Here is my pseudo-philosophical question du jour: at what point do people (babies, that is) stop being public property and start getting overlooked in public, just like the rest of us?
By way of elaboration, let me describe a familiar scenario for pregnant women: I’m shuffling down to the local shops, eight months pregnant with Magoo, jacket barely covering my bulging lady lumps. Local Yiayia (tending to her front garden) calls out:
Oh, you having a boy!”
“No!” I reply cheerfully. “It’s a girl”.
“Oh, looks like boy,” she says, shaking her head. “Your belly very pointy.
I’m sorry, WHAT?!!
At what point did I invite you to comment on my tummy, or the gender of my child within?
Luckily, this was one of the stranger public encounters I had while pregnant. No one even wanted to pat my pointy belly. Shame.
Okay, so I’m probably over-stating the public property bit. But you get the point. And I don’t mean to suggest that it was all awkward, either.
Indeed, being pregnant and being out in public was resoundingly positive. I had a 100% success rate at being offered seats on trains and trams. I know this because I counted. (There were a couple of near misses because no one looks at anyone else anymore; they just stare at their phones). Once, a tram driver even asked a woman to move seats so that I could sit down. I felt really special, almost regal, like all these strangers were looking out for me and my child-to-be, which I suppose they were.
Now that Magoo is born, I still feel as if we’re being taken care of when we’re out and about.
Most cars stop for us so that we can cross the road (85% at last count).
The other day, a man tilted his lit cigarette back toward himself so that Magoo didn’t breathe in the smoke.
Yiayias up and down the street declare: “beautiful boy!” as we pass.
I have had more conversations with more strangers about Magoo than I ever would have thought possible. People stop to pat her hair, to hold her hand, to ask how old she is, to compliment her smile. The local cafe staff know her by name. We have so many friends!
I figure we must be the least threatening of any strangers anywhere, Magoo and I. The beatific mother and child, radiating our giant smiles as we part crowded streets. It feels pretty good.
But here’s the public-moral-conundrum. My local shopping strip, where Magoo and I walk pretty much every day, is pram central. But it’s also homeless person central. We receive the kindness of strangers, they get ignored.
Homelessness aside, I’d venture that most adults without kids get pretty much overlooked in public; elbowed on the tram, queue-jumped at the deli. When my hand is not attached to Magoo’s pram (on those rare moments when I’m alone), no one stops for me and no one stops me.
So, to return to my original question, at what point in one’s life does this happen? At what point do anonymous people stop being so considerate toward one another? Is the answer as simple as when we stop being cute?
I’d love to hear what you think!