Monday 13 August 2012

Hands Off

I don’t know when the last time a stranger tried to touch me was. Maybe at Leeds Festival circa 2004, and it was one of those absolute gimps holding a sign offeringFree Hugs. I hate those people. If you ever did that, I hate you. Even if it was in the past and you’re now a totally different person, I still hate you. I can’t forgive that kind of space invasion and stranger touching, it’s not ok.

 I hate the people who sit too close on public transport. I don’t want to smell your breath, you make me sick. In fact, this doesn’t apply just to strangers. I don’t want to smell anyone’s breath. It’s gross, and it’s something you should keep to yourself. Stop making my air warm, you pervert.
I had a boss who liked to get too close. She once ran towards me and hugged me. I actually crapped my pants. It was one of the worst moments of my life. At school there was a physics teacher who got too close, and slobbered at the same time, he was a disgrace.
I can’t understand how a person can go through life without learning the importance of personal space, especially for strangers. Why would you want to get up close and personal with people you don’t know?
I can’t bear the tube, or crowded trains, because I can think of nothing worse than breathing in the stench of another’s armpit. I hate when people eat foul smelling food on crowded public transport. I do not want to be forced to inhale the odor of your KFC bucket. When I was seven months pregnant and already suicidal at commuter time each day, a very large man sat down opposite me on the train and proceeded to unwrap a cheese and onion pasty. It stank. He was repulsive; pastry crumbling all over his breasts, and cheese gunk oozing down his chin. I wanted to projectile vomit in his face. I can honestly say I hated this man.
Strangers didn’t try to touch my stomach when I was pregnant, probably because of the slapped arse face just above it. If a stranger had tried to touch my bump, I think I would have gone bat shit crazy on them. I despise being touched by strangers, and everything is so much worse when you are pregnant.
A good friend was repeatedly touched while pregnant and she hated it. It made her very upset, I’m not sure if she ever told the strangers to get off, but she told me how it made her feel. I can’t understand why you would want to touch a stranger’s bump. Feeling your baby move is very intimate, and sharing this with the father is special. If you want to share this experience with your friends or family then that is your decision, but it is bizarre that a stranger would snatch that opportunity, or even think they would have a right to experience it.
Once the baby is born, even more strangers appear wanting a touch. I know that babies are cute and adorable and have tiny feet, but if it’s a baby you don’t know, why would you think it was ok for you to touch it?
I’ve actually had old ladies deliberately catch up with me so they can fall into step and grab Ebony’s hands. This is the downside of babywearing I suppose. Ebony isn’t protected in a pram, out of reach, she’s at grab level in the open air and so people feel entitled to help themselves.
Middle aged women will thrust their hands into Ebony’s reach so that she will grab their fingers and they will then have an excuse to stay put, asking tedious questions about her sleep patterns. I must have had the exact same conversation over a hundred times with different grabby strangers.
I don’t mind friends and family holding Ebony, because I know those people and have been able to make decisions about whether people can hold her. If you have a cold, you can’t hold her, because I don’t want to be up all night with a snotty baby. But I can’t make these decisions about strangers. They just thrust their potentially germy hands towards Ebony’s face and I hate it.
We took Ebony to a roller derby bout the other evening and it was so much fun. But while we were there, a middle aged woman kept looking over. This is the worst thing about the grabbers, you have plenty of warning they’re coming because they will stare at you for a very long time beforehand. In my head the music from jaws is playing as I can feel their eyes upon us. I imagine in their head they are saying; “What a lovely baby. I must touch it. No, it’s not your baby, don’t be weird. But it’s so cute, look at the tiny feet. I must go and touch it.”
After about half an hour of watching us from a distance, the woman appeared from behind. She immediately thrust her fat fingers forward and started stroking Ebony’s cheek: “Ooh, aren’t you up late?” she said. Firstly, no, Ebony is always up at 8pm. Secondly, why are you making judgements about her bedtime, it’s none of your business. Thirdly, if you do think she is up late, there is no point telling her about it she is a baby and has no control over such things. So, this greasy haired woman had already annoyed me, and then I smelt the smoke. This rancid woman had just been out for a cigarette, so her fingers stank of smoke, and then she had started stroking my baby’s face. I cannot understand this at all. Had this woman been in a coma since the 1950s and actually didn’t know that smoking isn’t advised around babies? Is she so repulsive that she cannot tell that her fingers smell strongly of nicotine? Or does she just consider it her right to wipe her yellow-stained fingers across my baby’s perfect cheeks?
I turned away so that Ebony was out of reach and eventually the woman waddled away, in the direction of another baby. Ebony likes interacting with people. She likes smiling, and laughing and playing, but that doesn’t mean you need to smear your germs all over her hands and face.

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