Yesterday an old man came up to me and asked how old my baby was, and if she was a boy or a girl. After I said that she was a girl, he told me that she was a terrible flirt, that she had been flirting with him over my shoulder for the past few minutes etc etc. I have numerous problems with this.
1. Babies don’t flirt. If you are saying that they are, then you are ascribing sexual behaviors to them.
2. Babies like to interact with others. That doesn’t mean flirting. That means interacting. That’s it. Flirting has sexual overtones. If you think a small child is flirting with you, then you have issues.
3. He asked Mellow’s sex before saying she was flirting. Had she been a boy, how would he have described her interactions? Would it still have been ‘flirting,’ or would it have just been ‘smiling’ or ‘making faces’?
4. Every time a girl or woman smiles at that man, does he believe she is flirting? Is the waitress who brings his check flirting? What about the cashier at the grocery store? The girl who smiles politely when he says something to her in the street? When I smiled politely and thanked him for telling me my kids were beautiful, was I flirting?
5. Why did I then have to listen to this guy spend ten minutes talking about whatever nonsense from his life he felt like sharing? I was just waiting for Wildling to finish her damn ice cream cone. Just because my baby smiled at someone doesn’t mean I feel like listening to them talk about themselves. Mellow’s 4-tooth grin is not an invitation to interact with me.
In general, I don’t mind people coming up and talking to me about my children. When Mellow was younger, she had crazy hair that stood up in a kind of awesome mohawk, and complete strangers would go out of their way to say something about it all the time. That was fine. People ask me my girls’ ages and then tell me about their kids (or their grandkids, who live too far away and they miss seeing them, blah blah blah, which I hear often). Seriously, I don’t mind. I’m sometimes starved for conversation, being stuck home with two kids several days a week. It’s just the whole flirting thing that gets to me. I’m sure some people think it’s just a harmless expression, but it really isn’t. It is a reflection on how we treat women in our society (nice to me = flirting with me = she is attracted to me/wants me to be attracted to her), and it normalizes that attitude rather than acknowledging that people can interact without a sexual component. Please don’t think my smiley little girl is flirting. She’s not. No young child has the capacity necessary to flirt.