I’ve always been fond of babies.
According to my sister, I get two lactation spots on my T-shirt every time I get close enough to a baby. Now, I am familiar enough with my own biology and S’s hyperbole to know that this is highly unlikely, but the fact remains that I do tend to start insulting the Queen’s language with baby talk if I happen to meet one of those little gremlins.
So there I was last night, hammering away at a computer keyboard trying to slog my way to a better CPI, when the new neighbors decided to pay a visit. I’m normally too lazy and disinterested to take part in that kind of socializing, but since these neighbors had never met me before, I was duly ordered by my mother to get the dust off my face and get my lazy butt into the drawing-room in five minutes flat (okay, she said, “N, come here and meet Mr and Mrs P”, but that’s what she meant). I meekly obeyed.
I flashed my best “sleazeball lawyer” smile as I strode confidently into the drawing-room right behind mom. I looked smart. Confident. Killer. If Raymond was in the sweatshirt business, I’d have looked like The Complete Man. The neighbors looked suitably impressed and S looked suitably rolly-eyed.
I said hello to everyone. Shook hands. Exchanged greetings.
And spotted the pram in the corner.
It was small, blue colored affair and right inside it was an unbelievably cute baby girl. Deciding to go say hello to her too, I walked over, gave her a little smile and a wave, and made the usual meaningless noises.
To my surprise, the chatter level in the room fell sharply.
The neighbors were looking a bit weirdly at me.
And I understood.
In the neighbors’ opinion, a 6’3″ tall Raymond Man isn’t supposed to love babies. Even if he’s wearing a sweatshirt. Just not done, you know. You gotta fit the stereotype and all that.
I glanced at my sister and exchanged unsaid words. Her eyes said everything. The rest of the evening was going to be a LOT of fun.
We deliberately talked a lot about the, ah, unconventional sides of our own personality.
I explained to Mrs P exactly why shiny pans are better for a Southern style cake.
Didn’t mention technology or engineering a single time unless asked a direct question.
Talked about every single “chick flick” A has ever coaxed me into watching.
Expressed my (very real) disdain for mindless action movies.
Showed them one of my more impressionistic watercolor paintings.
Talked about how relaxing cooking can be after a long day.
The expressions on the neighbors’ faces were priceless. S went on and on, lecturing everyone about the difference between Jamaican and Puerto Rican Rum, even as the Mr and Mrs P reeled in shock at the thought that a girl might drink rum.
They looked shocked enough for me to feel sorry for them, but hey, it’s not like they were being harmed or anything.
My parents struggled to understand what was going on and only cottoned on after I told them once the neighbors had left . We had a good laugh about it afterwards.
It’s so much fun baiting people who believe in stereotypes. So easy to shock them. So damn easy to make them raise their eyebrows right to the heavens in surprise.
They say it takes courage to challenge stereotypes. It does. But it can be a lot of fun too. It can even be an educational experience for the person who is doing the stereotyping. Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, they’ll be less likely to go by appearance the next time. Or maybe they just think I’m a weirdo. I can live with that.