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.
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: