Friday, November 13, 2009

Food brutality

I've been very absent for the past three weeks. Not that I haven't been thinking about blogging. It just took a backseat to some personal upheavals, and I found, much to my surprise, that I get blogger's block when I'm feeling happy. And when I'm feeling anxious. And there haven't been any other emotions happening.

But today, I witnessed an outrage that finally put the blogger block to rest. In what feels like a past life, I travelled the world, and witnessed much public kindness and much public brutality. So much so that I feel pretty hardened now. But, there are two images that continue to haunt me. I like to think that it is merely coincidental that both were witnessed in New Zealand in the last 5 years.

My sons and I were standing in line at a bakery, behind a young mother who ordered a lovely, fat, pink finger bun for her toddler, its lush coat of icing spangled prettily with hundreds and thousands. The child reached up expectantly. My own cavities hummed with excitement.

It was then that the act of violence occurred. Ignoring the child's outstretched hand, the mother grabbed a napkin and vigorously scrubbed the icing off the bun. The poor child looked on bravely while I looked on horrified. He accepted the ruined treat humbly, and, I thought as I glanced down at my boys, with surprising grace. He was clearly used to this.

I still don't get it. Isn't the icing the whole point of a finger bun?

That mother would get on well with the group of parents I used to sometimes, despite my best efforts, bump into when I was walking my nannying charges through Central Park in New York City. These mothers banded together to oppose ice-cream trucks. One mother admitted:
I feel kind of bad. I want my three-year-old, Katherine, to have the full childhood experience and all. But it's really predatory for ice-cream vendors to be right inside the playground.
Is that really easier than just saying "no"? One mum insisted to her son that the ice-cream van was a "music truck". Perhaps sent as a public service for people with an uncontrollable craving for Greensleeves? She complained:
As a new mother, everyone advises you on toilet training, but the ice-cream truck, nobody ever mentions that.
In their ideal world, parents would discard the ice cream, and present their children with the stick.

I thought of these mothers when I witness the other brutal, haunting event that occurred when I was pregnant with my first child. Now, when reading this, bear in mind that I am not a clucky person, even when pregnant, even after having three children. When I meet other people's children, they generally have to work pretty hard to earn my friendship, let alone any smidgen of respect. The same ruthless approach tends to apply to parents. And I have no qualms admitting that, while I am undeniably supportive, I do judge other parents (to myself), and take smug pleasure when my judgements prove correct (which is often).

At a crowded food court at the policy-wonk end of Lambton Quay one busy lunch hour, a very large woman, with her very large husband and very large child (I guess he would have been around 4 years old), ambled into the food court and found a seat. Nothing significant in that, and I was so engrossed in selecting my sushi that I barely registered their presence, other than hearing the kid scream.

To this day, I do not know what made me look, but I glanced across and noticed the woman trying to breastfeed her child. Being pregnant with my first child, and still quite career-focused, I shuddered at this prospect and wondered if I would be this woman in 4 years time. The kid refused a feed, so, with evidence of much practice, the woman reached across to the next table, picked up the sugar bowl, dipped her nipple in it, and then offered a feed to her son again. Naturally, now that the item on offer was now sugar-coated, he accepted with less restraint this time.

One of the side effects of the personal upheaval of the last three weeks is that I seem to suffer from amnesia. I'm not sure why I share that last story with you, other than to suggest you never use sugar bowls in cafes.

4 comments:

libertyscott said...

It is an attitude that says "I'll do what I like and damn what others think or consequences for them".

My horror story last night walking in the rain was hearing a 40 something woman (no idea if she was mother) with three immaculately dressed children around 4-7 telling them they are "fking stupid don't say such fckin stupid things..." then "shut the fck up".

I wanted to punch her, and tell the children. No, you're not. This woman is a failure in life, she is not someone to look up to, whatever she does whatever she saysl, don't take it personally.

Yet I'd be the criminal.

Dare I play nanny state and believe it might be an idea to make it a crime for people to talk to small children like that?

The scumderclass.

Mark.V. said...

I agree with Libertyscott, the effect of words last longer than a smack on the bum, yet a smack on the bum is prohibited and we may say anything we like to our children.

coge said...

There was a hippy woman with an 18 month old child strapped against her chest, in Pak n save a few days back. Instincts told me something wasn't quite right. I usually smile at other parents when I'm out, but no reaction here. Probably because I am a man. Anyway I get to the fish counter & there is the said hippy/militant green woman having a go at the poor lady serving the fish (& doing her humble job) "I am disgusted that there is tuna for sale here, don't you know it's an endangered species" Needless to say I purchased a very nice tuna steak for my dinner.

Oswald Bastable said...

Thankfully I take my coffee black and without sugar!

Sights like that just make you want to pour bleach into your eyes!