I should note, for the record, that I don't like strangers. At all. They make me nervous and stabby and I do not like them, Sam I Am. I especially don't like them when they're near me. Or looking at me. Or if I can see them... Or ever.
Because of this, you could say I'm socially awkward. I've been known to say mean things to strangers (If you're a stranger I've been curt to, you're probably that salesgirl from the mall that wanted me to buy facial scrub made from salt and mud from the Dead Sea, and while I admit I shouldn't have yelled, "NO!" while speed-walking by you and avoiding eye contact, I also think you shouldn't hang out in a mall trying to convince people to buy crap. The mall is a place one might visit in order to buy things, yes, but not to be aggressively SOLD things. Don't chase me down the midway trying to sprinkle your briny water on me. It resembles an exorcism, and I don't need that kind of reputation. Also, people have been shot for less. I'm just saying,) because they make me feel like a caged animal that's being poked with sticks that are also lit on fire and maybe covered with acid.
So this has obviously been something of a problem my entire life, but it has intensified since I had my son. I've often said that the quickest way to get attention is to buy a puppy or have a baby, as people are equally space-invading with both of them, and no one minds telling you exactly what they think about either. This isn't specific to strangers, and it is always rude. And so there have been things I'd like to say to people, but can't because I was raised better than that. (Is that a line from the Wizard of Oz?) Here's a small, incomplete list of those things:
1. Don't touch my baby's face. I wouldn't walk up to you at the pharmacy (GERMS! GERMS!) and pet your face, please show my son the same courtesy before I have to cut you.
2. No, I don't think he needs to wear shoes. He can't walk, it's 113 degrees outside, and we're at Wal-Mart. Why should I put shoes on his feet? They're already sweaty enough. Go ahead, smell them.
3. Do not get that damn candy/chip/cookie anywhere near my child. No, it probably wouldn't hurt him, but it isn't up to you what he eats, so back away.
4. Seriously, stranger. STOP TOUCHING HIS FACE. (It is shocking how often this happens. Who does that?! Who touches a stranger's FACE?)
5. Don't talk to him when you're really talking to me. He can't tell you why we don't visit you more often, or if he had a good lunch, or if he's cranky because he's teething or just a brat. If you have a question for me, ask me. It's passive aggressive otherwise. and I respond very, very poorly to that.
5. A) My baby isn't a brat. He's not a jerk, or a beast, or a pain in the ass. I don't know why people think it's OK or even cute to call babies names, but I don't call you a crazy asshole because you'd get your nose all out of joint about it, so lets pretend he understands what you're saying and just not say it. It's always rude to call people names, no matter who that person is. ("Aren't you just a little beast?" ... Really? REALLY, large, wheezing woman at the grocery store? Did you hear yourself saying that in your head before it came out of your mouth and think, yes, this will go over beautifully, it's completely acceptable to call a random baby - who's behaving well, by the way- a name?)
6. No, he's not walking yet. I know it's hard to believe, but we do actually put him down. Obviously, being held too much is the only reason a 9.5 month-old might not be walking. It couldn't have anything to do with him being totally normal for his age. He's clearly delayed. Thank you for suggesting such a thing to someone you don't usually speak to.
6. A) We don't hold our son too much, because we don't believe that's possible. We also don't talk to him too much, play with him too much, feed him too much, or give in to him too much.
7. I know it hurts your feelings when he doesn't want you to hold him, but he doesn't KNOW you. He knows me, his father, and his daycare family. There are other people he's familiar with, but if he doesn't see you pretty damn regularly, you're going to make him nervous. He's at the age where he's learning who he knows and who he doesn't, and developing separation and stranger anxiety. Which is BEAUTIFULLY NORMAL. Don't call him spoiled because he's scared of people he doesn't know.
7. A) OF COURSE I'm going to take my child away from you when he clearly shows that he does not want to be near you. You're freaking him out, and I'm not going to teach him to ignore his instincts. The solution to this problem is not for me to leave my baby with you so that he can be scared, and cry, and you can call him names. The solution is that you either come around more, or stop being offended by a BABY.
That's not the end of the list, but it is the end of my time. This is probably something I'm going to revisit because, as Whoopi Goldberg said, "I don't have pet peeves. I have entire kennels of irritation."
Word, Whoopi. Word.