By CL Bledsoe
I’ve written before about how women used to compliment me for being a male who is involved in my daughter’s life. But when strange women approach me, they’re not always complimentary. There have been several instances where women I didn’t know accosted me or glared at me for seemingly no reason — but I think because I’m male.
Now, let’s stave off the bad faith readings. I’m not saying I have it harder than women, etc. etc. I’m saying this weird thing has happened to me several times, and this is my working theory as to why.
The first time I recall this happening was when my daughter was still a baby. We were at an Amish market. She was in her stroller, and an older woman (not dressed as Amish, fyi) came up and snatched the pacifier from her mouth. I didn’t know this woman who glared at me like I was the one who’d just done something crazy. I took the pacifier from her and got my child away immediately. My daughter was very picky about pacifiers, but I wasn’t comfortable using that one again. Luckily, I had a spare.
What was the deal with this woman? Maybe she thought I was ruining RUINING I SAY! my daughter’s teeth or ability to pull herself up by her bootstraps with a pacifier. I don’t know, but the gall of a stranger doing something like that is disturbing.
The weirdest thing, though, is that, on several occasions while I’ve shopped for clothes for my daughter, strange women have made a point to glare at me. It has happened in Wal Mart, Target, and various strip-mall (i.e. overpriced) stores. I’ll have a cart but no child and be looking through girls clothes, trying to put together outfits. I’ll look up, and some older woman will be hate-stabbing me with her eyes.
Do they think I’m shopping for myself but with a totally delusional self-image (and they disapprove of my lifestyle)? Look, if I want to wear size 3T unicorn tights, I will…at least attempt it. I probably won’t be able to get them past my toes, but so be it.
Do they think I’m buying clothes to lure wayward children? Why wouldn’t I be in the candy or toy aisle? What child would be led into the back of a darkened van by a pair of socks?
What does any of this mean? Who can say? People are weird. That’s as profound as it gets sometimes. I imagine — sort of like my theory as to why women compliment me on being a father when all I’m doing is basic parenting — it’s because it’s weird for them to see a man buying clothes for his kid. Maybe, to these women, the idea of a man being involved in a child’s life in a positive way is so foreign, that they assume there must be something nefarious. This is a sad and sobering thought. Or maybe they really don’t think that top goes with those pants, which is fair.