Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Babies, Worms, and Other People

It is with some small guilt that I post to an almost-abandoned blog. BikeSnobNYC missed merely a week for the birth of his child, so I can't legitimately use the birth of Batboy as an excuse, since the blessed event eventuated itself blessedly more than two months ago and almost four months since the previous last substantive post (gifts on his natal anniversary will be accepted in his Cayman bank account any time during the temporal window thus described, though he shares a birthday with Theobald Böhm
[a childhood hero of mine]).

Given the fact that even BSNYC's doing it, I'm tempted to suggest that the childbearing scene is now full, and babies are no longer hip. My opinions on popular culture, however, are about as widely interesting as in-depth discussions of the nature of historiography in Hellenistic Judaism.

Anyhow, the big surprise of duogeny is the interaction between Bat Jr. (now 4 and a half, by her reckoning) and Batboy. The other day Bat Jr. was talking about how a friend of hers was showing off a worm he'd found. "I held it!" she said proudly "It was wiggly." "Much like Batboy," I thought.

And as so often, when I think ridiculous things, my second thought is how ridiculous they're not: worms and babies are both wild animals; they don't do--because they haven't yet learned--the range of social behavior that we expect from others. And yeah, a lot of funny things that kids do are funny because they don't yet know about social norms ("Mommy, mommy, I lit a candle in the bathroom because I pooped and…"--"Sweetie, you really just have to say, 'I lit a candle in the bathroom,' Mommy will know why."), what makes worms and babies interesting is that they do socially unexpected things while you're holding them in your hands.

It's really a strangely intimate thing: this ability to surprise someone with physical contact. Most of our physical interactions are highly socially structured, even ritualized: shaking hands, hugging, high fives. Even our pets get trained to certain types of contact (or at least we get used to their untrained behavior). But babies and worms wiggle on.

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