A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
Last week, I took a trip into Manhattan to have lunch with my father. We went to a midtown coffee shop rather than a more civilized restaurant, mindful of the fact that our dining companion hurls as much food onto the floor as she manages to place in her mouth and likes to squeal and crow with glee when she does either. We were seated towards the back, at a table alongside a passing lane where waitstaff place and retrieve orders from the kitchen, delivery guys pick up their bags, and busboys head to deposit their dirty trays. This was fine with us. Like I said: messy, noisy baby. We fit right in.
True to form, V was a perfect little angel-monster. She had a grand time eating and throwing a turkey cheeseburger, sweet potato fries and a pickle. She tasted vanilla ice cream (generally unimpressed). She squeaked and shrieked with joy and said LALALALALA to the waitress, who was generally amused and received an extra-nice tip which I hope she shared with the guy who had to clean up our table. Lunch lasted approximately 25 minutes. I managed to wolf down half a burger, myself. All in all, a roaring success.
And yet, throughout the course of the meal, I was at times aware of a slightly-older-than-middle-aged couple seated behind my father. The woman wore an expression of severe displeasure and seemed eager for me to take notice of her scowl. She was clearly unhappy with being seated next to a baby, and did not at all feel that her comport was acceptable. I thought a lot about it after we left, and I think that this is a complex issue and sucks to your assmar, lady.
Allow me to elaborate.
While I am thoroughly charmed and dazzled by everything my baby does, I am not one of those blessed mothers who floats through community space thinking that the world must obviously feel the same way. Kids can be annoying. I get it. That’s why I selected the most casual, no frills, sit-down spot I could find and sat at the worst table they had. Yes, she made noise. But it was happy noise, and children are actual human beings who are, in fact, permitted to express themselves in public, irritating though it may be to some. Had she cried, I would have taken her for a walk. Had she thrown food at our neighbors, I would have addressed it. But she simply existed, and she is simply a baby, and that was enough to attract the dismay of Miss Hannigan over there.
Here is what I say: go to the second-most casual restaurant in midtown. Sit at the third-worst table. I promise, you will not find us there. But I will not be exiled to Sbarro’s and McDonald’s for the next three years. My child and I are allowed to leave the house and go places where other people without children also go. We eat at off-hours. We choose our venues thoughtfully. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, here.
As I stewed about this, I began to wonder what it would be like if restaurants offered child-friendly areas like the smoking and non-smoking sections of old. In theory, I don’t like the idea of being rounded up and forced to sit apart from the general population. But in practice, it would relieve the tension and discomfort that comes from attempting to feed and entertain your child—and yourself—while a stranger glowers at you from over the booth.
I just want to eat a freaking sandwich that someone else makes for me, and I want to do it sitting down in a room that isn’t the same room where I spend 90% of my days. Okay, lady? So back off. This is not the winter to push a parent. We will snap like twigs. Really crazy, angry twigs.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!