This really happened.
As our son is getting older (he's a whopping 6 weeks old now), we've taken him more and more places. We stick close to home and our outings usually consist of dog walks or shopping for more diapers. Or wine.
Last week, we took our baby out to dinner to celebrate my father's birthday. As we expected, the baby got a little fussy here and there, so my husband and I took turns walking him around outside the restaurant while the other enjoyed dinner. When it was my turn, I carried him out the front door and past the tables of outdoor diners.
And that's when she stopped me.
She was close to 70 years old, sitting across from two gentlemen who were engrossed in their own conversation. As I walked by, she stopped me, pointed to the baby, and said, "Excuse me. May I?"
I obliged, turning so she could see his face over my shoulder. She gazed longingly at him, saying the usual kind words about how beautiful he is and how we should cherish every moment.
And then she got weird.
As she stared at the baby, she crossed her arms over her chest and said to me, "I can almost feel myself lactating." (Go ahead and reread that part.) She looked right at me and said, "I don't think you know what you have here."
I was a little offended. And still frozen by the image of geriatric lactation. Trying to be accommodating, I replied, "Oh, we know he's pretty special! We love him a lot." And I looked at the baby and did some nose kiss thing to prove my point.
Then she demanded, "Kiss him."
"Kiss him," she said very seriously. "Lean down and give him a kiss."
He's my baby, so I obliged. Plus, she was elderly, and likely lonely, as those two men across the table were still ignoring her.
Then she directed, "Tell him you love him."
I thought it was a little strange, but for some reason, I was willingly compliant to her strange demands. I leaned down to the baby and, in a baby-friendly voice, said, "I love you! I love you!Yes, I do!"
"NO!" she said. "Whisper it to him. Like you mean it."
"Oh, I mean it," I said.
Who was this woman to tell me I didn't MEAN it? What did I have to do to prove to her that I meant it? And WHY did I feel like I had to prove my love for my baby to a total stranger?
"Tell him again."
Sigh. So I did. I stood there and followed this stranger's orders. I let her direct me in the middle of a crowded restaurant patio. It was a one-woman show (with an adorable prop) for an audience of one, as those men still weren't paying any attention to what was happening. After a few more instructions, she finally told me to give the baby a kiss from her, and I knew it was time to end the show.
Why had it been so difficult to leave? I'd stood there for a good eight minutes, kissing and cooing at my baby, following my captor's orders. I was like Patty Hearst with Stockholm Syndrome. Am I that much of an actor that I felt I had to perform? Was I pimping out my child for the entertainment of the elderly? And if so, is that a bad thing? After all, she seemed lonely.
You know, those men sitting at her table never looked over during that whole exchange. They never got to see how cute the baby is. But mostly, they didn't do anything to save me.
Maybe I was the one saving them.