Imagine a scenario where you are sitting in a public place where there are a lot of strangers around, such as a restaurant. You are minding your own business when one of these complete strangers comes out of seemingly nowhere and starts telling you about how cute you are, touching you, pinching your cheeks, and running their fingers through your hair. Or maybe they even start rubbing your belly. Perhaps after that, they start making assumptions about which sexual organs you have. Does this not seem like off putting and even rude behavior? Well, some people seem to think that doing these things to infant children and pregnant mothers is perfectly socially acceptable.
I can understand friends and family wanting to touch a baby and most of them have the common courtesy to ask first and get some sort of non-verbal cue from the child, such as a smile or a warm look, that it is okay. But a complete stranger in a random restaurant? I was caught off guard when a fellow restaurant patron did it to Tsunami while the boys and I were enjoying our lunch today, but next time maybe I will go over to her table and start running my fingers through their or their lunchmate’s hair and start making assumptions about their sexual organs just because I have developed a false gender bias based on hair length or curl.
It is not as if the baby, in his or her case, actually gets to have an opinion on the matter either. In fact, I think that it is part of the bigger issue which is that some people, including these cheek pinching, hair running, uninvited human touchers, do not consider an infant a person. It is as if they do not get personal rights of refrain from being poked and prodded by strangers until they have reached a certain age. And then if they are a pregnant female, they loose those rights again for their tummy. Some people, due to a sense of patriarchy, never think women get that right at all to be honest.
I mean even when I am at the most crowded music festival and I bump into the person next to me, I try to apologize for the unintended, uninvited touch even though at that point it is pretty much understood that it is bound to happen. Most people are pretty decent about it in that environment. Everyone understands that if you enter the mosh pit, you are going to get touched by sweaty dancing strange maniacs. If you are crowd surfing, you are relying on it to keep you up there surfing. Obviously some context is involved, but it seems to me that someone dining with their friends or family at a dinner table is NOT the context for random stranger touching.
A common argument against this sort of touching is germs. I am not germophobic. I think some exposure to germs helps build strong important immunity. However, when a complete stranger is involved in a public place, there is no telling where those hands have last been, or if that person is carrying an illness. I do believe in standard hand washing, just not the overboard kind where I think every surface should be sanitized as I am about to touch it. I tend to consider myself a realist in the germ department. Not too much exposure, but not too little. Somewhere in the middle. My personal bigger gripe is with the personal social space aspect.
Maybe I am being overtly sensitive about this. Maybe everyone but me thinks it is completely acceptable to go around touching, rubbing, hair brushing, and patting any person in any situation everywhere, but judging from the even a short stroll through the random parenting message board, I do not think so. So what is it? Am I crazy? Is this sort of touching okay? What do you think?