I did it. After years of making fun of black friends and strangers in grocery stores and parking lots, I did it.
I overdressed Eliot.
You see, African Americans have a long and cherished—and even mildly dangerous—tradition of layering their babies. It’s true. I found this related quote in an Ohio newspaper from 1898:
“I saw a light-skinned Negro baby today at the market. I knew the baby was Negro, as the poor lad was sweating in no less than a blizzard.”
I didn’t make that up. I found it on microfiche.
I can have my baby in a sweater, snowsuit, hat, Uggs, and an oxygen tent with a space heater strapped to her chest, and some well-meaning church lady cooking the green out of green beans in the kitchen after service will warn me: “You better wrap that baby up. It’s cold out there.” And she’ll hand me Aluminum Foil—the heavy duty kind only churches can order. “Here, drape this over her face to keep the cold out.”
I pride myself on letting Eliot breathe. She can walk around the house in a diaper, sleep in a onesie, and even swim in a pool without wearing a white t-shirt. I know, this is breaking all kinds of cultural norms.
But this week, I found out that I am no rebel. You see, it was January, and I assumed a fleece and hat were appropriate outerwear for my trip with Eliot to Target. Yet after I parked, I turned and saw something that almost made me pee my pregnant pants without even sneezing:
A mom of the Caucasian persuasion was gingerly walking with her baby in a carrier, and the baby’s feet—gasp!—were bare. No jacket. No mittens. No Easy Bake Oven to warm his face. Then I looked at my baby. She was sitting in her carseat, and if I turned her head to one side—yes, I could see it—a bead of sweat rolled down her cheek. FAIL.
There was still a chance the white mom was under-doing it. I checked the temperature—70 degrees. Baaaaaah! The white mom had it right. You can wear flip-flops in January. And here I was, one step away from asking my baby to wear one of those plastic sauna suits while running on a treadmill. The shame.