I recently journeyed back to my Oklahoman homeland for the winter holidays. On our last day in town, my 1-year-old contracted some kind of nasty stomach virus that had him writhing in confusion and pain when he wasn't heaving watery baby throw-up.
Have you ever seen a vomiting baby? It's sadder than a dog with a tiny cast and a confused old person combined. Not only are they in pain, they don't understand why they're in pain, and just keep trying to twist and contort themselves into some kind of position that will make them feel better. Mine actually curled himself into a ball and kept wriggling into corners or behind the sofa like a dying cat. Every once in awhile he would stand up and run to me with his arms out, only to gaze haunted and bereft into my eyes when he realized he didn't feel any better in my lap.
All this both delayed our flight and introduced me to a 30-minutes-on-30-minutes-off sleeping schedule, which I'm considering marketing to the military as a form of new and highly effective torture. (Just kidding, they totally already know about that shit.) After a trip to the ER, we were given some meds and cleared to fly, but our trip was aborted when the little guy vomited again at the gate.
As I tucked him back into his stroller and started the long trudge back through the airport to attempt to retrieve our checked bags, a woman pushed herself in close to me as she passed.
"Honey, I know you don't want to hear it," she started. "But when you bend over like that, your whole rear end is hanging out."
If she knew I didn't want to hear it, why did she tell me anyway? Sleep-deprived and struggling with baby and bags, I managed the extremely restrained response of, "I'm not really concerned about that right now." My mental narrative added a Jerry Springer-esque string of expletives not usually utilized in my city life.
I've known for a while that I'm not a ladylike bender. I've taken to facing the street in the morning when I put the baby in his stroller in so I don't flash the whole neighborhood, just my mailbox. Babies in general require a lot of scooping and bending and I frankly don't dress appropriately for that kind of movement. The funny thing is that while no one in New York has ever said boo about this, EVERYONE in Oklahoma did, leading me to believe that I am showing my ass pretty much constantly but people in New York aren't as "helpful" as in other parts of the country.
I could have chalked my irritation with the "rear end" lady up to sleep deprivation, but when I showed up the next day in a new-but-still-shortish dress (and opaque black tights, I might add) for my second attempt at flying back to New York, the scene replayed itself in an even more infuriating fashion. After wrestling my shoes, coat, purse, diaper bag and stroller onto the X-ray belt and strolling through the metal detector with baby on right hip, the security guard who'd waved me through said, "Come here and let me talk to you for a minute."
That is some shit you do not want to hear at airport security. I thought I was about to get detained or cavity-searched or something, but no, she just wanted to give me a little lecture on bending from the knee.
"I don't know if you realize how short your skirt is," she confided in hushed tones, "but when you bend over, you can see everything."
"OK, thanks," I replied. This is when most potentially awkward social interactions should end -- get in, get out, everybody go about your business like nothing happened. But she just kept going.
"You need to pay more attention, because you basically just flashed the whole checkpoint."
"OK." I watched my cubbies of freshly X-rayed stuff hit the end of the conveyer belt.
"So bend from the knee, OK?"
Is this part of your job? I wanted to respond. Instead, I just said, "I've got a sick baby here. I'm more concerned about other things right now."
"OK, you can go. Hope he feels better," she finally waved me on.
It's not so much the message itself that irks. I'm all for a friendly heads-up from my fellow woman. For sure, tell a bitch if she's got lipstick on her teeth or whatever. If Corynne or Mandy were to tell me, "Yo, I can see your ass when you bend over," I'd thank them. Actually, I think they may have told me that and I actually said I didn't give a fuck, but I wasn't mad.
But something in the delivery was just so ickily Midwestern -- dramatic, shaming, EXTENDED. She made me feel like a child being chastised by her mother, and because she was airport security, I felt both trapped there and like I couldn't tell her to back off. Come to think of it, there was an incident at a McDonalds Playplace when I forgot to wear underwear to a childhood birthday party, so maybe I just never really got over being forbidden from playing in the Hamburgler jail because it was 6 feet off the ground and a neighbor mom whispered to my mom that I was exposing myself.
Considering the fact that this has clearly been a lifelong problem, I guess it really is time I learned to buckle a stroller without showing the world my sweet, sexy goodies. Because while I honestly don't care who sees my ass, apparently other people do. And who wants to spend any more time in airport security than they have to?