Sunday, June 07, 2009

I like to play with babies. They are pretty irresistible, charming little things with tremendous social skills (which they lose as they grow into a "functional" adult). I never had a second thought about reaching out for a smiling child that had its arms outstretched from his mother's lap. During college days, the bus home was always crowded. Sometimes, standing moms would hand over their children to the person sitting close to them. My friends and I would amuse the baby (and ourselves) by making funny faces to get a laugh out of them. In trains, buses, temples, super-markets, there was no barriers to playing with babies with the parents close by to watch.

All that has changed since I came to the US. The meaning of "touch" has taken on an almost exclusively sexual connotation. And mothers in the US are more fiercely protective of their kids' personal space. I got frowned upon once when I made eye contact with a baby at the mall and smiled at her. The mother almost was about to report me as a sexual predator! The other day, at the supermarket, I saw this really pretty, bouncy baby. I said out loud to the mom, "She is so cute!" and that the mother glared me down! I was so shocked that I just walked away.

I guess everyone is trying to just watch out for their child's well-being and in today's world, with all its perversities, I can relate to that. However, there is something as taking it too far. Interpreting every touch/glance with a baby that happens in full view of the parents as a "sexual" one is terrible, in my opinion. It feels like we are imposing adult-ish notions on a very innocent relationship. These days, if I see a baby, I just give a curt smile or look away for fear of being reported to the police.


Badhri said...

The very idea of "touch" I would say is perceived with a suspicion of perversity.

Most of the time it is attributed to better awareness (Such people are always considered non-existent India). But who really knows?

I guess, in the end, Americans can afford to have more personal space, a luxury the Indian neither enjoys nor misses! :)

RS said...

That's strange! Thankfully, I haven't come across these weird I still smile and make cutesy faces at babies in the mall etc. One time, this mom gave her 4 month old to me in the dressing room to hold while she tried out her dress. I was scared! :)

Viji said...

That's funny. I can only think of cats that hiss when you go near its kittens. Never experienced anything like this-- but then, I don't go near babies if I don't know their parents.
I think the woman who glared you down when you were actually complimenting her baby is a jerk!