Friday, September 2, 2011

The joys of motherhood

There's a post over at Jezebel - and I'm given to understand that these kinds of discussions happen often on fem blogs and such - where Tracy Moore is too cool to come right out and bitch about the generally anti-baby vibe in the public sphere. Apparently people make mothers feel like pariahs for daring to take their babies outside of the house. You know, the house with the kitchen and the bare feet.

The discussion in the comments has more or less divided itself into two camps. One says that Moore and her procreating ilk are spoiled, selfish, and just butthurt because for the first time in their lives, people aren't making a big deal out of approving of their Really Big Life Event. The other camp says that the first camp just isn't aware of, or is perhaps (unwittingly or not) a part of, a massive, shadowy contingent of anti-feminist, anti-baby haters. The merest suggestion that a silent, well-behaved baby might be within 100 yards of one of these haters is enough to send them into conniptions of rage.

I think everyone is missing the point.

Babies scream and cry and bang silverware and (above a certain age) run up to people and get in their business. I understand that this is the nature of babies, and I would venture that most people do. I am also aware that everyone used to be babies, and that mothers love their babies, and that having or not having a baby is every woman's right and that it's none of my business*. Even more than that, I totally concede that sometimes (often) a mother has no option but to take her baby to places that are not exactly intended for baby patronage. This is common sense.

However. Let's be honest. Nobody likes screaming. If I, Alexander Kraft, was at the bar, or a fancy restaurant, or the supermarket, or Disneyland, or fucking Baby Depot or whatever, and I was screaming for all I was worth, you would be displeased. Your displeasure would likely extend to whoever brought me there, especially if you found out that they knew that I would act like this. Last week, I was in a bar. Also in the bar was a guy with a flat-billed baseball cap. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, knocking drinks over, pounding on the bar, and uninvitedly interacting with and getting in the personal space of other bar patrons. Guess what? Everyone hated him. Everyone hated him, and they hated his better-behaved friend for bringing him there and not doing anything to stop it. They hated him because he was being an asshole. Now, with apologies to Patton Oswalt, imagine that asshole with a bag of his own shit strapped around his waist. Should I feel like a terrible person for wishing for that be-shitbagged asshole to be removed from my immediate vicinity? I venture not.

So mothers, when people on the internet try to advise you against bringing babies somewhere, or when people in real life adopt pained expressions or roll their eyes when your baby starts acting like an asshole, realize that they are neither conceptualizing you as some narcissistic snowflake demanding our praise and sulking when you don't get it, nor are they haters who revile any evidence or suggestion of reproduction or of femininity being released from its prescribed enclosures.† And if they look with wariness or skepticism on a baby who isn't being an asshole at the moment, please recognize that this is precisely because they understand your predicament: they have an inkling of how tough it is to be responsible for a baby - because babies are assholes, and liable to suddenly start screaming and throwing things at any moment.

That guy I was talking about earlier with the lifted truck and the clothing company logo tattoo eventually got ejected from the bar, along with the guy who brought him. This is as it should be; that guy was old enough to be held responsible for his actions. As a society, we recognize that babies are not old enough to take others into consideration when they start screeching and vomiting. Thus, the vast majority of people tolerate the presence of babies in public places. But don't demand that they do so with a smile and a thumbs-up, and don't pretend that having someone in my immediate vicinity acting like a baby somehow doesn't affect me or the enjoyability of my outing, or that people who have chosen not to have babies are somehow obligated to go through the same tribulations with the same patience as those who have.

*Due disclosure: I actually think that an American's choice to reproduce on a planet with a population of 7 billion people and a carrying capacity of 2 billion people (who live like Americans) is selfish and irresponsible. But I don't act on that opinion, and it isn't really very strong to begin with.

To be fair, people like this do exist. But in a society where between 81% and 87% of people reproduce, I'd imagine that people who are enraged by the very existence of babies are few and far between.