Peek-a-boo! Peek-a-NO… Bad grown up



I don’t have internet in my apartment, and as a consequence, I find babies disturbing. I know, it seems odd. Let me explain.

Erica Buist

I don’t have internet in my apartment, due to an ongoing and very boring row with a certain telecommunications company, a despicable monopolizing troll of a company, whose existence on this planet serves only to give Satan some vacation time, knowing his work is being done.

Thanks to this company, my internet-dependent job is carried out in cafes with Wi-Fi. I live, utterly undeservingly, in a beautiful area of West London in an apartment so small I basically have to wear it like a jacket. Areas like these are densely populated with mummies and daddies and babies who also like to spend their time in cafes, but in much more disturbing ways. Take now, for instance. As I write this, I am sitting in a café, and in the same café there are three severely underdeveloped humans (or “babies” as they prefer to be called – if that’s not political correctness gone mad I don’t know what is).

Now let me make something clear – I don’t mind babies, their gurgling and dribbling and their propensity to throwing things they have just sucked on. They are babies; that is their prerogative. They make noises and they squirm around, useless.

What disturbs me is their effect on the adults around them. Not only is all their attention on the baby (fair enough, they need to keep the thing alive), but they act like babies themselves. I just looked up and 4 – count them, 4 – adults have their tongues out and are waggling their heads about to make the things laugh. And the worst thing? It’s not even working. It looks like they’re teaching them a baby-friendly version of head-banging. I suppose it’s mildly embarrassing that one or two of them have noticed me observing them and typing, but why the dirty looks? The nerve of these people… Making faces like Goofy on Ritalin then acting like I’m the strange one. I’m sorry, were you hoping to be an undocumented moron today?

Here’s my problem with baby-talk and baby-faces: it’s patronizing. I know. It’s a baby. But you don’t have to talk like the thing to connect with it. Isn’t it a bit like affecting a cockney accent when talking to your mechanic? I remember being patronized as a two-year old, in a party dress and having people coo and say “Look at you! Aren’t you pretty? Are you a princess? Are you a fairy princess?” No. I’m just wearing a stupid pink dress. But thanks for asking. Now step away before I throw cake at you and blame it on my being two years old.

I didn’t say that, obviously. I just said “Yes! I am a fairy princess!” and giggled with glee, but I’m sure I was seething inside. There seems to be a representation of every stage of life so far in this café; the babies, the students, even an elderly couple having afternoon tea. My least favourite stage? Sitting on the table next to me. A group of teenage girls have been giggling for hours and suddenly the conversation has dried up. One of them just asked, rather honestly, “Who else is there to slag off? There’s got to be someone.”

I look to the elderly couple in hope. They are sitting in silence, obviously having been married for decades and completely run out of things to say to each other. Yet they don’t seem to be upset by that fact. My overly-articulate brain, a product of my way overly-articulate generation can’t really grasp the idea of ‘comfortable silence’, and I wonder how many relationships we will destroy out of fear of this ultimately good sign. I will now ponder this in silence. Silence discounting the adults singing the ABC, just way too loudly.

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