I was at the farmer’s market the other day, just standing around, talking to a friend of mine when a woman came by pushing a stroller that held a tiny baby. I moved out of the way and turned back to my friend ... when from out of nowhere whoomph! I got shoved violently against my buddy so he had to juggle his coffee to keep it from spilling.
Was there a fire? Some sort of medical emergency? Was this a Secret Service agent, throwing himself over me, shielding my body from that ubiquitous lone, crazed gunman? The latter seemed unlikely on about ten different counts, but there had to be some reason why I had to be moved and moved now.
I turned to face the danger...
Well, there was no danger, at least not to me. The baby in the stroller, on the other hand, was in real jeopardy of being smothered by a rapidly expanding crowd of breathless women. They chucked him under the chin, they giggled, they made baby noises, they gushed: “Oh, you’re a handsome little man. Oh yes you are. Oh, yes you are!” And pedestrian traffic ground to a halt. Baby gridlock.
See, now ... men don’t do that.
I know this is a careless generalization, and as always when I make such a broad sweeping statement, keep in mind that (a) it’s completely true except for that one person who has time on their hands to write an angry comment or e-mail; and (2) I honestly don't give a rat's ass if you're offended. So, here it is: I have never seen a man bowl over a crowd of people, leap across a table, and hurl himself at parents he doesn’t even know just for the opportunity to gush over a baby belonging to someone else. I have seen women do this, on many occasions.
Now, I’m not anti-gushing, where babies are concerned. Years ago, I gushed over my own kids so much it would make you barf. Well, it made them barf. Something made them barf, I know that. Continually.
But the point is, they were my own kids. Not a total stranger’s. Mine.
And I remember when I’d be out with my daughter in her stroller and women would descend on us and just be up one side of my kid and down the other with the “Oh-she’s-so-adorable. Oh yes you are. Oh yes you are!”. I assumed they were dead on the mark until years later, when a male friend said that he was glad our daughter didn’t stay as "homely" as she was when she was a baby.
My wife was totally outraged by this. I, on the other hand, kinda saw his point.
Men have different standards for judging cuteness than women do. My wife sees a baby, and she’s caught up in the tinyness, the dimples, the bright eyes, the sense of wonder.
Meanwhile I’m thinking “Oh, look … Yoda from Star Wars.” And afterwards she gets all mad at me: “He did not look like Truman Capote. He was beautiful.”
Men think babies are cute in the abstract. We look at a baby, and we register the degree of cuteness, and then our minds move on. Not always to more important things. Most times, our minds just … move on. But we don’t get caught up in cute and lose what passes for our judgement.
We certainly don’t elbow people aside and stop traffic in the farmer’s market to drool all over a baby that has nothing to do with us.
But in a way, I was grateful. Because once the traffic backed up, I was able to easily get through to the organic vegetable stand. And when I got there, I saw a turnip that I swear looked exactly like every newborn baby I’ve ever seen.
It was so cute. Oh, yes it was. Oh, yes it was.