My lovely (older) sister celebrated her 30th birthday at the weekend. Which: hurrah. And while I was happy to be there and had fun, at the same time I couldn’t get rid of the sensation I was looking through a wormhole 5 or 10 years into the future at what my own life would be like and it filled me with a nameless terror I couldn’t quite explain, coupled with the desire for an emergency hysterectomy. By which I mean there were A LOT of babies at this party.
I have always identified with the Peter Pan-Jo March school of thought that said growing up was bad and change was awful. This is stupid, of course, because there are loads of good things about the changes that come of growing up (legal drinking, knowing better about lots of things, feeling ok about staying home on your own on a Saturday night) and you can’t stop it anyway so what’s the point in fretting? And yet seeing these writhing, squirming brats and their exhausted-looking mothers wiping snot from their noses I had the strong desire to pop off to Never Neverland and start a new life with Captain Hook and that sort of hot Native American chick.
I’m not, as you may have gathered from one or two things I've let slip over the years, a baby person. I don’t particularly like them, I don’t particularly want them and although my views may change when the hormones come (at least so everyone from family members to almost strangers assure me) I had always assumed I had the option of avoiding them for life. But oh no I don’t. Because once you reach a certain age, whatever happens, babies are a part of your life. Your family members have them. Your friends have them. They crawl over your feet at parties, demand to be looked at and, if you are me apparently, try to stick their chubby fist in your wine.
All of which might be okay if I knew what the baby rules were. But I don’t. I mean, if I'm honest I rather like fat baby limbs when you get those big creases where two fat rolls meet and, if pushed, I confess, yes, their skin is awfully soft. I was even once captivated – yes CAPTIVATED – by a blue eyed baby I saw in a church. I could barely take my eyes off this thing (it was nearly as cute as a bloody kitten, I swear it). So I can take babies. Sort of. From a distance, obviously. But what I don’t get is what I’m allowed to do and say around babies. I have no younger siblings and none of my older ones have yet taken it upon themselves to breed so I just don’t have the experience in dealing with new parents or their progeny. Miss Manners doesn’t seem to cover this crap so for the benefit of everyone in a similar predicament here’s what I’ve managed to pick up so far, mostly between drinks at the party:
1. Swearing is not encouraged. It doesn’t matter if you have just cut your arm on a particularly prickly bush or poured wine down the front of your top. Using the c-word is frowned upon if there is a pair of three-year-olds present.
2. It is not polite to call attention to a baby’s inability to control its bodily functions. No matter if this includes an absolute fountain of snot cascading down the front of the little shit’s face – apparently you’re supposed to ignore it and coo about the fact its head looks slightly less like a potato than it did in that photo its parents sent you months earlier.
3. Do not engage with a new mother about how great her post-baby body looks. Although to the uninitiated this might seem like a compliment it will, in fact, throw you into an uncomfortable round of self deprecation in which she insists she’s still fat as a cow while you shovel fried goods into your mouth and wonder if that wet patch on her right boob means she is breastfeeding.
4. No matter that practically EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON EARTH has mastered the various arts of sitting up straight, crawling, talking etc. When a new baby does these things for the first time it is a matter of great importance that potentially signifies some sort of prodigy in the making. Bystanders are expected to applaud and/or shout ‘encore’ as these amazing events unfold before their very eyes
This is the future. Get used to it, er, I suppose.