I’m a guy. For obvious reasons, I will never breastfeed a baby. Some may argue that this fact should disqualify me from talking about or judging anyone who might one day do so on the subject at all. But I know when something sounds creepy and weird, and this, this sounds creepy and weird.
The breastfeeding incident occurred at a Toronto house party. It was an in-between sort of evening, neither a rager nor a formal dinner party – the sort of casual and expensively lubricated early-evening-into-night gathering that exhausted people in their 30s with small children tend to favour.
I was about 25 and did not have a baby – or even a boyfriend – at the time.
And I was broody in the way that young women in their late 20s often are, before they realize that turning 30 is just the beginning of something rather than a vertiginous cliff off of which unlucky young women fall to die alone and be forgotten.
I was feeling a bit glum and distracted, so I’d wandered upstairs in search of a bathroom in which to reapply my lipstick and check my phone for random texts from inappropriate men (this was before Tinder). I walked into a bedroom with coats piled high on the bed and noticed that in the corner, sitting wide awake in a little portable car seat, was the cutest baby I’d ever seen. On the table beside him was a monitor. I smiled at the baby, the baby smiled back. Now this was a connection.
I leaned over and gingerly picked him up and then sat down in a chair to give him a cuddle. He felt gorgeous in my arms, all warm and lumpy and milky-smelling in the way small babies are. Somehow, my pinky finger ended up in his mouth and I was astonished at strength of his sucking reflex. “C’mon lady,” said his eyes. And I suddenly knew what he wanted. And I of course wanted to give him what he wanted. The only problem was, I had no milk. But would it be so bad, I wondered, if I just tried it out – just for a minute – just to see what it felt like?
I looked at the baby monitor as if it might be watching me, but thankfully this was before monitors had cameras.
Then slowly, carefully so as not to jostle the infant, I began to unbutton my blouse. Just as I was reaching into my bra, a shortish man with in a navy suit walked into the room.
“Oh um, hello!” he said, in a friendly, upbeat tone that could not entirely conceal the fact that he was flummoxed to see me sitting there with my top half unbuttoned holding his baby.
“I see you’ve met my son. May I take him now?”
The man, of course, was Michael Chong. I never caught the baby’s name. Mr. Chong took his son, bade me a swift and polite goodbye and I didn’t see him again for the rest of the party – probably because he left sensibly with his family an hour later while I no doubt hung around talking nonsense until after midnight.
That’s part of a column that was published to and later deleted from the Globe and Mail website. Regardless of how true the story is (there’s some question about it) and putting aside how any of you might feel about breastfeeding other people’s kids with permission which seems to be the larger point of the article I think, I have a question for the ladies. Is this normal? Even a little bit? Do you ever, when holding someone’s child, think to yourself he looks hungry, I should try to give him a snack? Have you ever gotten past the thinking stage? Or am I, a person who I will remind you all once more is a guy, right to think that this is straight up fucked?
Update: I left this as a comment, but I figure I should stick it here just in case our comments ever explode and we lose tens of thousands of them again.
We’ve now hit the other newspapers are writing columns about the column stage, which brings us this bit of ewww from the National Post. I think it pretty much misses the point entirely. I say pretty much because there is a bit of an acknowledgement that you probably shouldn’t do that, but the whole thing about men’s ideals and sexual objects and covering up and not talking about it and all that is totally not everyone’s problem here. You’re feeding another person’s kid without asking. That’s wrong. Hell, I don’t even like picking up someone’s baby without asking them first just in case there’s a reason I shouldn’t, and I love kids. I can’t imagine doing something this personal unwanted.