Mall Babies

4.2.07: Check out those shopping cuties! And their infants, too!


Shortly after Truman was born, I had a revelation: The mall is filled with babies.

I had never noticed. As a lifelong childless career girl (or so I thought, ha-ha), I had developed some particularly effective baby blinders, which enabled me to move though life blissfully unaware of the cooing, gooing, and even outright wailing going on around me. On any given shopping excursion, I could make my way from Macys to Starbucks to Sephora to Illuminations and back again with nary a pause to admire a toothless grin (bypassing Gymboree, A Pea in the Pod, and Gap Baby altogether).

But as soon as I strolled into the mall with Truman in tow, the under-ones seemed to come out of the woodwork (or, well, the faux marblework is more like it). And I was rapt. How darling! How special! How precious!

I'’d always been somewhat introverted (read: self-absorbed), bordering on misanthropic. Mall time was me time. But suddenly, I needed to know all about each one of these tiny treasures and the women who had bore them forth. Much to my still-introverted husband'’s chagrin, I would march right up to any other mommy, introduce myself, and—after an appropriate warm-up period of oohing and ahhhing, cooing and giggling, kvelling and plotzing—begin to ask them a series of pointed questions. Boy or girl? What'’s his name? How old, exactly, is little Jackson? What'’s he doing right now? When did he start? Is he sitting up, crawling, talking? What exactly is he saying? And what do you think he means by that?

Ask me what I'’m doing while I'’m doing it, and I'’ll no doubt explain that I'’m simply curious—that I want to understand human life in all its beautiful and mysterious forms. And that'’s true.

But it'’s also true that I'’m measuring Truman against all these other tiny tots, and hoping to find him somehow superior. I mean, they'’re cute, yes, but isn'’t he cuter? Sure he is. They'’re smart, but he'’s smarter! And isn'’t he bigger, healthier, funnier, more advanced? You bet! (With the possible exception of little nine-month-old Sofia, who we met by chance in P.F. Chang; the memory of her robust little giggle and wave pains me still.)

During this process, I am also measuring myself against the other mommies, too. This is much less rewarding. Are they thinner or fatter than I am? Do they look like they are still carrying baby weight, or are they just constitutionally heavy? If they'’re thinner—which, as the months wear on, they almost always are—are they also younger? Do they seem okay with their bodies? Are they stylish? Hot? Happy?

Unlike Truman, I tend to lose out on these comparisons—I'’m almost always flabbier, older, and much more likely than any other mother in the mall to be walking around in baggy pants and sweatshirts. (I'’m not making any kind of big investment in new clothes until I lose at least 10 pounds!).

Luckily, the pain of this particular comparison is nearly always very short lived, because the next cutie-pie is sure to stroll by in a matter of seconds—the perfect distraction. Say, what'’s her name—Ashley Lynn? She'’s 14 months? Truman'’s only 10 months. What'’s that? She'’s saying Mama and Dada? How darling! Yes, Truman is saying Mama and Dada, too. He also says bottle, bye-bye, kitty, and schadenfreude. I know! It'’s hilarious! He must have learned that last one from his Dada!

Hillari Dowdle will fit back into her favorite pants one of these days. Check this column every week, and you will no doubt be among the first to read all about it!