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Thursday, May 29, 2008

What about boob?

When Erin was five months old Emily went back to work and I became a stay at home dad. Emily had been going to new parents' groups at our local Day One for Erin's entire life, and had built up friendships with many of the moms with kids in Erin's age group. Not knowing what else to do with my time when I became the primary I started taking Erin to these groups once she was in the "6-12 month" age group.

My reason? That group sounded more like a playgroup than a mommy group, and ostensibly the point was to get Erin out of the house; I wasn't looking to make friends. And I didn't need to sit around in a circle complaining about (or bragging about) my husband, or talking about who had the sorest nipples and/or vagina.

As luck would have it, and despite all of my efforts, I did manage to make friends. Women I love hanging out with. They've made out with me and fought over me, and I would meet up with them at least twice each week, sometimes more often.

I was, and still am, the only guy in the groups that have since splintered off from the Day One playgroups. Which makes me a bit infamous, I think. At a birthday party (yeah, the babies are all turning one) last weekend I was introduced to the mother of one of my mom-friends, and I was greeted with "Oh, so this is Shawn." Um. Yes. I'm sure everything she had been told about me was lovely, because that's just the kind of person my mom-friend is. But still, I wondered...

You see, I do constantly worry what they think of me. I'm sure they all worry what everyone thinks of everyone else, but you'll pardon me if I claim a little uniqueness in the worry department: I am the only one with dangly bits and facial hair.

When I first started going to Day One the conversation was still in many ways about nipples. Not so much about vaginas, it being six months since delivery, but nipples were still an issue. Sometimes I worried that I was stifling the conversation. Once I came in late and the facilitator said "Well, the topic I went with today was 'sex', because I didn't think you were coming." But you know what? I heard a lot about sex that day. I don't think anybody was feeling stifled just because I was in the room.

More evidence that I am just one of the girls to them is the regularity with which I catch sight of a boob. Every playdate or signing class or birthday party or whatever involves, at some point, me getting a big ol' eyeful.

I swear I'm not darting my eyes around hoping to sneak a peak. Boob-sightings just happen. And the moms don't seem worried about it. Which I think is fantastically confident and comfortable, and flattering really, in a wow-they-don't-think-of-me-any-differently kind of way. Also I don't think I'd be taking my shirt off in front of them any time soon, especially since I've been telling lies about my Ryan Reynolds abs for months now.

But even though they have never seemed to care, I have always felt a little bit like a pervert when it happens. I don't ever ever ever want one of them turning to me and saying "Hey, pal...my eyes are up here."

There are probably many guys out there who would love to be in a position to catch a glimpse of a strange nipple every now and then. I worry about being mistaken for one of them. So far I just act as though it's not a big deal to me; and maybe that's exactly what I should be doing; and maybe it really isn't a big deal to me.

But it's just one more in a long list of SAHD worries I have.

Another worry? That letting them know what I worry about will cause them to worry about making me uncomfortable. If it does make me uncomfortable, it's not in a "ew, gross" or "stop hitting on me" way. It's in a "I hope I'm a good person" way. Nobody, I think, likes to worry about whether or not they are a good person, and that's what the flashes of boob make me think about.

So, if you are reading this, breast-feeding mom friends (and I know that some of you are, because you are little voyeurs :} ) don't change on my account. But, maybe you can not sit behind me so often when we're supposed to be in a circle. When I turn to grab Erin as she runs by I end up with a sudden, surprising glimpse. Maybe you're more comfortable sitting where you think I won't see, but I promise, if you are sitting in full view I will do my best to preserve your modesty. I just need to know what's coming so that I can look away discretely instead of with a "Holy crap, uh, sorry, um, nipples?"

15 comments:

for a different kind of girl said...

I was going to ask if you were hitting on *me* with the most excellent 'what about boob?' title, because I can't life. It made me swoon a bit. Then this confession about your Ryan Reynolds-lite abs comes into play and I swooned some more, because, well, Ryan Reynolds.

But that would make me sound like I was just all darting around and hoping to catch a glimpse, so I could play it off nonchalantly with a "No one told me this was BYOB, but it looks like ya brought your six pack!"

I think you're good acting status quo, though I imagine it can be a bit disconcerting. Even I get a little sidetracked and start looking for things over my friends' shoulders when they bring out the boob. I was never that smooth. With my moves, that is. I don't know how smooth my friends' boobs are.

I'm stuck thinking about abs, so I'm babbling. I should go now.

Danielle said...

This is funny.

I like reading your posts because it's a different perspective. Well, different from anything I'm familiar with, anyway. The stay at home dad thing and the issues/things that come with that.

It's interesting. And coming from someone who can articulate it all so well is cool.

For example, if I were to come across a situation where I witnessed a boob being whipped out in front of a man, I would immediately wonder about that mom's thought processes regarding it. Is she comfortable? Empowered? Does she even care?

Never before would I have thought about what that man was thinking at that moment, and his level of comfortability with the whole thing....

Anyway, good luck with the boobs, I mean, playdates.

SciFi Dad said...

Honestly, the guys who envy you are the younger guys.

I recently read a quick post that talked about how a woman's boobs go from "Show Boobs" to "Working Boobs" once they have a baby.

Working Boobs are very different from Show Boobs.

Heather said...

I think the fact that these women don't leave the room or ask you to do so when they are feeding their children shows that they realize you are a decent guy and not out for a peek at their jubblies. It isn't as if they are doing a burlesque show, and I don't think they think that that's what you're thinking. =D

verybadcat said...

You're such a perv. ;-)

I'm not a Mom. What I can tell you is that I have a guy friend that I'm pretty close to and comfortable with. We work together. We were at a formal business dinner together, and went up a floor to do something? (find someone else? do not remember.) Anywho, my thigh highs were slipping on me, so when we were in the elevator, I took the opportunity to yank 'em back up where they belong. His reaction was a very visible version of yours.

I didn't even think about it before I did it, because I don't have my Girl Guard up around him. On afterthought, it occurred to me that he might have enjoyed it (probably because he admitted it), but because he's a good guy who I trust, I don't care. My thigh highs were slipping. That was the most important thing. With any other male coworker, I would have never done it. With him, I didn't ever think about not doing it.

Make any sense? I didn't think so. I would just enjoy the show when you get one, and worry less about what they think of you. You're a human male, so you're going to get some kind of enjoyment out of a little boob sighting. They know that. They don't care, because they're comfortable with you. They're just thinking about the baby being hungry or it being time for feeding. :)

Ali said...

nursing boobs = functional. not sexy.

Backpacking Dad said...

FADKOG: I'm definitely snagging the "BYOB" line. That's awesome.

Danielle: Men are people too!! We have thoughts and feelings and emotions and we just want to be loved! :}

SciFi Dad: Younger guys=stupid guys. And that's who I don't want to be mistaken for.

heather: You have not done me any favours by bringing up burlesque. Now I won't be able to get that image out of my head.

verybadcat: I've never had a woman yank up her thigh highs in front of me. But I'm going to be on the lookout for it now.

Ali: That is exactly right. I worry that they think I don't know that. Or, I suppose I'm not really worried about it anymore. Writing this out has helped. It's been cheaper than therapy. Which is a great name for a blog and I think I'm going to steal it.

Heather said...

Haaaa. I kept checking your URL, because it sounds exactly like my own husband wrote this. You SAHDs, so witty.

James Austin said...

I catch glimpses all the time by accident with all the nursing moms in all the new parent circles me and Mrs. LIAYF hang in.

The only thing that bothers me is that thinking "What are the moms thinking? Do they think they are making me uncomfortable, or think I am trying to sneek a peek. That
makes me way more uncomfortable than the actual accidental sighting, which is no big deal when you are at home with a nursing mom for 11 months.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Ali called it. Kudos to you for recognizing it.

Gerbil said...

I'm willing to bet at least a dime that 90% of the moms aren't thinking about anything but getting their child fed.

Back in the day when my older two were infants, women DID NOT breastfeed in public without a good deal of harrassment. I have distinct memories of retreating the farthest corner of a nearly empty fast-food restaurant with three, count them three, recieving blankets strategically draped over everything. I looked more like a laundry pile than a nursing mother and I was still thrown out of the restaurant.

Now? Friends have nursed their children in front of me, in front of my husband and its no big deal... it's just lunch.

Backpacking Dad said...

heather: ya we are. That's why you rich girls keep us around.

james austin: ho-hum. Yet another nipple.

jenn: why thank you.

gerbil: they threw you out of the restaurant? gah. And to think, all the times I've just gotten up and peed in the corner and never once been thrown out....sexism everywhere.....

Land of Bean said...

I'm a breastfeeding mom who is fairly comfortable with my "working boob" status and I still feel a little pervy when I catch sight of one of my mommy friends' nips.

Great to hear from the dad's point of view!

Danielle said...

Sigh. Okay. Here I go. I can't help it anymore.

Thanks to you BPD, I figured out about subscribing to comments so that I now see everything.

Before, I used to just do drive-by commenting and forget about it. Now, my inbox looks like a mine field.

And. And! this post keeps popping back up and I keep having more thoughts.

SO I just have to get it out so I'll stop thinking it.

While I see absolutely nothing wrong with public displays of lunch, I personally was never comfortable with it in front of anyone. I voluntarily retreated to my bedroom every.single.time.

That's it.

Not a controversial topic because I don't disagree with public feeding, I just never personally liked it.

Was that value added here?

Probably not.

Backpacking Dad said...

land of bean: perv. Stop trying to sneak a peak. :}

danielle: very valuable. I hope no one made you feel badly for seeking out some privacy. I think whatever works for you works for you, and the rest of the world can go hang. That includes pervy backpacking dads.