Now that I’m in possession of an infant, I am constantly looking at things anew. One of them is how people engage with a baby at social outings and what it says about them. I was surprised to find that on an average, the men seem more eager to pick up the baby than the women. I wondered why.
A friend suggested that since parenting is more a thing of equal partnership among men and women — unlike another era, when men contributed the sperm and the women more or less did all the work — the men might seem to be more at ease in displaying prowess.
But that didn’t explain the single men who were all keen on their new arm candy. The last time we did a brunch, at least four single men were all rapt attention for the infant, chose to hover around him, pet him or carry him, and of course, pose for photos with him.
And then I realised what it did for them. It certainly pitched them higher in the eligibility gradient. It made them look good. It had the I-am-not-afraid-to-speak-my-feelings-or-show-that-I-am-vulnerable kind of vibe. It made women look at them differently.
In an era of Facebook profile pictures — usually chosen to reveal your current state of mind — a picture of a single man with a baby seems to say, “I am not afraid of commitment,” or simply, “I am ready.”
It seemed slightly trickier for women.
If she is single and looking, she could be thinking one of two things: The first is, “If I go all gooey on this baby thing, he might think I am putting pressure.” So she seems cool, nonchalant.
The second is, “If he still hasn’t seen my nurturing side, now is the chance to show it.” So she is effusive, all over, and very demonstrative.
On the other hand, if she is single and not looking, she doesn’t care what the men think, so she takes to the baby as she would a cat or dog (provided she is an animal person)
The rather large-hearted husband felt that since the men were more likely to get the picking up of the baby right and not the harder stuff, they would just do what comes easy. Also, it’s visually more documented, and the men are suckers for that. The women, he said, would not do the obvious, but could be trusted with the harder stuff.
I think if you are trying to get a grip on relationship status in a roomful of ambivalent men and women, just throw a baby in and watch the changing dynamic.
When a single man picks up a baby, the women are thinking, “Hmm.. this looks like a good sperm to invest in.”
The men are thinking, “Hmmm.... he’s got the female eyeballs now. Clever.”
As for me, I am thinking, the more people that offer to carry the infant, the less I have to carry him, so be my guest.