Who loves the little children?

Who loves the little children?

Melanie and I went out for a little outing this afternoon in Salem’s historic Derby Street neighborhood. The sun was shining and while there is a strong breeze, it’s relatively warm.

And since Isabella is getting very good at toddling around and loves being outdoors, we let her walk along the sidewalk on her own. Of course, we stayed close to keep her from wandering into the street or getting in the way of the occasional passer-by.

Something we both noticed is how people ignore her. Now, we’re not those parents who think everyone should go ga-ga over their baby. That’s not what I’m referring to. What I mean is that of all the people who walked by, young and old, male and female, locals and tourists, only a couple even acknowledged Isabella. (And one of those was a creepy dude who got my Spidey-sense tingling.)

Isabella loves people and she looked expectantly at each person, trying to make eye contact and smiling at each one. Yet nearly all of them treated her like a fire hydrant, just stepping briskly around her without a glance or even a smile.

I know that when I’ve been out places, even before I was a father, and encountered kids, I would at least smile. As a guy I felt awkward interacting with strangers’ kids, but at the very least I’d smile or say hello and go on my way. But most folks didn’t even do that.

I suppose it might be a New England thing, but I have a feeling it’s just another symptom of a culture that no longer values children or even sees them as all that special, despite all the rhetoric you hear from politicians and pundits that this or that policy or law must be implemented “for the children.”

It’s a sad, cold world that can’t muster up a smile for happy child on a sunny spring day.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • As a father of three little girls,  I can tell you that I have seen the same thing.  My 4 year-old loves people, and constantly smiles and says hi.  It constantly amazes me, and angers me as well, that she gets ignored.

    It fascinates me, though that most of the cold-shouldering comes from young women – under about 30.  And in contrast, the generally friendliest to her are young men.  No way that all of them have bad intentions, they are just polite.

    That having been said, I see the same process happening between adults, as well.  Try walking down the street and just smiling or saying hello at an appropriate time, and see how many blank stares you get.  I went home one day a few months ago, and literally asked my wife why people don’t have souls any more – they are all walking dead.

    It’s a sad, sad situation…..

  • I am the last person to be considered shy around children, but even I am subject to a bit of wariness around strangers children. I adore little ones and want to say hello and visit with everyone that I see, but I always wonder what the parents will think. For some reason I worry that a parent is going to get annoyed if I stop and say hello or visit for a second with their little ones, so when in the grocery store or something, I smile and engage the little ones very briefly and then move on. Also, sometimes I want to say hello to a cute little baby, but am not in the mood to engage the parents for various reasons – being in a hurry, not feeling well, etc… (this was especially true when trying to conceive)  Additionally, I will never touch another persons child (handshake, beeping of the nose) without first speaking with the parents (friendly introduction or something of the sort) – the exceptions would be of course if a child was in harms way in some sort.

    My point in this being, as much as I agree that it’s a shame and may be a bit indicative of a society that does not value children, it may also be indicative of a society that had made people afraid to engage children. I would speculate that some men especially are fearful of visiting or smiling at little ones, for fear that their innocent intentions will be taken as malicious. Also, because of the bad things that have happened in recent years and how much we hear about bad people out to get our children, many parents give out a vibe of “don’t even look at my child” that makes many others wary. Even though you were fine with Isabella wanting to say hi to all the strangers, perhaps many of them were worried otherwise as I often am.

  • I will add a however – even though i may be wary to engage, I can’t NOT smile at a cute little one. so if those passing didn’t even smile at that adorable face…I don’t know what to say, you may be right.

  • Yeah, even a crusty loner (when I am out in public alone anyway. I usually have several of my own in tow) can’t help but return a smile for a child.

    I am usually quite standoffish and don’t like interaction when I am out about my business, but kids just are too cute not to smile back.

  • Yeah, Betsy, I was watching their faces. They didn’t even get that look in their eyes of brightening at the sight of a cute kid. No smile, not even a glance at her. Like Dom said, it was as if she were an inanimate object like a lamp or a garbage can instead of a cute-as-a-button girl laughing and smiling and happy to be in the world.

  • It is indeed sad.

    I usually try to go out of my way to be friendly to adults and children alike, even if it’s just a simple smile or hello.

    I guess this coldness is just one of the many aspects of the “culture of death.”

  • 10 years ago, I’d be walking our oldest (then an infant) around the block with our German Shepherd.    We’d just moved in and so many, many people came up to introduce themselves and comment on our beautiful dog.    The number who came off their front lawns to see and comment on my beautiful baby: 1 (an old woman who’d been active in the pro-life movement).    The situation was so absurd that it’s been a running joke between my husband and me all these years.  Even now, with baby number 4 people are more likely to ask about our recently deceased dog than our new baby.

  • “Melanie and I went out for a little outing this afternoon in Salem’s historic Derby Street neighborhood.”

    Maybe it is the area where you walked, Dom.  My kids grew up in a couple of Chicago neighborhoods and one local suburb—all friendly places.  When they were infants, our neighborhood was largely comprised of Hasidic Jews who all took delight in children. and their kids would ask if my daughter, Maria, was “dewish.”

    The only places that I encountered the coildness that you and Melanie noticed was in the trendy, upscale areas and, of course, in or near the Loop (downtown). 

    When neighborhoods have modest income residents, families, and/or immigrants, there is a feel to them that makes most people including delightfully wondrous children feel at home.

  • It might be a Boston thing.  I have been surprised at the many different people in CT who talk to my kids (3 and 2).  I’m from the south (KY) and people alwasy make conversation, which my wife had a hard time adjusting to when she lived there, she is from NJ.

  • My son is working as an expatriate(with the correct visa) in North Carolina. Recently my daughter in law visited with him for a period of six weeks with her three month old son. The purpose of the visit was to “recce” the place, arrange for accommodation and for schooling for their other three older preschool/primary school boys.
    She reports back as follows: great ambience, great shopping malls and shopping in general with items on the whole comparatively cheaper than here in Australia. But the people: the most unfriendly lot she has ever encountered. Refusal to make eye contact, smiles not returned, unwillingness to help (not even lady with an infant) or to receive help, refusal to even acknowledge civilized daily salutations/greetings. Her overall impression is that the people there in their personal relationships take the attitude of “what’s in it for me” and the reverse of that   “what do you want from me” contemporaneously with the effect of total “defensiveness” which comes over as American with an undeserved superiority complex. Both my son and daughter in law thought highly of Americans and that is why my son sought to work in the USA which my daughter in law supported greatly. They are both very disillusioned and the tragedy is that now my daughter in law is not sure she wants to live with her four young sons among such an unfriendly lot for the remaining period of three years plus of my son’s contract. What the long separation will do to their relationship with their husband and father is something else. Just in case you are wondering: my son and daughter both have English as their first language and are blonde and blue eyed and as an expatriate my son’s work is cutting edge. Neither he nor my daughter in law experienced any such feelings/attitudes with or from other expatriates who came from various parts of the world especially India and Israel.

    Moral of the story Dominic: you are not Robinson Crusoe in noticing the indifference/defensiveness of people there to their neighbours and fellow human beings .

  • Melanie,

    I know my very first reaction would be an indignant “Yankees!!!”

    But I think Dom is right about it being a “sign o’ the times” so to speak.

  • I go ga ga over babies and little children!  I make a big fuss and always congratulate moms in the supermarket or wherever if they have a young baby or lots of kids!  Then I tell them how wonderful they look! To me they are like angels!  Once I told a young mother she should have lots more children as hers were exceptionally beautiful and happy!

    I am just so aware of children, being in a pro life group.  I am sorry this happened to you and precious Isabella.  You are right there is a coldness toward children.  Combat it everywhere with words of praise and joy for ever child you meet!  It will be most appreciated!

  • Our little kids toddled along side us in the south, the midwest, and in southern california. in the south, they were alway greeted. in the midwest, they were frequently greeted. in california, only sometimes (which might have been ok, actually). but what dom describes really has an east coast feel to it.

  • Yep.  Finding people who show any liking for children is rare.  Now, I have the situation of being very shy myself, and *never* wanting to be a “my kid is so great” parent, but then having a child who could very well grow up to be a supermodel.  On the other hand, it’s precisely because of that that I can attest to what you’re saying.

    I go out with the kids, and I see other parents with kids.  Of course, we always interact. 
    Then there are people who will bypass other people with kids, but remark on mine, because my eldest is this gorgeous, charismatic little red-headed dynamo.  Usually, they say, “What beautiful children!” but they only notice the other two because of the eldest.
    ANd a lot of times, they’ll say something like, “Oh!  What a beautiful little girl! . . . and what curly hair they all have.”

    I am grateful that God has blessed her with that natural attractiveness to help offset her disability, but it worries me that a) I don’t want her getting too much of an ego, b) I don’t want her siblings feeling overshadowed, and c) it’s unfair that she gets singled out over other children.

  • man with black hat: Somebody Say “G’day”

    “Dom might be right about New England. I’ve visited the area before. The weather is freezing in the winter, and many of the natives aren’t much warmer throughout the year. I suppose it’s just a holdover from the English sense of inhibitions. That, or they just think you’re going to move in from New Jersey and raise property taxes.”

  • I suppose it might be a New England thing, but I have a feeling it’s just another symptom of a culture that no longer values children or even sees them as all that special, despite all the rhetoric you hear from politicians and pundits that this or that policy or law must be implemented “for the children.”

    While I can’t comment on New England or North Carolina, it’s interesting that in Italy, a country with one of the lowest birth rates in the developed world, small children are guaranteed to draw a smile (or even hugs & kisses) from perfect strangers.  We’ve lived in Europe for the last 3 years (2 in Germany, 1 so far in Belgium) and have visited Italy several times with our brood of 4 (ranging from 1 to 8 yrs old) and have always been amazed at the warmth that Italians show towards children.  They have been our “ticket” to many wonderful memories there.  Maybe it’s the fact the Italians are not having many of their own.

    As for Germany, cold stares and eye contact avoidance are par for the course – it actually took us a while to get used to acknowledging people on the street again with a friendly “Bon jour” and a smile after moving to Belgium – we had quickly become set in our German ways…

  • Sadly, I think Betsy is right. The bishops have been browbeating the laity lately for being potential abusers, after all. The “safe environment” courses teach parents and kids to watch out for strangers who engage with youngsters at all. Eventually, all this intimidation has common-sense results: people will tend to shrink back into themselves when among strangers.

    In his Nicomachean Ethics, Book VIII, Aristotle discusses “eunoia,” goodwill, as a basic virtue of society. Not philia, which is friendship, but goodwill **towards strangers.** It still survives in smaller towns in the Midwest. It had a blip on the screen in New York after 9-11. I think Boston lost it around 1710. It reflects a common bond of social values and natural interdependency. nd that element of civic virtue is woefully thin gruel these days.

  • Dom and Melamie,

    Don’t take this incident personally or ascribe too much cultural or philosophical significance to it. When two of my daughters were two and three years old, they paid a visit to the woman who lived next to us who snapped at them “you’re not welcome”.  I felt so bad for them as they were just trying to be neighborly.  But the kids survived and are oday doing well in college.  Rejection and indifference have always been with us. And parents have plenty of opportunities to feel bad for their kids (getting cut from a sports team, not getting asked to the prom, being teased by peers). It all comes with living in this vale of tears.


    Frank Gibbons
    Seekonk, MA

  • Oh please. My son was born in NYC 7 years ago and when we took him out either in his stroller or toddling people would always smile and coo at him.

    It’s not just the child, I will often check the parents out before I interact or compliment their child—if they are cold or aloof I won’t interact but if they look easy going and friendly I’ll usually comment on what a lovely child they have. So maybe it’s less about the strangers and more about you and frankly, letting a toddler loose anywhere in a busy pedestrian area is unwelcome. I am not just annoyed by parents who do that but also less inclined to engage the child as I feel the parents are not being attentive enough.

    Also, I think most people do appreciate children but some people are hesitant to interact or comment on a stranger’s child. That is born not from a coldness but rather from the fear that surrounds children’s safety. We do live in a different world so as well as parents being extra vigilant, strangers have to also be cautious of whom they are friendly towards.

  • This is a regionalism, not about the culture of death. New Englanders are not cold; we just tend to give strangers what we’d like: a bubble of privacy in public. It’s been long commented on in observations of the region. I don’t always observe it and when I don’t, I am likely to get frosty eyes from parents of children whom I’ve said hello to passing bye (like I say hello to each person instead of just once). Parents may treat you like a creep (as Dom apparently was prepared to do to someone….)

  • Ann: Thank you for reinforcing all my stereotypes about New Yorkers. You insult us without even knowing all the facts. In fact, we were friendly and smiled at passers by. We were not in a busy pedestrian area, but in front of an ice cream shop where in the space of 20 minutes about 10 or so people walked by and we were always careful to ensure the child was not in the way.

    So maybe you’re right: People didn’t smile because they were being judgmental and making assumptions about us as parents based on little or no knowledge but on their preconceived notions of a tableau out of context.

  • You hit the nail on the head with your “spidey sense.”  Speaking from the other side of the toddler in the park encounter, you can usually tell that parents’ defenses are very high and would react if you interact with their child. You only have to get that glare a few times and you learn to ignore the little ones. On a rational level, I understand that parents are trying to teach their children not to talk to strangers, so why would I intrude on the lesson. But you can’t have it both ways, and complain that people follow the rules you are laying out for them.

  • I don’t have children, but I feel the same way about the homeless. They are like trash on the side of the road, we just walk around them, myself included. I don’t think it’s anything malicious, we’re just focused on where we are going and don’t look around to see or appreciate what is around us.

  • Let me clarify on the “creepy dude”. This is Salem, Massachusetts, the Witch City. When I saw creepy, I mean creepy.

    I don’t mean an ordinary guy on the street, but a pasty-faced, lank-haired goth-type who already had a scowl and who glared at the baby as she laughed. I’ll admit it doesn’t take a whole lot of Spidey sense to catch danger from him.

  • Again, can I emphasize that my reaction was not so much what people did or didn’t interact with us as to the expressions on their faces, the way their eyes didn’t even move to look and smile at Bella. I can understand why people might be hesitant to interact with a child. But to me the very sight of a child is heartwarming, I can’t help but glance at her and it makes me glad. Even if a person doesn’t want to acknowledge you out of fear of your reaction, you can still tell if they notice you if you are looking at their eyes.

    Because I was looking at people’s faces, I could tell that people’s eyes weren’t even acknowledging that Bella existed. That was what I was responding to: people who don’t even glance at a little child taking her first halting, laughing steps in the big world. It wasn’t fear of defensive parents, it was disinterested.

  • Ann: Thank you for reinforcing all my stereotypes about New Yorkers

    Creating stereotypes is never a good thing.  Considering I grew up in Ireland, spent 15 years living in Europe, Australia, NZ and parts of Asia and now live in a beautiful state park community in New Jersey I’d say you are a little too quick to judge people. You just assumed that because I mentioned NY that I was a native – and – I will say categorically that when I did live there I never encountered that supposedly cold NY’er type, even the people that seem totally preoccupied and cold would stop and be extraordinarily helpful when I first moved there and would ask people for directions.

    You said

    What I mean is that of all the people who walked by, young and old, male and female, locals and tourists, only a couple even acknowledged Isabella. (And one of those was a creepy dude who got my Spidey-sense tingling.)

    That certainly made it sound like you were in a reasonably well populated area.

    My own experience living all over the world has led me to believe that people do sense how open you are and react accordingly, even in NYC. Perhaps because it never occurred to me to gauge how affectionate strangers were to my child I just assume those who do have the time and compassion to do so and those who don’t are just perhaps too busy with their own lives. It’s quite possible the 10 people you encountered had other things on their minds.

  • It wasn’t fear of defensive parents, it was disinterested.

    Honestly Melanie, I think you might just have bumped into 10 people who had things on their mind.

    I know as parents we are delighted in every stage of our child’s life, every precious step and action is something we think is special. And while 80% of the time I stop and compliment a parent or I’ll smile at children there are times when I am preoccupied and certainly would appear disinterested.

  • Ok, after taking Ann’s comments under advisement, I’m changing my vote back to “Yankees!!!”

  • “New Englanders are not cold; we just tend to give strangers what we’d like: a bubble of privacy in public.”

    Thanks for the observation. You must like that bubble of yours a great deal. In any case, it does sort of reinforce my English-inhibitions-holdover theory.

    Don’t get me wrong; I really liked my vacation up there. It was in the fall. (Sigh…)

  • Ann, Maybe you’re right. Maybe they were just preoccupied. Maybe I’m judging everyone else by the kind of reactions I have. When I see a cute baby it tends to knock me out of my funk. Babies are such amazing miracles I can’t help but notice them even on my worst days. Maybe I won’t smile, most of the time I won’t stop and talk (I’m a very shy introvert.) but I suspect that whenever I see a baby you can see by the gleam in my eye my acknowledgement of God’s little miracle.

    I definitely think people are blowing this up way past the idle observation Dom and I made on a sunny spring afternoon.

    But I do think it’s safe to say we live in a culture that values children less and less and I pity people who aren’t moved by the sweet innocence of little children. After all, Jesus says we must become like them to enter the kingdom of heaven.

  • When I see a cute baby it tends to knock me out of my funk.

    Well, to play the devil’s advocate, there is always the chance that people didn’t see your toddler as cute.

    I’m just kidding! Really, I think if a ‘few’ people out of 10 did react in a friendly manner it’s not a bad statistic. There is so much stress in most people’s lives – whenever I meet someone who is less than polite I always assume they are burdened and feel much sympathy for them.

    I do agree that society values children less, every year almost 11 million children die of mostly preventable causes; children are exploited more thanks to technology and they are brainwashed by crass commercialization that their parents willingly allow.

  • This doesn’t have to do specifically with babies, but in the small town where I live the standard reaction to passing someone in the street is to nod, smile, perhaps murmur “hello” or “nice day” if you’re close enough. This is even if the person is a complete stranger. It was a little disconcerting the first few months I lived here—when someone smiled at me I would be racking my brain trying to remember where I knew them from.

  • I can’t resist babies—in fact, I love saying hello to them, and in some cases, shaking hands (via the little finger, to see how strong they are!).  Sometimes if I sense that the parents are not exactly receptive to this, I back off, but most young Mums are OK with a few kind words.  I realize that unfortunately in this day and age there are definitely gounds for caution, and proceed accordingly.  Common sense is always in play here.  Let me tell you, if I ever met Isabella la Bellissima, I’d definitely say “Buon giorno” to her—which is about two-thirds of all the Italian I know!  Please give her a cuddle from me—a Mum of two 20-something sons.

  • Wow. What you wrote initially, Dom, made perfect sense to me. Without psychoanalysing you, I think you and Melanie know when people are oblivious to a child, when they are bothered by an “obstacle” on the sidewalk, or otherwise. I know just what you mean, and not only is it that more and more people don’t acknowledge children, but they’re just plain uncomfortable—so they mentally block them.

    Having a wide range of kids, I can say that my oldest daughter’s teenage friends were very put-off by her infant brother—some had never held a baby (at age 15!) How one can go 15 years without some baby contact is beyond me, but it’s now common. That was several years ago—but if you extrapolate that some have no babies in the family (anywhere), some young adults have deliberately opted out of parenting, and the other stories we’ve heard about sectors of society that are intolerant of babies (i.e. restaurants, theatres, apartment complexes, etc.) we can see that they are not even on the radar screen.

    The comment on the dog was sad, but also very true. Maddening, actually.

  • David

    Many celebrities love to hang out in New England because, it is at least said often, New Englanders are less likely to go gaga over them than elsewhere. Which is not to say that we don’t have a portion of our number who are celebrity hounds. It just seems to be lower than some other parts of the US.

    And we are somewhat more formal than elsewhere too. I can vividly recall when clerks at Jordan Marsh were told to start addressing customers by their first names, and the negative reaction by many (not all) to what was perceived as manipulative familiarity.

    Good fences make good neighbors, stone walls and all that. Amid the stereotypes lurk some truths. But many of us *like* it that way. As my friends from the South who’ve lived here note, it’s often harder to make friends among New Englanders but the friendships that are made tend to be deeper and longer-lasting than those they’ve made elsewhere.

    I live in a wonderfully neighborly neighborhood in Melrose, MA; homes are 20 feet apart side-to-side. We do many things for each other, including having the grace not to see or notice certain things. But we try to keep our third eyes aware when thing are amiss or missing.

    I am a person who tends to greet people on the street or even across the street when I am walking a few miles every day. And there are walkers out at all hours (even when I used to walk at 4AM, I was rarely alone). But I picked that habit up going to college down South, and I don’t read negativity into non-reciprocity, as it were.

  • “De gustibus non disputandem…” and all that, but Isabella is adorable. Even so, I’d worry about anyone who would consider deliberately <i>not<i> smiling back at a child because s/he’s not cute. That would carry its own dark rationale apart from just ignoring children in general.

  • Dom, you brought darling Isabella out in a NEW ENGLAND CITY, there is no place colder, more selfish, and more unfriendly to all people, especially children.  Worst of all, you brought her out in Salem, the Witch City.  Does anyone in Salem have kids any more? 

    Out here in our “small town” in New England, people are mostly gaga over babies.

    Time to get out of Witch City.

    But, don’t go to Texas!

  • When I first moved here (New England)over 20 years I was astonished at how aloof people were. I’d talk to the folks at the checkout line and get odd looks or people staring at their shoes……..

    I longed for New York where everybody talks to everybody whether they want it or not!

    Dom, maybe it’s a Salem thing…you know…all those Wiccans going on about “fertility”, but the idea of actually having children is horrifying to them. (Which is prolly a good thing!)

    But I am truly shocked to hear that the folks in North Carolina are unfriendly! Say it isn’t so.

  • My husband and I were out walking with our 6th child when she was about two (a blond haired blue eyed beauty for those of you who think the looks matter.)  A woman with two little dogs came by and my husband struck up a conversation but only to let my daughter pet the dogs.  The woman was delighted and went on and on about her silly little dogs and never once said a word about my daughter. 

    In the past I have heard a few women say that their husband didn’t want any more children so they got a dog instead.  The women almost always pick out a little furry dog to replace the baby.  I always laugh when I see the husbands walking with the little fur ball.  They don’t realize how silly they look or how much more of a man they would be with a stroller.

  • Ok, my first attempt did’t post so here goes. Having lived in 6 different east coast states I have learned that people are different according to their geography. You may have just had a bad day but you may also be in an unfriendly place.
    My experiences in Long Island , New York soured me on the place and part of the reason I live in Delaware is that people still stop and try to help if your car breaks down. Our four kids get plenty of postive attention, even to the point of shop keepers (Indian and Pakistani) giving them things.
    I’m sad to hear of North Carolina as a cold place. When I lived there it still had southern charm and hospitality. Was your son in a city , LaVallette?  Cities seem to breed contempt even in the south.

  • As for North Carolina, a lot of New England companies and jobs have moved to the Research Triangle Park area of NC and thus a lot of New Englanders have followed. I’ve heard of a lot of local from here moving there and they’re probably doing there what they did to southern New Hampshire.

  • I always smile at kids and I notice often that other people don’t.  I started noticing because I was amazed at the number of people who don’t realize that Caleb is the most adorable 5 year-old on the planet.  I have had the thought, like you, that this is a sign of the times.  People can’t pay attention to adorable kids as individuals or award them any specialness for being kids, because then they’d have to look at what we’re doing as a culture and they’d have to come far too close to thinking about the fact that at some point, they considered the adorable kid to be non-human and expendable.

  • I have to admit that before I had children of my own I didn’t pay much attention to the children of other people.  Now that I have kids, I am much more likely to engage other children or at least smile at them when I am out and about.

    I’ll bet they’d have noticed Isabella if she were having a tantrum!

    Also, I try to make a big deal about babies when we are out with our children to try and show them how babies are a wonderful thing.

  • The “Culture of Death” has pervaded all of our lives, it doesn’t matter where you live.  Not of us are immune.  In some parts of the country where the pace is slower you may get more smiles but they still have 2.1 kids.

  • “I’ll bet they’d have noticed Isabella if she were having a tantrum!”

    Amen, amen! You hit the nail on the head, Sarah. Tut tut’s, eye rolls, and aspersions cast at the complicit parents, who should have rethought their ability to raise children.

  • Joe

    You want unfriendly and selfish, go to the American Southwest, and more specifically the Anglo neighborhoods thereof. People are superficially “pleasant” but *not* friendly at all – it is the most passive-aggressive universe I have ever encountered (on repeated visits – I’ve family there), and that is saying alot considering the contrariness of many New Englanders (and contrariness is different from passive aggression – it can be playful, as you can find in Ireland). They say Tucson is the place people go to in order to get lost. While I love the physical beauty of the place (eroding with each new real estate development) and the native culture, I’ve come to see that is often (not always) so. The moment you really need anything, people vanish (mentally) on you. I’ve never encountered that in New England with strangers when I am in need. Ever. That’s anecdotal and limited, but it is what it is.

    I will say New Yorkers are hotter than New Englanders, for good and for ill. The anger is hotter, and annoyance is directed more hotly, but the warmth is also greater and more immediately real – and it’s dramatically under-rated and misunderstood by the rest of the country.

    Down South, it was fun and flirtatious (in the social, not romantic, sense) and gracious, but it took a long time to pierce that surface, making it harder than in New Englander where there is often a minimal surface to distract your attention from that work.

  • Dom,

    In Lowell they keep trying to revitalize the downtown for tourism in which it seems families and children do not play a part in their planning. The direction of downtown is mainly for empty nesters, childless couples, and single professionals to live out life without being bothered by baby strollers and adolescents. (They want to take out the high school.) Downtown will become an urban village with many of the residents of Lowell merely being peripheral. It will no longer be the core of the city, but a hollowed out hole for those who can afford to visit and play. It is like we’re not suppose to be seen by the new downtown residents or viewing public who come to Lowell.

    I’m disappointed in downtown, in fear we put all our eggs in one basket. I feel like a tourist in my own home. I fear downtown will become another Times Square or worst Venice in Italy. There was a great documentary called The Venetian Dilemma “City or Theme Park” on the tourism destroying the city of Venice. I feel guilty because I went there for my honeymoon and I loved it. It was like Disneyland for adults who liked to shop and eat.

    30 years ago Venice was a real city with elderly and families with small children, and real commercial activity now it is all tourists and more then two thirds of the population do not live there. Those two thirds that were forced out for tourists and never reaped any of the fruits from Venice’s economic success from tourism.

    Even though art, culture, and ethnicity are things that should be celebrated, they can not be the basis of the city’s economy or any economy. Unless you’re entertaining a white upper-class couple by pimping out your cultural identity and ancestral roots for a price, just so they can tell their peers how deep they are because they celebrated the arts and diversity in historic downtown Lowell; many of us in the city are no way welcomed.

    Salem has “pimped out” on being the historic town of witches so much, it has neglected its own residents. It’s not a town, it’s a Theme Park.

  • Interestingly, that was the subject of my masters thesis over twenty years ago—the packaging of culture. When it is marketed as a consumer good (oompa bands in Germany, leis at the aeroports in Hawaii, ribbon dances in China) it is no longer organic, but an artifact. It gets preserved longer than it would without a market, but it’s no longer authentic, but rather artificial.

    Likewise, there seems to be an inverse correlation between reverence for the actual sacrament of matrimony and the number of photos/dvd’s. We love to watch ourselves live and chronicle events devotedly, but the heart seems lost somehow.

    [Long ways off original topic, I know.]

  • I find it fascinating that while in Italy Dave found the people to be warm and friendly towards babies and he thought that maybe it was because the birth rate in Italy is so low.  It reminded me of the scene in “Children of Men”  when the people heard the sound of a baby cry for the first time in 18 years and for a few minutes all the fighting stopped.  They all got down on their knees and one man even blessed himself.

    After daily mass one day I had an elderly woman tell me that the sound of my baby crying in the back of the church sounded to her like an angel.  She died not to long after that and I’m sure the sound she is hearing now is the same sound as she heard in the back of the church that summer.  There is something very special about a baby and I feel sorry for people who don’t understand that.

  • Something we both noticed is how people ignore her. Now, we’re not those parents who think everyone should go ga-ga over their baby.

    You certainly are and you certainly should be.

    This child—whom I personally go ga-ga over every time I see her pictures—is not even a year old. Of course you have the God-given right to expect people, strangers or not, to flip over her.

    This is not a “New England,” “Salem,” “East Coast,” or any other “thing.”

    This is a “parent thing.”

    You are both justifiably proud parents. I’d be ticked as bleep if people ignored my gorgeous baby, and you should be too.

    You’re probably over it by now, but next time this happens, just chalk it up to bad taste on the part of others, treat each other to a boy-are-these-people-clueless sympathetic shrug…and then go take Bella over to your Mom’s. grin

    Love you three!

    Quoting Rocket J. Squirrel:

    And now here’s something you’ll really like!


  • I would never really venture to make a comment on any child’s adorableness, unless I knew the parent fairly well. (At work, I admit that I do coo a lot over my co-workers’ kids! It’s really weird to hear that coming out of my mouth….)

    OTOH, I’ve always found it hard not to smile at kids. (And all little kids are adorable.)

  • LaVallette, I’m sorry to hear that Raleigh is the city in question. It was a warm city twenty years ago. As a southerner, you and your son have my sincre apologies.

  • You should try walking your baby in Texas.  I think what happened to you was a “Yankee” thing.  People are a lot fiendlier, and much more courteous down here.

  • I think what happened to you was a “Yankee” thing. People are a lot fiendlier, [friendlier] and much more courteous down here.

    Is the above remark supposed to illustrate this fabled superiority in the courtesy department?

  • Kelly Clark, I’m just calling it like I see it, based on personal experience in both North and South. Aren’t you being a tad touchy?

  • No need to be defensive, BeBe. And nope, I’m not being touchy—a tad or otherwise. Just pointing out the irony of your statement. Have a good one.

  • I think the main problem is that you live in Salem, MA. Lets face it—evil does not like good. I would sprinkle Blessed Salt in every nook an’ cranny of that town and pray for those poor folks. God has given you the eyes of the Holy Spirit to see these poor souls.  They are sick and demonized.  So now you must go, and be the Light of the World and the Salt of the Earth as Jesus has called you to be. Go to Adoration for them. Offer Masses for them. Say the Rosary for them. Take St. Benedict medals and put them all over town.  Also pray for the Angels to protect you and your family.

  • This was so sad; sure people can be reluctant to engage in big displays which would either seem patronizing or suspicious, but still… I tend toward being one of those smiling idiots who cannot resist a child, a dog or cat or cricket or anything else that I encounter, giving it a greeting, a pat or whatever applies.