Comments like the following -- which I've arranged for your convenience from the least to the most lascivious -- arrive unbidden from the mouths of strangers.
"That looks so comfy."
"Now that's the life."
"I wish I could be carried like that!"
"I'll trade places with him!"
"I want the baby's food!"
It happens when I wear Sweet Baby James in the sling. Which is every day.
I get the middle one the most: "I wish I could be carried like that." There's nothing wrong with the sentiment in and of itself -- don't we all wish for free, reliable transportation? -- but the fact that it comes from men (only men!) has got me wondering.
I told my husband about this during our five minutes of quality time last night. He was unzipping his fly.
"Three guys said they wanted to be in Sweet Baby James' sling tonight," I said.
He laughed as he lifted up the toilet seat (gotcha there, didn't I?).
"Well," I said, "Do you have anything to say about it?"
"Hmm... I'll rip their eyeballs out." He answered, referring to the street-fighting skills he acquired with other ass-kicking Buddhists at Leriken in Montreal.
"Ha ha," I said, "But really, what do you think is going on there?"
"What's going on there is that they're confusing my wife with their mother."
"Yes," I said, "The old I-want-my-wife-to-be-my-mother thing..."
"No... I said my wife. Not their wives."
"Oh, I get it. So, like, 'excuse me sir, but it would behoove you to make the distinction between my wife and your mother, sir.'"
"Yeah," he said, reaching for the dental floss.
But I can't quite believe that there is salacious intent behind this comment. In my experience, when men are saying something they know to be naughty, they're a little sly about it. Or they stutter, or blush. They're quieter. These guys, on the other hand, want the world to know that they wish they could be carried around like an 8 month-old baby. And when I told Mr. Artist that he was the THIRD man at that opening to make the comment, he didn't act all proud to be Mr. Dirty Scandalous Artist; he walked away to get another glass of wine.
Like it was I who had made the faux-pas. *sigh*
What is it about that kind of carrying that is so appealing to men? Is it the boobs? SARK, in her (fecking fantastic) book Succulent Wild Woman describes how men (and some women) love "big boobs" because they see them as big soft pillows they could curl up against. And in this short article from ivillage, written by men about breasts, it mentions a desire to return to the "...halcyon days when our mothers protected us from all the world's evils."
I don't think I'll ever quite understand the (predominantly male) fascination with breasts, especially now that mine have become utterly mundane and not particularly private food delivery banks (how's that for sexxxay?). But the fantasy of returning to the womb, or the warmth of the mother's arms does makes sense to me.
I myself sometimes wish I could be once again ensconced in the cradleboard my father made for me when I was a baby. There's a part in all of us that never really grows up, right? This basic craving for closeness, however, doesn't explain the gender divide. Why do women say, "He looks so comfortable there!" or "What a great way to carry your baby!", while men immediately insert themselves into the carrier's warm folds?
Sometimes when I have just gotten out of the bath with Sweet Baby James and we're nursing in bed, drifting off to sleep, I am struck with the intimacy of our bond. I know his body so well. And he knows mine. He trusts me to look after him, to protect him not only from the outside world but also the inside one -- to respect his boundaries, which he is too young to know he has. He gives his complete surrender, because he has to. And I, lying with my nipple between his über sharp newly erupted teeth, trust him to respect my body in the same way.
Except that sometimes he hits me in the face for no reason, because he is a baby.
So anyway, I realize that this intimacy is unusual in our lives, especially in the West, where we have the largest 'personal space' zones in the world. I'll never forget the first time I saw some Moroccan dudes all thugged-out and caressing each others' shoulders as they stood chatting at the port of Tangier. It's just the way people relate to others of the same gender there. You touch someone when you're talking with them, maybe go get naked at a Hammam together, nothing unusual about it. But here we don't and it will not likely be until Sweet Baby James gets into a sexual relationship that he will feel this kind of physical closeness with someone again.
And then it will be different. He will be expected to return the intimacy, to give back -- not only sexually, but also in the form of hugs, caresses, tenderness. To me, this give and take is the ultimate joy of sexual intimacy, but clearly it's not everybody's idea of a good time.
Maybe that's what these guys are really saying when they express a wish to be carried like Sweet Baby James. Maybe they're saying they wish they could be on the receiving end of unconditional love, without having to expend any effort. Jerks.
((and as I was writing this post, at this very juncture, my husband came home with a smile on his face, $200 worth of groceries and a bouquet of flowers. Win!))
And finally, perhaps it's an inversion of that genius idea that mothers are sexless creatures, the classic madonna/whore complex. But if so, it's the inverse: sexualizing the mother, the young woman with a diaper kit in her backpack, the bags under her eyes... and the lucky little baby nodding off to sleep at perfect nipple eye level.
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