Going outside with Henry is like going somewhere with Zac Efron. People flock to him and want to touch him and talk to him and interact with him, and you are kind of like his non-famous friend from middle school or something. People throw you a perfunctory smile and then focus on the STAR.
Which is fine. People like babies. People apparently REALLY like babies. I get it! That’s cool, man. It’s like how I am with dogs. You want to know all about them and comment on how awesome they are and maybe see if you can give the
But… it’s also sort of weird, sometimes. The weirdness falls into three distinct categories:
1 – SO BIG/SO SMALL
99% of Henry’s interactions with strangers go like this:
HENRY’S NON-FAMOUS FRIEND
He’s about four months.
One of two things happens now:
He’s so big!
He’s so small!
Yes! Our baby – who in actuality is right at the low end of “TOTALLY AVERAGE” on growth charts – is simultaneously huge and tiny. It’s like a not very useful superpower.
2 – TOUCHING
People like to touch babies.
I am a person who doesn’t like to be touched by people I don’t know. I don’t like to be touched by people I don’t know SO MUCH that once when I was picking literary managers I picked the guy I picked in part because the other guy had hugged me at the end of the meeting. Ahhhh! I AM NOT THAT KIND OF PERSON! I don’t care that we’re all LA people! ENOUGH WITH THE HUGGING, STRANGERS!
So I guess it’s possible that I kind of overproject weirdness on this. But still – what’s with the touching of other peoples’ babies? Henry has been felt up ALL OVER THE LAND. Once I was buying snow boots and this lady came up to him and rubbed his back without even looking at me – and, you know, Henry was strapped to my body, so this took HUGE BALLS. His cheeks get squeezed on the regular. People toy with his feet and hands. People pat his butt. During our recent travels, I would kind of dread walking around in the hotel with H., because of how the housekeepers would swarm him and fondle his extremities unless you walked the gauntlet REALLY FAST while repeating “He’s about to take a nap he’s about to take a nap he’s about to take a nap!”
I am in part too polite/lame to say anything about this, but mostly I’m just so startled that I never know what to do until it’s too late. (Obviously I should just go “My child has Ebola! Please don’t touch him, for your own safety.” but I never think of that until later…)
3 – BLANKETS
Sometimes we take H. into a store in – gasp – our BARE ARMS. Without a carrier or a bucket carseat or a stroller or anything. Just the baby and then some arms. And you’d think this would be fine, and mostly it is. But twice now ladies have felt compelled to go “THAT BABY NEEDS A BLANKET” in the most disapproving and unfriendly way imaginable, as though by carrying a baby you are committing a terrible foul, and by not covering him with a blanket you are just making it worse.
Of course I know that by having a baby you are agreeing that everyone in the world gets to have opinions about your child and your parenting choices, but… blankets! It seems like such an odd place to draw the line.
AND NOW, FOR BALANCE, LOVELY THINGS PEOPLE SAY
1) Multiple ladies have come up to me while I was awkwardly trying to feed H. in public to say that they had nursed their own babies and that it was a good thing I was doing.
2) Once an elderly lady looked at H. snoozing in his carrier and shouted, in the tones of someone who has turned her hearing aid way, way down, “WHAT A LOVELY WAY TO CARRY YOUR BABY.”
3) “Aaahhhh, THOSE PANTS ARE HILARIOUS!”
(To H., not to us. Our pants are ordinary or garden-variety.)