Monday, June 21, 2010

Why the Hell Did I Love "Babies"?

"One for *mumblemrph*, please."

The woman behind the ticket booth cracked up.  "That's the exact same thing everyone has said going in."

I tried to muster a smile, but instead put up the hood of my sweatshirt so no one would recognize me.

Was I at a porn, you ask?  A snuff film?  The new Nightmare on Elm Street revamp piece of garbage?

No, no, and hell no.  On that mild Sunday evening in May, I was at my local arty hipster theatre, gearing up to see . . . Babies.

Look, I am far from a baby person.  That's not to say I don't like kids.  I do.  I taught drama for three summers at a K-8 arts camp.  My friends' spawn are wonderful.  But here's the thing: I'm almost 30, and single.  I have no desire for kids, but random people in the street don't know that.  And one of my biggest fears is that someone will see me cooing over a little one in public, take a look at my unringed left hand (well, unless you count the superbadass turquoise pinky ring from Santa Fe), and, ugh, feel sorry for me.

Don't misinterpret this: I find NOTHING wrong with being a parent or wanting to be.  Hey, it's how the world goes 'round.  If you can go to a children's birthday party and still want to push out your own, God bless you.  I just don't want them for myself.  And while I hate hate hate the fact that I care about what others think, I don't ever want to be perceived as the poor, single, childless chick.  EVER.

And yet . . . I was intrigued by Babies' premise: capturing the first year of life in four different parts of the world (Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo, and San Francisco).  The trailer used a Sufjan Stevens song (marketing suckerdom, I haz it).  And the babies were really, ridiculously cute.

An hour and a half later, I could confidently say that I enjoyed the SHIT out of Babies

I've asked myself over and over: what is it about Babies that had me in the arty hipster theatre along with a flock of childless?  I will say that the film's beautiful scenery (Mongolia's blue skies, Tokyo's sharp clean lines et al) and nearly nonverbal tone gave me much-needed relaxation after a fun but supremely hectic weekend (to put it in context, I saw Babies the evening after Joel McHale's Chicago show).  As someone who works for an organization that provides multi-cultural arts education programs for children, seeing the differences and similarties of child-rearing in four vastly different parts of the globe did pique my interest as well.

But more than anything, I've had to come to terms with the main reason I liked Babies

I just like babies.

This is a difficult revelation for me on many levels.  First, I was a reader at a very young age.  I'm the daughter of two pop culture enthusiasts, one of whom was an English major.  My family quotes entire movies for fun.  I went to college and picked apart plays (both written and performed), dissected roles I portrayed in class and for the public, and devoured books in my spare time.  In my early twenties I endured three years of law school, aka Land of Outlines.  

In other words, I live to be analytical.  It's hard for me to just "like" anything, be it a book, a film or a person.  I have to pick and scan and know the why.

Also, as I've said before, I'm a single woman who has no desire for children.  I am careful to do just the right amount of doting on my friends' kids--it's sincere, but I don't want anyone to think my life is lacking without little ones.  Ditto for smiling at kids in public.  I watch my facial expressions so "longing" will never be part of the equation.

It's a delicate thing to admit you like babies, but you don't want any of your own.  Both of these, for me, are true.

So Babies provided a safe, calm compromise.  In the dark of a movie theatre, I could giggle and squeal to my heart's content.  I could make it okay in my head that I wanted to poke their little tummies and hold their chubby hands.  I could watch in awe as each of the kidlets stood up and mastered their first steps, as Hattie from San Francisco took apart a banana, as Mari from Tokyo figured out her puzzle after a dramatic outburst, as Bayar from Mongolia successfully liberated toilet paper from its roll, as Ponijao from Namibia lifted up a dog's ear.  And from the giggles, squeals, and sighs around me that Sunday night, I wasn't alone.

A few weeks later, a friend was giving me crap: "you love babies, you've loved them since we were in high school, you probably want a million babies, etc etc and so on."  (Said friend enjoys nothing more than yanking my chain.)  

Instead of yelling or getting defensive (my usual m.o. when this topic comes up), I calmly stated, "Nope.  I don't want babies.  I really like them, though."

And as I was saying the words, I realized what I'd always thought was a contradiction, was in fact not a contradiction at all.

If you're all about the cuteness, I suggest you check out this trailer:


  1. Babies the Movie!!! AAAAH!

    Why the Human Centipede level shame for Babies, though? I want to see it so bad but can't find anyone else who wants to. Too bad we don't live in the same city--I would have gone proudly with you. And then been all, "Let's go steal a real baby as a consolation prize!"

  2. I dunno, Sadako, I guess I just never want to be perceived as the poor barren single girl. I could be and probably am paranoid, but I always feel risky swooning too much over little ones in public.

    And speaking of kidnapping real babies, I wanted to play with the African baby sooooo bad. Look at those chubby hands, squeeeee!

  3. I want to see this! When I asked a friend to go, she started laughing. I guess that's a no.

  4. I haven't even heard of this...the whole premise sounds interesting though.
    I'm kinda in the same boat, I did 2 years of early childhood ed, so I like children but not sure if I want my own!

  5. I promise no pity if I ever see you cooing over my baby. I will just think you like babies, and put no thought into whether you want your own or anything else.
    I worked in daycare for the first half of my 20's.... and I loved all those kids. I loved them most when their parents took them home though. It took a LONG time before I wanted one of my own, and that was a personal decision. Less people are judging you than you think.

  6. I think non-parents might actually like this movie more than parents. Babies are cute and cuddly. But when my own kid was a baby, mostly what I remember is getting no sleep and getting my nipples bitten. Suddenly, I see something more sinister behind the chubby feet and wide smiles. I don't. I had bitten nips and no sleep but I totally want to do it again!