I recently visited my daughter and I realized on these outings that people are prone to making inappropriate comments to babies they have never met and/or the adults who are with them. Since I am 65, I was somewhat dismayed to discover that frequently these well meaning (I’m trying so hard to give them the benefit of the doubt here), strangers are often my contemporaries. These encounters were a revelation to me. Because two of the things I most like in the world are venting about inappropriate behavior and offering free advice, I have taken it upon myself to compile a handy list for my contemporaries to tuck into a wallet next to their AARP card for
The Top Five Things a Stranger Should Not Say to the Mother of an Eight Monty Boy When Meeting for the First Time in a Public Place
1. Day Brightener #1~Elderly lady, clearly bitter, to baby’s mother: “Aaaahhhh…a beautiful baby! But enjoy him now; he will grow up, get married, and he’ll never pay attention to you again. He will only want to be with his wife!” You have now not only fulfilled the mother’s worst neurotic fear, you have also managed to ruin what was previously a pleasant outing at Ikea.
2. Day Brightener #2 (variation on #1)~Elderly, kindly looking gentleman: “Your boy is very cute, but I really like girls better. A boy will grow up and won’t pay any attention to you. A girl will take care of you when you get sick.” And once again, the baby’s mother is sent into a blue funk, picturing unreturned calls when her son grows up, marries, and moves out of her life….forever!
3. Creepy elderly man (see above), not satisfied with lobbing only one depressing comment, has circled the thrift shop to swoop in for another too familiar encounter with the baby. This time, in a move that is clearly inappropriate and ill advised, he offers the baby not one, but two pieces of wrapped hard candy. While he seems to understand that my grandson can’t actually eat the treats yet (lack of teeth and the fact that the candy is, you know, from a stranger tend to put the kibosh on such a gift), he nonetheless gives it to him.
4. Grandmotherly type, looking at what is clearly a small birthmark: “Oooh!!! What happened?! Did you get a boo boo, pretty girl?!” No, no he did not….
5. We have finally made it to the check out line; perhaps we can exit without any further baby comments and/or advice. Nope.This time, a 65 year old woman is the culprit. I know she is 65 because she has asked me to guess her age. This, after muscling her way into the long line and ending up directly behind us. Before I can guess, she has announced her age and modestly asked, “Don’t I look good?! I take care of myself, and inherited good genes.” Thank you so much for sharing. As the line crawls forward, she announces that she wants to carry “that sweet baby” everywhere. It is at this point that my daughter makes a hasty retreat, muttering a few choice words under her breath. I stare straight ahead, make my $5.75 purchase, and join the family outside the store, clutching the baby and tossing the candy as we head for the car.
There you have it; just a few choice examples for people of any age (but mostly my generation) of what not to say, should they encounter a baby in the course of their daily errands. You don’t have to thank me; but I will have to insist that from now on you stay the heck away from my grandson.
Barbara Tulli is an elementary school librarian in Virginia. She is crossing days off her Beatles calendar until her retirement, when she hopes to devote more time to writing, reading, traveling, and sleeping past 5:15 AM each morning. Read lots more at her blog -- Just Beyond the Tracks.
There’s another version of the story that begins with me sitting at the counter in this truck stop thinking about how people talk to themselves all the time. I know that I do. Who doesn’t? It’s only when people do it out loud standing in the middle of the sidewalk that we refer to them as crazy. Hang on. Just who the hell is this guy standing here staring at me?
Excuse me, is that your backpack?
Oh. Sorry. Let me move it out of your way. Whoa. Hunk alert: how’s my hair? I’ll put it under my feet. Don’t make eye contact. There.
Thanks. It’s jammed in here this morning. How’s the coffee?
Not bad, actually, but good luck with the blonde waitress.
What do you mean?
You’ll see. And here she comes now. Are we having this conversation?
Hi. I’ll have the breakfast special, please, with scrambled eggs and bacon, hash browns, sourdough toast if you have it, otherwise wheat toast will be fine. Oh, and a small glass of orange juice, thank you. Nice. Must be a rotten job working this gig. Never hurts to smile. And what have we here on my right with the backpack and torn jeans bagging on the waitress?
She likes you, that waitress.
Likes me? Oh brother, a live one. What do you mean?
What do you mean what do I mean? When she took my order she jabbered at me a mile-a-minute about the stinking weather, but with you she just stared with the teased hair and that stunned oxen look. Honestly, she was all misty-eyed by the time you got to the orange juice. She likes you.
That’s rich. She must be the only person in North Florida who cares in the slightest. I played the Holiday Inn last night to a crowd of me and the bartender.
You’re a singer?
Sort of. I write songs, and to make sure somebody out there is singing them, I play the guitar well enough to draw a crowd. Occasionally.
You’re a modern-day troubadour, free and loose on the highways of our land? Kind of like a young Willie Nelson?
Something like that. There’s only one Wille Nelson. What’s your name?
Well now, Mister Troubador, who wants to know? Careful here, girlfriend.
Sorry, I’m Harpeth Rivers. Call me Rivers. Feisty little bitch.
I’m Bitsy. Here’s your food. And don’t call me bitch.
Harpeth Rivers is a New Mexico transplant from all over who has in the last year written songs about isosceles triangles, played bass guitar in a band, and declared himself "Retro-eclectic." His novel-in-progress is entitled Last Year.
Between graduate school and my first teaching job I did just about the only unplanned thing of my then-life. My radical answer to finishing college in the late 60’s was to buy a $69 round trip ticket to Hawaii. For $15 dollars more I added on “unlimited-as seats are available” flights to all the islands. I planned to stay for six weeks and then come back to real life in Orange County. It was 1970. My brother was at war in Southeast Asia, my parents were stupefied with worry, and I packed a duffle with shorts, t-shirts, one swimsuit, one dress and one towel. I also packed a bottle of Coppertone that was my only touchstone to home for the six weeks. The smell was so familiar and common that each time I opened the bottle my family’s faces entered my head. They had no expression and seemed to be just watching.
I stayed with friends, old and just-met, but it seemed like I was mostly alone.
I took a bus to the far side of Maui early one morning. We were all let out with the admonition that we’d better be back on the side of the road at the bus stop by 4:30 for our “Return to civilization.” The driver had stopped at a shaved ice place on our way there, only because some of the riders had asked. I was pretty sure that his idea of civilization and mine were different.
I followed a path, using an amateur map printed on scarf. The ocean was drawn as a string of cursive C's and the palms looked like sparklers from the 4th of July. Absolutely nothing on that faded map prepared me for the view that emerged when I walked through the jungle of vines and roots and arrived at the beach. The water was the most intense blue-green imaginable. Each outward layer of water was deeper in color, until a wave broke and the turquoise erupted into prisms. The ocean would then settle back into bands of color. Something mysterious, perhaps great depth, saturated the water with the impossibly blue color.
The image stayed in my mental portfolio. I recently thought about how volcanic islands produce violent natural occurrences. And magic. That intense lapis water was made even more dramatic by the sand; it was the darkest ebony, and as fine as powder.
Kim Kohler writes on the uncertainties of living in a liberal hot spot where everybody has an opinion, every opinion counts and nobody uses turn signals.
“Don’t dream it…Live it.”
Frederick’s of Hollywood motto
Before the baby boomer sexual revolution, there was the risque revolution.
In 1947, Frederick’s brought “naughty” European frilly black panties to staid white cotton American women. It debuted the padded bra—dubbed “Rising Star,” then introduced the first push-up model and created a pointed, cone-stitched wonder called “Missiles.”
The advertising shattered taboos and became soft-core classics. Provocative, curvaceous women in skimpy teddies, exotic cat suits, harem costumes, and see-through lingerie popped up everywhere—strutting a fine line between sexy lady and streetwalker. Both were customers.
With looks based on male fantasies, Frederick’s also pitched men’s publications, especially at Christmas. “You get my ties and socks, honey, why can’t I pick your panties and pumps?”
Hollywood starlets gobbled up the products. Mae West and Marilyn Monroe showcasing Frederick’s fashions sold a lot of negligees. Baby boomers were coming-of-age. The best promotion was a gift by feminists who burned bras in front of the gaudy pink and purple Frederick’s Hollywood headquarters, attracting media attention and spiking sales, which were beginning to lag.
Guess who brought the bold French bikini to the New World and introduced American women to the scandalous Brazilian thong? Fredericks also launched the front-hook (easy to open) bra, shoulder pad bras, and an array of never-before-imagined body shapers. Feel short even with 6 inch pumps? Combine with a “head pad” and scrape the clouds.
With all its profitable adventure, the company had a sense of history, establishing a Celebrity Lingerie Hall of Fame. Some sizzling items (the tip of the bustier):
A bankruptcy, a re-organization, a merger and Frederick’s is still going strong with 124 locations and a formidable online presence.
The Hollywood Museum was looted during urban disturbances in 1999. The one-of-kind treasures lost included an historic Madonna tassel bra. When a $1000 no-questions-asked reward went unheeded, the diva generously provided a new one in return for a $10,000 donation to clinics offering free mammograms to the poor.
The company unveiled two new styles in 1998—Hollywood Kiss using all-around wishbone construction to create a “kissing cleavage” and the unique Water Bra featuring push-up padding filled with a rosewater/oil mixture.
Terry Hamburg writes the Baby Boomer Daily about the exciting and revolutionary baby boomer years.
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Ken Buchkowsky is from Ontario, Canada. You can see more of his photos on flickr.