Wandering aimlessly through the hallways of a mall, down a street, or even through a museum, while pushing my baby stroller, I've come to notice the unwelcome gazes and size me up stares I now receive A.C. (after child) from other women. Knowing I suddenly wasn't giving off an LGBT vibe to anyone, I quickly gathered that the women were always moms (sexual orientation unknown and irrelevant) by virtue of the nature of their familiar expressions. Unlike the uninvited male gawking I received as a single woman, even as a married one before I popped out my two children, and sometimes even now due to the overwhelming size of my post-partum mammaries, from which I would always walk away feeling empowered that I still had "it," these gawps left me feeling exposed, judged, and sometimes violated. An assiduous subscriber to Dr. Seuss' motto that "those who matter don't mind, and those who mind don't matter," I was surprised to find myself caring about the condemnatory looks.
I'm sure I'm not alone in this feeling. You know the scrutiny, from shoe to haircut and everything in between, your entire being is measured and analyzed in a 30-second gape -- shorter than a racist sound bite that could ruin a politician's career. The questions buzzing through these women's minds -- ones often discussed in mommy blogs and online parenting forums -- run the gamut of logical to insane, dissecting everything from the make, model, and price of each piece of baby gear toted, baby's weight, mother's post-partum weight, baby's hair or lack thereof, mother's hair or lack thereof, to whether the mom is sporting a push present or not. Regarding the latter, a whole other contest ensues, one which reminds me of the female version of the game men play -- whose dick is bigger than yours? -- except that women did it using the cut, clarity, colour, and size of each other's engagement rings as their measuring sticks.
Some comments I've caught muttered audible enough for someone who is hearing impaired to have heard include:
I wonder where she got her stroller?
She must be rich because she has a Bugaboo!
What a great diaper bag! I'm so jealous because mine is from Target and clearly hers is Gucci.
Look at all that hair on her baby's head! I wonder if she uses Rogaine on her daughter?
What an ugly child. Thank god my kid is cute! Why doesn't she just wax his unibrow?
Her child is so young, so how come she can fit her ass into non-maternity jeans?
Her child is so old, why isn't he in daycare already? I guess she doesn't have to work.
And so on, and so on it goes. Heaven forbid if your baby or toddler screams and you don't quell her verbal rage immediately, the sentencing from the peanut gallery worsens. What happened to the sisterhood of mothers, of women, to help each other out instead of singling each other out for any perceived faux-pas or mothering decision? Did women take a U-turn in their seven-seat mini-vans and SUVs back to the 1950s, when such nasty attitudes prevailed in the domesticated homes in which women resided, because they were forced to by societal anti-feminist pressures? At least back then there was no Internet, no Facebook, no Twitter where anyone could socially castigate another woman for her perceived choices, which have emboldened further women to express their views to anyone, including strangers, in person.
Although I've been guilty of a holier-than-thou moment or two, I've never spoken such thoughts aloud for anyone to hear, despite my motto being, "I'm not mean, just honest," for I was taught that if I don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all. So, if you do see me walking around, pushing my pram (or, usually in my case, my baby inside of his car seat atop a Snap 'n Go), stop and say hello instead of wondering how many strollers I own, or why I'm reading or writing on my laptop instead of stimulating my baby 24/7, or how come I'm able to wear skinny jeans four months after giving birth. I'm happy to answer all of your questions, for I'd rather be looked in the eye by someone cutting me down to size rather than stabbed in the back based on unsubstantiated beliefs.