no, this guy is the most obnoxious fucking drunk...)

Yes, there's a fine tradition of village drunks.  Lovable, slovenly men slumped on park benches or in the gutter outside bars.  They slur and belch.  Then the constable rousts them as the more-upstanding citizens titter disapprovingly.  This guy is not that, though.  Maybe it would be okay if he was in the gutter at a fair distance from children, but jesus christ, it is definitely okay when he touches my daughter's feet like he's fucking qualified to interact with her.  Those hands punched a woman in the face.  He has no place near Evie. 

On a similar, if substantially less dramatic, note, strangers also feel like it's cool to grab at our baby's legs and feet because they're out in the open in her carrier.  Some dude at Heather's work-- who I've never met, who has stupid sideburns, and who is a Christian fundamentalist who likely believes Heather and I are both destined for hell-- tugged at her foot the other day.  Heather says he's friendly enough, but I wanted to slap his clammy hands.

I don't know that they're clammy.  He just looks like someone who would have clammy hands.  Anyway, isn't he worried the gay parenting will rub off?

Sometimes I want to show Evie off, and sometimes I want to keep her as a little secret treasure for a lucky few.  Either way, one of the universal and fundamental responsibilities of parenthood is to protect one's offspring.  I can't do it forever, and there are limits, I know, but for sure we haven't spent the past three-plus years (see: this entire blog) creating a precious, innocent, footie-pajama-wearing baby only to allow just anyone into her village.

And if that means I've got to slap some hands away from her precious little self, I'm ready to be the bitch. 

*Heather, in fact, was so eager to call me out during my pregnancy for any deviant behavior, like eating McDonald's, that Amy took to calling her my snitch.

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