So about 12 of us significant others and our law school lovers were standing in the kitchen chattering on about Roe v. Wade and cracking Supreme Court jokes over chips and salsa when our host joined us, con her baby. Naturally the thing began getting passed around like a magic cigarette at a college party, leaving everyone speaking incoherent gibberish in its wake. You bet I jumped on this band wagon.
"Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeee," I said in decibels I didn't know I was capable of hitting. He didn't reply. Could I blame him? He was only 4 months old. But that didn't stop him from watching me from his perch across the room, clutching at and slobbering all over his
So a short while later I was minding my own business, opining about the The Big Lebowski to a fellow law school wife over red wine when that cute little dumpling of a 4-month-old got passed to me.
"Do you want to hold him?" the person near me asked as they reached out to hand him over.
What was I supposed to say, "No, thanks. I don't really do that," and smile as I politely declined and my fellow party-goers tried it out? That would make me that one person -- and there's ALWAYS that one person -- who refuses to try bungee jumping after everyone's had their turn. Well I don't want to be "that guy". The fact was I did want to try and hold it, especially after J embarrassed me only minutes prior, telling everyone that sometimes I peruse the baby aisles at Target, fawning over those little Winnie the Pooh hats with the ears sticking out. Okay, so what if I do? Look, I'm a sentimental sap when it comes to sewn-on ears; if those Poohbear hats fit me I'd own three and wear them around the house cooking dinner and writing and watching CSPAN. Just sayin'.
Anyway, being one to try anything (fried alligator in '06, anyone?) I said sure and welcomed the thing into my embrace. He'd been eying me all night after all, those big round eyes in that big round head. While I held him he garbled something --- probably about how fabulous I smelled or how amazing my new outfit was -- as he attempted to stick his entire fist in his mouth. Which I found impressive. But after failing multiple times he gave up and placed the slobbery fist on my shoulder. Ah a gesture of solidarity. I didn't care, it was cute. I mean, he was bald for Christ's sake. You can only get away with baldness being adorable when you still weigh about as much as a sack of flour and can elicit praise for crapping your pants.
I stood there in my stilettos in the kitchen, cradling him. Ok so he kind of smelled like baby powder -- better than my generic body wash -- so we had something in common. But I was uncomfortable. It made me nervous holding him. And most of all I couldn't shake the feeling that it was all a little....
So what happened next? I started sweating. Profusely. Like someone had handed me a grenade and I didn't know how long I had till it would detonate and we would all die. I could feel beads of perspiration beneath my new bangs as I chuckled along at everyone making faces at the thing and talking to him as if he was going to answer back. It was stupid, really, how nervous I felt. What's the worst that could've happened? It would puke all over my new dress? People, I've accidentally stepped in dog poop before. Barefoot. I can handle a little baby throw-up.
My face was hot and flushed. It felt like someone had turned the heater up full-blast. Pinpricks of sweat appeared on my philtrum; I wondered if I was becoming a casualty to the pit-stain. I casually rubbed my scorched face across my shoulder, anything to hid the evidence of my clammy awkwardness. But nothing helped.
By now the baby had begun to drool. Long strings of silvery spit tethered my dress to his mouth like a series of slimy spider webs. His mother, who stood across the room, held his burp slash drool rag in her hands. In her two minutes of free time sans baby she'd forgotten to hand me the thing and was talking to someone near her about Scalia.
The baby looked up at me like he was pleased with himself. As though, like a cat, he could smell my fear and reveled in its luxuriousness like the chest hair of a Tickle Me Elmo doll. To show me who was boss he then grabbed a fistful of my hair and began yanking at it, looking around wide-eyed and alert, stolid yet satisfied when people saw his little hair-pulling trick and lavished even more attention on him. J stood next to me, oblivious to how nervous I'd become, how much I'd begun to sweat. How much hair I was on the verge of losing.
"Hey Love, you wanna hold him? Great, here you go!" I said, before J could answer.
"Ok, sure," he replied, eager at the chance. And of course, after J held him against his chest, nothing looked more natural than my husband with a baby. He didn't get flushed; didn't sweat. Just stood there, completely calm, rocking the drooling baby and smiling.
What gives? Wasn't I the one that was supposed to be all even-keel about this? Wasn't J supposed to look like the awkward one? Why, like Miranda Hobbes, am I so freakishly uncomfortably in situations that involve tiny people (dwarves not included)? I'll admit, part of me felt like I might end up "breaking" the baby, as weird as that sounds. But their bones are so small, and their heads just loll about with necks that can't possibly support all two pounds of cranium. Maybe I'm just oblivious when it comes to their durability?...