When I was a kid, we were on a family ski trip to Angel Fire, NM. It was my mother, my brother and I. We stopped off at the McDonald’s at the right hand turn in Las Vegas, NM. If you’ve driven the route, you know which one I’m talking about. It’s the hardest McDonald’s not to stop at. Well lit. Perfectly placed at the foot of the mountain range. The last recognizable corporate logo you see before you disappear into the mountains and the first you see on the way home. Room for trailer parking. Usually a bum causing some disturbance in the parking lot. It’s fun. I rarely eat there anymore, but will always use the opportunity to do damage on their bathroom.
When we stopped there once as a kid, I remember placing my order at the line and then sitting down at a table just near the front of the dining room…where my mother could see me. As my eyes shifted from the ordering line to directly in front of me, I see a woman, boob out on the table and a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes just like the Bible talked about screaming in her left arm. I frantically look away. I panic a little. Did I see something that I wasn’t supposed to see? What’s a woman doing with her boob out in a McDonald’s? My shock and horror as I sat there staring down a bursting nipple and half-dollar sized areola caused me to nervously shift my eyes anywhere in the dining room but on her boob. I look at the table, the wad of napkins in my hand, the speckles on the table, the parking lot out of the window, my fingernails, the hair beginning to grow on my knuckles. Don’t look at the booby. Don’t look at the booby. Don’t look at the booby. Don’t look at the booby. Don’t look at the booby. Don’t look at the booby, for Christ’s sake! It was like if I looked again, I was going to turn into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife.
And like any 10-year old, I look again. This time, a little less panicked, but still not altogether alright. I try to keep it together and let my eyes squirrel away and my eyes go from left to right, back to left crossing again the booby out in front of me. I look at the woman, she’s looking at me. She knows how petrified I am. They smell your fear. New mothers. They smell danger.
This was my first and probably my last full-on confrontation with a nursing mother. And, without warning, it nearly scarred me to this day. It wasn’t like I was watching a video and the woman had no face or identity. The lady was sitting just beyond my french fries and she looked at me! Needless to say, I failed that test miserably. Total discomfort. I buckled under pressure.
My fear was in the booby. You’d thought I had a gun pulled out on me. The image of that woman with her bare breast in the fluorescent lighting of that McDonald’s dining room was blazed into my mind. Here, two decades later, I can remember it like it happened just last night.
The nursing mother is a compromise for guys. Of course, it’s a compromise for nursing mothers too. For the guys, though, you spend your whole childhood thinking that boobies are something you’re only supposed to see if you’re watching movies at Omar’s house (oops! Sorry, Omar). And, then, you see them in real life being used for what they’re really supposed to be used for and it’s a little freaky. The thought of their natural purpose is sometimes a transition that’s not easily made for boys. You have to cover them up all the time unless you have a child and you can pop ’em out in a restaurant?! No one told me the rules!
Since then, I’ve grown up. I know what happens. I get it. But still don’t know much about the rules of when, where and how. Then I went to the store for my bedresting and totally lovely wife for this piece of literary mastery.
As a guy, you might as well be buying the special bra, the pump and nipple ice packs too because there’s nothing inconspicuous about buying this without your lovely wife on your side. I felt like a 14 year old buying an arm-sized bottle of Jack Daniels and a 25-round box of shotgun shells. I walk up with my book and method of payment sitting on top to leave no time for inspection of the product.
Like I’ve never successfully navigated awkward. I’m the champ of getting over myself. I’ve done it for years. Guess this comes with fatherhood. I’m just late to the party. Breast milk. Boobies. Nipple ice packs. Engorged breasts! Guess I’m gonna learn the ropes fast. I’ve done it that way my entire life. From cooking burgers forty at a time to one-hour photo development. I learn quickly and pride myself on my ability to adapt to new environments and situations.
Okay, this photo from the opening chapter makes me a little uncomfortable. Is this family a little too tight? I won’t be expected to pose for a similar photo, will I? The pregnant belly photos were fun, but this seems a little adventurous. Ellison won’t lash out at me like a dog staking claim to a bowl of food will she? I’d just rather booby-time be a mother-and-child experience and keep my furry mug out of the photo. Not that I’ll be taking photos.
My lovely wife called me in to show me a few of these masterpieces from the early chapters of The Nursing Mother’s Companion. I’m not sure what’s the point of including an illustration of “astonishingly big and hard” breasts in the book, but this makes me uncomfortable for the woman. Poor woman looks like she’s about to explode. Is this is an exaggeration? Did the illustrator take some artistic license with this one?
Yeah, I’ll admit it. The engorged breast image makes me a little uncomfortable. I can’t look at it without offering her a towel to cover up with. I feel bad for her. She looks like embarrassed. She looks like a reluctant participant. I just want to help a mother out and toss her a shirt.
Then there’s this one who appears to be suffering from a “wardrobe malfunction.” Like the woman in McDonald’s, she’s kinda smirking at you like, “What. You gotta problem with me feeding my hungry child?”
“Uh, n-n-n-no, ma’am. I wasn’t looking. I, uh, I don’t know what you’re doing. I’m not looking. I didn’t even notice your breast sticking out of your bra. That’s because I didn’t even see it. I’m sorry. But I’m not apologizing because I saw your booby. I’m apologizing because I’m here and you’re there. Not that you don’t belong there, but I clearly don’t belong here. I should be somewhere else.”
Yep, learning days are back again. I’m going back to booby school.