You can take the girl out of the anthropology major . . .

(I’ve been getting a number of none-too-subtle hints that I haven’t been blogging enough, so here I am. I don’t promise eloquence or maybe even coherence, as I’m typing left-handed while nursing Wren, and Robin is sleeping fitfully nearby.)

Items that have made the anthro major in me prick up its ears:

  • While the babies were in the NICU, Robin’s unexpectedly slow progress was repeatedly attributed to WWBS: Wimpy White Boy Syndrome. The first time a nurse mentioned this, I thought she was kidding. Then, a few days later, the neonatologist solemnly explained that it was common for caucasian male children to struggle in the NICU. “But he’s Jewish,” I protested. “Doesn’t that give him some kind of Semitic edge?” The neonatologist thought not.
  • One day, the babies and I were at an outdoor cafe in the middle of Puzzletown. They were both asleep in their double stroller, and I had just purchased a turkey sandwich and a bottle of apple juice, which I was eager to devour. A group of Korean women was sitting at a nearby table; each woman had a (single) baby tucked into a fashionable stroller. “Twins?” one woman called out. “Yes,” I smiled back. There arose a generalized admiring mutter. Right on cue, Wren began to squirm and fuss. I sighed, put down my sandwich, and pulled her out of the stroller. One of the women came over to peer at the babies as I unclipped my nursing tank top and thrust a boob into Wren’s mouth. Then Robin woke and wailed his gentle, pre-meltdown wail. The woman asked if she could hold him for me, and I gratefully accepted. As he yelled in her arms, I thought What the hell, it’s worth a try. I pulled out the other boob and asked her to hand him to me so I could nurse him too. The next thing I knew, the woman had knelt down by my side and was trying to maneuver Robin’s mouth onto my breast without letting me hold him or actually touching my breast. It was very weird, but sweet. Unfortunately, it was also completely futile. Meltdown ensued, and I fled back home with thanks and apologies to my would-be assistant.

(Okay, now I have two babies in my arms, because Robin has decided that sleep is for losers.)

  • Husband and I took the babies to the grocery store last week. A store employee was busily re-stocking the bottled water shelf and I couldn’t reach past him to get some, so I asked him to hand me a couple of bottles. He did so, and looked down at Wren, snoozing in her sling. Then he looked over at Husband, who had Robin strapped to him.

    “Twins?”

    “Yes.”*

    Then he surprised me. “Can I give them something?”

    I was taken aback. What did this stranger want to give my children? Did this gift involve handling them? A kiss? A pat on the head? I didn’t want to be rude. “I . . . suppose so . . .”

    He fished in his pockets and pulled out two dimes. He was from Guinea, he said. “In my culture, when you see twins, you have to give them something, and then you will get something later.”

*'”Twins?” “Yes.”‘ is maybe the most frequent exchange we have these days.

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14 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Annika said,

    I’m confused… what else would they be? “No, he’s four years older.” I mean, what?

  2. 2

    Mom said,

    let’s hear it for the cross-cultural encounter!

  3. 3

    Benjamin said,

    more pictures, please! i can’t very well coo over their cuteness if you’re not giving me photographic proof of their babytude!

    xo

  4. 4

    Diane Dawson said,

    Yeah… what else would they be??

    And yet, in similar situations, at a loss for other conversational gambits, I too have said, “twins?

    And felt quite moronic saying it too.

    Next time I’ll try, “Twins! How cute!”

  5. 5

    julie said,

    Well, let’s explore the possibilities….they could be cousins, or friends. At such a young age, newborns kind of look alike, so it can be challenging for the non-newborn experienced to tell whether they look to be the exact same age, from the exact same parents. Or, if there’s a noticeable size difference (??), one baby could be about 9 months older than the other (not recommended, but, hey, it happens).

    Or, they could really want to know if they’re identical twins (b/c most babies look pretty androgynous, so it’s hard to know their gender at a glance), and most people probably don’t have “fraternal twins” in their everyday vocabulary.

    Trying to guess baby genders based on their clothing isn’t a sure bet either, b/c blue isn’t just a boy’s color, and pink isn’t just a girl’s color (sounds really obvious, but babies seem to make other people say the most ignorant/nonsensical things). Aside from the historical precedent of all variations of red (including pink) having been thought to be a very manly color, and blue’s association with the Virgin Mary (and therefore more appropriate for females), there’s the cultural land mine of modern America, the great melting pot/salad bowl–Asian cultures in particular view anything red-based a definite sign that the baby wearing it is a boy.

    That was really sweet of that lady to try to help you get Robin latched on.

  6. 6

    Anne-Marie said,

    You should find more people from Guinea, see what else you get for them 🙂

  7. 7

    Katherine said,

    People used to ask me if my sons were twins. They’re over 2 years apart and don’t look much alike, to me, anyway. One blond, very white skin, skinny with blue eyes. The other brown hair, hazel eyes, olive skin, not so skinny.

    Never could figure that one out!

  8. 8

    esperanza said,

    We got the same in our NICU, only it was: oh good, she’s a girl; she’ll do better. They stopped saying that after a while. And I never heard the “white” portion of this syndrome–we are equal opportunity boy-wimps here, I guess.

    You are quite the adventurer with those two…I’m impressed, as always.

  9. 9

    Nora said,

    Sounds to me like the Twins of Guinea got together and scammed the whole population into giving them free stuff. Sorry, maybe that’s cynical. But if its true that they did I’m impressed.

  10. 10

    Waiting Amy said,

    While I’m not sure I’m looking forward to hearing the whole “are they twins?” thing all the time — I would like people to give us free stuff!

    My son and his cousin are actually 2 weeks apart and we have occasionally been asked if they are twins when we are out.

    We are expecting one boy, and he will be half Jewish. I’ll let you know if it gives him an edge over the other white boys in NICU (if we end up there)! Although the other half is fighting Irish, so it might be hard to tell!

  11. 11

    kathy a. said,

    my son and daughter are 19 months apart. he was a brawny little kid, dark hair and eyes, olive skin; she has always been skinny, fair, blond, and blue-eyed. people used to ask if they were twins — i think it was the double stroller.

    your robin and wren sound incredibly cute!

  12. 12

    MonkeyGurrl said,

    Aw, people don’t know what to say, and they are probably somewhat fearful of offending you (although, with your Holly Golightly personality, I can’t imagine WHY!!!!)

    Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure WWBS(J) lasts beyond childhood. I could name a few (hunnered) WWBS(J or not). Sigh.

    I’m glad to hear such happy news from you.

  13. 13

    Elaine said,

    A Scottish custom is ‘hanselling’ the baby, it’s considered good luck to put money in the baby’s pram when you first meet.

  14. 14

    Katie said,

    I’m with monkeygrrl — I think that people are so fascinated by babies that they need something to say.

    “Twins” may be the first thing that comes to mind.

    Sounds like you all are having fun getting out and about! I’m so impressed with your ability to blog. I feel like I have my hands full with just one kiddo, and here you are with one kid in hand and the other nearby, typing away… You so totally rock!


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