How to say NO to strangers pinching my child’s cheeks

We live in India. That makes it automatically ok for random strangers to walk up to you, compliment your baby, pinch his/her cheeks, exclaim over how much more weight you’ve got to lose, and oh while they’re at it, ask about your husband’s job, his promotion or even your salary. NOT.

Clearly there are major boundary issues in India. Not many respect peoples’ personal space once they’re at close proximity. In fact, they give your baby an extra squeeze or two to make the point that they think they’re cute. With the added reference of some apple or whatever aappropriate fruit and akin to them eating them all up. Geez. How do we go about stopping this rabidly irritating behaviour?

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First, lets admit it together. It’s not always about the germs. Obviously though, we think it’s the most innocuous angle to go for – something about the welfare of the child that may strike a chord in the hearts of random strangers. It’s not about the tiny red pinch marks on the baby’s face. Ok, may be it is. But the fact is that you are going to have to say it out aloud and to the ‘offending’ person – No, please don’t pinch my baby’s cheek (mind voice – I have no idea where your filthy hands have been). In a culture where the fattest baby wins, sometimes I feel a pinch is a gauge of how much more fattening the other person’s baby needs.

I’ve learned recently that these practices that happen in India have a term for them – cute aggression. The urge to bite a baby, pinch a chubby face, crushing hugs – basically paradoxically violent urges towards loved things. It’s akin to crying during a happy ending. It’s inherently human. But well, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to put up with it. The practice isn’t quite as rampant elsewhere and is in fact frowned upon.

Maybe in the grand scheme of things – child abuse, rape, sodomy and what not, a little harmless cheek pinching seems like too little to be making a big deal of. But as protectors of our children, it is up to us to raise the bar. If it offends you, be polite and make sure to get the message across. After all your baby can’t voice his dislike. But you can.

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