There is a range of socially acceptable comments you can make about babies you do not know. Here are just a few: "What a beautiful baby!" "How precious!" "Look how happy she is!" Pick one! However, it is a universal truth, that if I come within 10 feet of a woman over the age of 75, they are guaranteed to say or do one of the following:
1. They will find a way to relate my baby back to their great grandchildren.
In reality you have no desire to talk about my baby. Your great grandchild is now teething and Charlotte has presented you with an opportunity to gush about little James moving onto solid foods. “She reminds me of my great grandchildren, fat and bald!” This transitions us nicely into #2.
2. Your baby is chubby.
This one is a pet peeve of mine because I cannot stand when people insist on pointing out the obvious [please refer back to Tired is the New Black]. I am 6’1 and everyday at least one person must point this out to me. Did you play basketball? Are your parents tall? When someone says, “Looks like she never skips a meal!” or “She’s a chunky little thing!” I should be thrilled since it is my milk that I have successfully produced that is making her so “chunky”. So let’s just go ahead and replace that horribly inappropriate word with the word “healthy” and it’s actually a compliment.
3. God bless her.
This one I don’t really mind because it is sweet and harmless. But usually they alternate between "God bless her" and "bless her heart" at least eight or nine times rapid-fire, so I never know when they are done or what I should say. Yes? Thank you? I usually end up accidentally interrupting them and now whose being rude and inappropriate?
4. How old is he?
There is always gender confusion, apparently little girls cannot wear blue in public. “Oh how old is he, 2 months? Look at him crawling along.” I recognize that not everyone has an app for development milestones on their phone, but can you imagine a 2 month old crawling? We were still working on neck control, so crawling would have been really something.
5. Lastly, and this is the kicker ladies and gentlemen, the INCESSANT touching.
If I am lucky, it is just the top of the head, but I am never lucky. It is always the cheek and this is generally after some sort of wet, guttural cough. My personal favorite is when a crusty Kleenex is actually tucked behind their gnarled fingers while they gently stroke my baby’s face.
I recognize that, of course, their heart is always in the right place. Generally speaking I enjoy the banter and welcome the hilarity of it all. But if it is on a day that I have had less than 4 hours of sleep and not enough coffee, I’ll channel my inner half marathon runner and we will be on the other side of the street faster than you reach your hand out and cough, “God bless your fat two month old baby, he reminds me of my great grandson.”