Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Babies: The Hype

Yeah, like I said before sometimes I look at someone dumb or ugly or needlessly cruel or holding a cabinet position or kalishnakov and think--they used to be babies.

What's that say about the status of the baby? It's almost as if the baby-phase is unconnected with everything that follows. The baby is some kind of distant, barely related ancestor of the later adult although we often try to draw some kind of tie between the two.

Everyone worries about killing babies but the same people who go nuts over the fetus could care less when some adult gets the death penalty--the fetus who can't talk and who doesn't in fact know about the existence of other humans v. the adult who leaves relations and friends and acquaintances behind. The person with a name. You'd think they'd care at least as much about the adult but almost as soon as you leave the womb you're pretty much on your own. Why do babies have this elevated status?

I know I'm like a broken record but I still don't get the hype about babies. Sure, I'm altogether infatuated with my yet to be born baby. When I see a 6 mo. old reaching across the table for the cup from which her mother was just drinking in a exploratory, determined but semi-drunken way the genius of that reach just hurts. The solemn and inquisitive expression that baby has seems classic and profound in a way no other expression can be.

I'm coming to understand the feelings about babies but not the hype. Of course, I loved my siblings when they were babies in an intense way that was a little obsessive. Separation from my sister or brother when they were babies made me cry many times. Every once in a while I think about the whammy of charm my brother put on me from the very day he was born and worry that my own baby won't have that power. Because my brother...he is astonishing. Has he set the bar too high? Does my baby have too much to live up to? I mean: I read Lacan and then spent hours putting my brother in front of the mirror to see if he reached the mirror stage yet. Virtually everything he did even prior to speech fascinated me.

So what do I mean by hype? This fact might be distorted by my perspective as a soon to be proud owner of the most baby-like of babies the newborn but there are thousands and thousands of books and websites and products and debates devoted to these little un-linguistic entities. There are ferocious debates between those who advocate CIO (crying it out) and those who claim that CIO will destroy the kid forever.

As someone who spent my infancy cared for by a variety of relatives...well, God only knows what they did. Crying it out was probably the least of the things. And I admit: I am a mess, a wreck, deeply deeply flawed. But since there's no getting to the bottom of the reasons for that I'd say it's simply better not to worry about it.

My theory for the hype is that it is so easy to project onto babies all our fantasies about how the world should be and how we might create the perfect human. The perfect family. And then of course we don't know what the hell they really want and there's very little they can tell us--and they therefore won't interfere with our fantasy.

And what happens when you graduate from wobbly walking and half-garbled sentences into coordination and articulate speech? You might as well be chopped liver. No one seems all that worried about what's going on with 11 year olds. Yet it seems that they are the more complex and easily influenced ones--what does a baby remember? Babies don't even have a context or language to put things in.

Ah, forget it, here's a poem I found

You can hide it like a signature
or birthmark but it's always there
in the greasy light of your dreams,
the knots your body makes at night,
the sad innuendos of your eyes,
whispering insidious asides in every
room you cannot remain inside. It's
there in the unquiet ideas that drag and
plead one lonely argument at a time,
and those who own a little are contrite
and fearful of those who own too much,
but owning none takes up your life.
it cannot be replaced with a house or car,
a husband or wife, but can be ignored,
denied, and betrayed, until the last day,
when you pass yourself on the street
and recognize the agreeable life you
were afraid to lead and turn away.

--Philip Schultz


Post a Comment

<< Home