Memoir

The Obstecritic

Some babies of 2009, reviewed

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• 953 words

“Liam” (by Martha and Kevin)

Demonstrating an unassailable grip on the thumbs, eyeglasses, and/or hair of any adult who attempts to engage him, Liam seems destined for a career as an ultimate fighter or a professional assassin. Funny story: the first time I met Liam, I was asked to hold him, and, not having much experience in this sort of enterprise but some playing high school football, I tucked him under my arm and bolted for the living room. Some of us learn by doing—that is, by doing wrong—and fortunately Martha and Kevin intervened before I broke into a touchdown dance on their coffee table.

“Katie” (by Jodie and Daniel)

Before I met Katie, I was told that she looks just like her father. Really, a female infant who somehow resembles a grown man? “Hey Dan, have a beer… oh, whoops, sorry Katie, thought you were your dad; here, play with this stapler.” Preposterous. Better: “Wow, that baby doesn’t look like anything.” And then do a special sort of natal high-five all around.

“Charlotte” (by Mike and Laurel)

I only found out that Charlotte had been born through someone else’s Facebook. It’s like, Mike, dude, we go back to frosh week. You couldn’t even email? What, are you trying to shelter your baby from me or something (ha ha)? Just because your cat jumps off the fire escape every time I come over doesn’t mean the same thing’s going to happen with your baby. I mean, have you ever seen a baby try to stick a four-storey landing? Absurd.

Cute Babies

From “Infant Attractiveness Predicts Maternal Behaviors and Attitudes”

Illustration by Nicole Aline Legault
Nicole Aline Legault

Published in Developmental Psychology, Vol. 31, No. 3, 1995:

The relations between infant attractiveness and maternal behavior were examined by observing mothers feeding and playing with their firstborn infants while they were still in the hospital after giving birth (n = 144) and again when the infants were 3 months of age (n = 115). The attitudes of the mothers toward their infants were also assessed. Mothers of more attractive infants were more affectionate and playful compared with mothers of less attractive infants. In contrast, the mothers of less attractive infants were more likely to be attentive to other people rather than to their infant and to engage in routine caregiving rather than affectionate behavior.

“Baby That Cried for the Entire Flight to India” (by incompetent parents)

It is perhaps cruel to think of a baby as an asshole, but there’s something undeniably vindictive about seventeen hours of constant screaming (excluding the stopover in Helsinki). At some point, the perpetrator becomes a manifestation of pure evil. I realize that air pressure and colic and parents who ignore you—I mean, really, would it kill someone to pick up the little guy or put a boob in his mouth?—can be tough, but it is quite a feat to inspire loathing from an entire airplane full of people. Also, the inflight movie was The Notebook, dubbed in Finnish. Truly the voyage from hell.

“Rosemary’s Baby” (by Roman Polanski—which I saw for the first time this year)

Creepy movie. Giving birth to an ugly baby seems enough of a nightmare—let alone breeding Satan-spawn! But let’s think practically: if the real-life prospects of endless fountains of vomit, loss of personal freedom, and insipidly blubbering “wudga-wudga-wudga” aren’t effective deterrents to baby-hungry teenagers, maybe getting this film into high school classrooms will be. (Failing that, how about a class trip to India with the devil incarnate?)

“Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis” (by the Boston Celtics)

Glen Davis is a professional basketball player. At six feet nine and 289 pounds, he is a baby in nickname only, although last season he cried, like a baby, after being harangued for poor play by teammate Kevin Garnett. Ironically enough, footage also exists of Kevin Garnett crying, like a baby, during an interview with TNT’s John Thompson. No footage exists of John Thompson crying, although during his coaching days at Georgetown I saw Thompson being patted on the back by Patrick Ewing—a gesture more than a little reminiscent of baby burping.

“Baby Beluga” (by Raffi—revisited in 2009 out of nostalgia/lack of shame)

Wonderful, simply wonderful! What a delightful portrait, Mr. Raffi. So unfortunate what we know from Melville: this baby will grow up into “all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil.” Yes, one day that happy “little white whale on the go” will be a ruthless killing machine, a vortex into hell that swallows all of our hopes and dreams. For now, though, please “sing for all your friends”—soon, Baby Beluga, you will be devouring them.

“Anna” (by Sue and Ashok)

In 2009, Anna turned twenty-six, but she is my baby sister, so therefore a baby. And as a baby, she is a total failure. Nobody likes a baby who does adult things, such as organize protests or perform feminist theatre. These are not activities for a baby. Playing with a rattle, pooping, gazing with pure, innocent wonder out into the world—this is what we want from babies. Storming Parliament Hill and doing The Vagina Monologues, not so much.

“Pasha II” (by Pasha and ??)

So far, Pasha II exists only as an idea—or perhaps a single, lonely sperm, swimming wistfully around my loins. Might 2010 be his/her year? Anyone? ANYONE?!

Pasha Malla compiled the 2015 found-poem collection Erratic Passion with Jeff Parker.