I don’t know why people love to stare.
There are, of course, endless possible answers to that question. People stare because they are curious, people stare because they see something different, people stare because someone beautiful just walked past, they stare because someone deformed is sitting across from them in the hospital waiting room, they stare because they want to look and sometimes people stare because they like to stare.
I am not talking about paranoid people who thinks that the world is constantly staring at them because unless you are a celebrity or someone who looks like she just stepped out of Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot, then you have my pity, but staring as in locked in a fixated gaze towards something and not bother making any effort to conceal the fact that you are downright staring.
I mean, I thought our mothers have taught us that it’s rude to stare. It makes people you stare at uncomfortable, it makes you look like someone who was born yesterday and everything amazes you and of course, it makes you seem rude, even if you are the nicest person on earth.
I’m not saying that you can’t look because at the end of the day, people with eyesight tend to be curious. But there is a fine line in looking at what’s happening to going beyond the boundaries of personal space by flat out staring.
This morning was my ObGyn check up. There are a lot of pregnant mothers and toddlers around, especially it being a combined O&G and Pediatrics clinic. I was reading, waiting for my turn when a very young mother walked in and sat in the empty seat next to me. The lady that accompanied her went to register her visit with the nurse.
As she slowly make herself comfortable in the chair, for clearly I can see that she isn’t, I noticed how she has got to be the frailest young mother I have ever seen. She is still wearing thick woolen socks, so that means she must’ve just given birth about a month or so. Her child was also very small and already started to make huffing and puffing sounds. Quickly she brought her child to her breasts and the baby began suckling hungrily enough. Out of motherly instinct, I glanced to see if the baby latched on right because if she isn’t, I know she is going to start crying and it is frustrating to hear a hungry baby’s cry and there is nothing more frustrating than to hear a hungry baby’s cry in a clinic while waiting for your turn.
After a few minutes, the registry nurse called out to this young mother who just fallen into rhythm of breastfeeding her baby. My ears pricked for I know this isn’t a good sign. The young mother passed her child to the lady accompanying her and hobbled her way to the registration counter. The nurse led her into a chair and started talking, about what I can only imagine but it sure isn’t a short conversation for the nurse settled herself comfortably in her chair, placed her elbows on the table, laced her fingers together and begin to address the young mother.
Five seconds later the baby cried.
I don’t know if you’ve heard a newborn’s hungry cry before but if you ever do, then you know what I mean when I say you can only imagine how such a little thing can have such strong lungs to pierce high Heavens with her shrill cry. The lady that was holding the baby during the young mother’s absence started to fidget. She too was getting uncomfortable. She rocked the baby back and forth, shushing and kissing the baby to comfort her but we both know that those are not going to work.
I registered the baby’s cry indifferently while I read because one, I know the baby is hungry and there is nothing I or anyone in the clinic, except her young mother, can do about it, and two, it’s a pediatric clinic so crying babies, vomiting toddlers and maniacal preschoolers are what the place is about. There is no point in me getting all jittery and fussy about it.
Then I started to notice out of the corners of my eyes heads started turning.
A glance to see if the baby is okay, is fine and even tolerable as a sign of sympathy and courtesy. But to blatantly turned and looked with scrunched eyebrows is, sir, down right, rude. You don’t have to extend your necks like a meerkat to see what’s going on. It’s a baby crying in a pediatric clinic. What, did you think it was a mother biting her baby’s cheek to see if the baby is breathing?
Okay, so you turned and looked with this annoyed look on your face, as though your peaceful wait in the plank-hard chair was interrupted by this little infant’s cry. But to repeatedly turn and look, is that something you think will make the baby stop crying? I may not be staring at you to know that you turned several times to look but I can very well know even out of the corners of my eyes while I continued reading. You are, after all, still within my periphery of vision.
It irritated me so much because not only the men turned and stare but even women too. I mean, are you not mothers too? Don’t your child ever cried that way before? Was your child clapping when he is hungry and needs to be fed? For one second, I felt that had I no self control, I would’ve taken the baby and offered her to the starers and asked them to try to do something to make her stop crying, if her crying disturbs them so, thank you very much.
I looked up to look at the young mother for I know how she must’ve felt. Sure enough, she was fidgeting in her chair and looked over her shoulders every other second to check on her baby, who was still being rocked by the other lady, whom I assume is the baby’s grandmother. Then my eyes trained on the nurse who was still talking. Can she not hear that the baby is crying? I mean, I know it’s her routine and probably Mozart to her ears, but surely she has enough sense to let this young mother go and feed her baby for a few minutes. What can possibly be so important that the conversation can’t be resumed shortly after?
After what seemed like an endless concert of crying and shushing, the young mother finally stood up and tried her best to quickly walk back to her bawling child. You would’ve thought that those that stared before would’ve had their fun of staring at the baby, but no. They continued now to stare at the mother, with daggers flying out of their eyes, as though it is her fault that the baby is crying. Probably some of them was secretly accusing her for not feeding her baby enough or wondering what is wrong with her baby that it kept crying so much and so loudly.
The young mother looked like she was about burst out crying. For the second time she struggled into her seat and brought her baby to her breasts. I then realized that she couldn’t get her baby to properly latch. This, for non breast-feeders, means the baby couldn’t hold on correctly to suckle on the mother’s nipple that it kept slipping out from the baby’s mouth and therefore the baby’s sucking motions didn’t extract any amount of milk from her mother’s breast. Only after about 5 tries did the baby latch on right and was able to gulp away hungrily and once again the clinic was thrown into silence.
But I felt the oppressing air from the starers for still, some of them turned to look. Feeling that I had to do something for the poor mother next to me for I think she had enough, I openly stared back at the people who occasionally turned to look. The baby has quietened down so there was no reason at all now to look. Thankfully, no more turned to stare after that and the young mother was able to I think, finally breathe easy. She even leaned back in the seat and cradled her baby closer, as though she was afraid her child might slipped away from her breast again.
Excessive instinctive staring is, I think, a disorder.
You can look but you don’t have to stare. What more in a situation where you should have enough common sense to accept whatever it is that is happening. I mean, you wouldn’t stare at a bereaved mother at her son’s funeral, would you? I can’t begin to comprehend what makes people think they have the right to stare at an obviously young and first-time mother who can barely walk and is trying to comfort her child, whom she only got to know in less than 3o days.
You should never stare because no matter how hard you think it is for you to endure a passing situation, it is the person that you stare at who is going to go home with whatever it is you think is afflicting them.
If you really can’t help yourself, then instead of staring, you can offer a comforting smile, or perhaps strike a light conversation just to ease things up for you.
I just hope your light conversation wouldn’t turn into an interrogation.