I went to the grocery store today and was checking out the oranges in the produce section, when a gentle-looking man passed by and smiled at me. Grinning back, I followed his gaze as he strolled over to a cart nearby containing sundry items surrounding a baby carrier. Irresistible, I had to go take a peek.
“May I?” I shyly queried.
He nodded and I closed in on my target. There beneath the rainbow toy-festooned handle lay a tiny baby swaddled to the nines in yellow and green blankets. The baby was all pink and soft with just the slightest hint of dark hair peeking out from beneath a beige cap. Large dark eyes searched my face as I did my best to finesse a smile out of the kid. A stubborn frown soon split into a full-blown grin, and I wondered what this cute little sucker was. Dang! Neutral colors always make gender determination a bit trickier. I was going to have to get creative in my line of questioning. “Ooooh! What a beautiful child,” I trilled.
“Thank you,” he replied without any acknowledgment of my quandary. Grrrrr.
“Two months?” I suggested with a hint of been-there-done-that nonchalance.
“Wow! You’re good. Just about two months exactly!” he exclaimed, his eyes dancing merrily.
This was going to be harder than I thought. He was either clueless about my cluelessness, or he was just enjoying my conversational squirming. Baby was still locked on my face, so I chortled sweet little nothings to it, while the father just watched quietly.
“What a little flirt,” I exclaimed. Mr. New Dad just smiled, nodding in agreement. Tricky bastard. Finally, casting a long glance towards the dairy section as if there was something fascinating going on there, I decided to make my departure without ever asking the sex of the child.
“Congratulations. Bye,” I stated while pushing my cart towards an enticing sale display.
“Bye!” His enormous grin clearly indicating that he found my ineptitude highly amusing…
“Pffft,” I muttered to no one in particular.
Wandering aimlessly around the store, I considered the evidence: generic rainbow toys that weren’t dollies or trucks merely suggested that the kid was getting entertained. Over-swaddling hinted at a feminine child – or a very fragile… b-aby. Duh. Yellow and green clothes intimated virtually nothing since the only color that almost ever guarantees accurate identification is pink. As for the cherubic smile and glowing personality, these were not indicative of anything significant beyond the sort of speculation that can give your brain whiplash if you think too hard about it. The nondescript cap was less than a moot point, because everyone knows you really ought to cover their little heads when they’re young.
So there it was, an unsolved mystery to ponder. Which pissed me off because once upon a time, I was a very considerate new mom, always dressing my child in pastel outfits and ruffled raingear. She wore an assortment of elastic bows that left little ruching marks on her nearly hairless scalp when removed. It was her first lesson on how uncomfortable being beautiful could be (not to mention how utterly shallow mommy could be) – however, no one ever had to question the gender of my baby!
Shoot! I wanted to find that Mr. New Dad and give him a piece of my mind! I wanted him to know that his insensitive parenting choices left a lot to be desired… that he deserved to feel the frustration that he was causing other people with his thoughtlessness!
When I rounded the next aisle, lo and behold – there he was, clutching the grocery cart as an uber-handsome man was making funny faces and cooing at the baby of indeterminate gender! Mr. New Dad, however, was not smiling. His pallor was about the same as the baby’s cap. His eyes were darting nervously between his child and the stranger. Hmmmm…. mystery solved. I strolled past the little gathering, my hips jutting ever-so-righteously, and turned around to gloat at Mr. New Dad.
“I know, isn’t she adorable?!” I declared to Joe Studly. Mr. New Dad looked at me wide-eyed and then quickly pressed the shopping cart on down the aisle. Only a father would look that nervous when a good-looking man is enjoying a flirt-a-thon with his little baby daughter!
Joe Studly and I exchanged smiles and he said, “Aren’t babies amazing creatures?”
“Listen, you are cute,” I countered, “but babies make me ovulate.”
He just laughed and I pushed my cart down the aisle towards checkout. Even if I knew how to dress ’em and raise ’em, there was no point in trying to prove it again.