A Baby Walks into a BarBy Amy Shearn
April 14, 2010
There was semi-recently an internet kerfuffle on the topic of babies in bars in Brooklyn, which I have been thinking about a lot but, because I have one of these babies, have not had time to properly respond to until now. Yes, I realize that the world has been clamoring for the response of me, an eminent Park Slope literary mama (by which I mean, of course, the author of an under-read novel, the mother of a one-year-old and yet NOT a member of the Park Slope Parents website and thus obviously not much of a mother at all, and a lowly renter rubbing elbows with the owners of million-dollar brownstones).
And so I will tell you, dear readers, that there was something about the story and ongoing response to it that really got me. What on earth is wrong with people? I thought every time I read some vitriolic comment from a non-breeder who no doubt had time to compose the perfect snarky retort after sleeping until noon and then reading the entire newspaper. Babies are wonderful. Babies are the best things on Earth. I take my baby everywhere, because what, am I meant to hole up in my apartment all day, everyday? Thus is the joy of having a baby in Brooklyn, after all -– there are tons of entertaining places to go. We can walk to any number of growing-brain-stimulating places, the baby and me. I can plop her in the carrier or stroller and take her to a coffee shop, or an art museum, or even, yes, a bar. And I have, a very few times – always in the middle of day, mind you – taken her to bars, the kind of bars that serve food and, you know, have high chairs. (Holla, Bar Toto!)
After all, we were all babies once! And babies are people too! Adorable, lovey, magical, sweet-smelling tiny people! What’s more, I maintain that adults who hate babies have something seriously, sociopathically wrong with them. I mean, sure, it’s true, sometimes babies cry. But the sound of a baby’s cry is about a tenth as annoying as most of the conversations you overhear in places like bars. I mean! What is wrong with people?
Anyway. As awesome as my baby is, I admit that sometimes I need a break. After all, I am with her all day every day without any childcare, and my husband often works late nights and weekends, which means, you know, A LOT of uninterrupted time, just babe and me. So the other night after a particularly grueling bedtime, I excused myself for some mommy-me-time. I strolled down the block, and threw some baby clothes in a machine over the laundromat (I’m not that self-indulgent after all!) and then wandered into my quiet neighborhood bar. There was candlelight. There was inoffensive indie rock. I ordered a beer – a beer! – and settled in with a novel – a novel! For a few amazing moments, it was just me and my pals Stella and Mary. I could feel my shoulders untensing. I hadn’t had a moment like this in months, and this moment would only last about thirty minutes before I had to retrieve my laundry and go back home.
And then I heard it.
A giggly coo.
A baby, I thought. In the bar. You have got to be fucking kidding me.
This baby was mega cute, and having just learned to walk was toddling around on her chubby legs with the drunken strut of a 13-month-old with places to go. She sidled up to me and commenced to play peekaboo behind my table.
The problem is, I love babies, always have, and have always been the one to, yes, entertain someone’s baby in a random public setting. I wanted to indulge the little girl. And I wanted to provide her parents a moment of peace as they ate their fancy meals. But also, I really, really didn’t.
I was tempted to explain myself to her father who came to retrieve her once it became clear I wasn’t going to play. It’s just that this is the one half-hour in like a year that I don’t have to entertain a baby, I wanted to say. And anyway, also, what the CRAP man, it is 9pm! Why is your baby even up and out and nowhere near going to bed? A side note: I hate when people judge each other’s parenting. I judge people who judge other people’s parenting. But also, I was feeling very, very judgmental. “She’s so cute,” I managed, weakly. I offered a very small smile. She grabbed at my book. “Oh, ha ha. She likes Nabokov?” NabAHkov, I said it.
The hipstery-facial-haired be-courderoyed father had a smile that resembled a wince. “Oh, yes, she just loves her NaBOOkov,” he said, inflecting my beloved author’s name with an exaggerated Russiany pronunciation.
And then you better believe it was on. No help for you, buddy! I tugged my book away from the pretentio-tot and willed my smile to vanish. I pulled out the big guns. “Okay, bye-bye!” I said. I covered my face with the book, like a bad spy in a movie. “Bye-bye,” said bar-baby.
She toddled back a few more times and I worked hard to ignore her every time. I even tried not to notice her loitering near the bathroom door and almost getting knocked out every time someone came out, though the mother in me was dying to hop up and usher her away, or at least warn her parents, who were busy ordering dessert. But the heartless bar-fly in me (she’s small, but she’s in there) enjoyed ignoring the baby in peril. Even when she finally bit it and began to howl. I didn’t even offer a sympathetic look! In fact, I GLARED! I can sort of hear that baby’s crying above the jukebox and chatter, I meant my mean look to say. And I am not pleased! The now-harried-looking parents scooped up their little drunken sailor and scooted. I looked around for someone to toast, but no one else seemed to have noticed the whole drama at all.
In conclusion: babies in bars are totally fine and obviously everyone should be nice to them and their parents. But only if they happen to be my baby. All other babies should be tucked in bed and kept out of my goddamned sight.