Lone Rat and Cub: “Ballad of the Three Wise Men” (Or “Ratty Gets Unsolicited Advice From Complete Strangers”)

Every now and then Ratty writes about what it’s like to be out and about with his baby. This is one of those times…

There’s probably no other time in your life that you’re going to get more unsolicited advice than when you’re walking around with a baby. A complete stranger will approach you and with some certainty and seriousness tell you exactly what you should be doing with the small defenseless life you are in charge of. Probably one of the things that will be most important to you and someone you’ve never met before wants to tell you what to do with it. Imagine every time you ate ice cream someone came up to you and told you to be sure to eat it quickly before it melted. But not too quickly or you’ll get an ice cream headache. Every time you eat an ice cream. You would, certainly, punch one of those people at some point. You would, surely, passive aggressively unhinge your lower jaw and eat the entire ice cream in one bite. Not all unsolicited advice is annoying though. Some of it is thoughtful, some of it is sad and some of it isn’t even really advice. This is the story of all three of those things.

The most surprising thing I’ve found in my travels with baby is that men will offer me advice. I don’t know why that’s so shocking to me that a man would have something to tell me about how to handle a baby but they do. To use the ice cream metaphor it would be like someone prefacing their advice by saying, “I’ve only had ice cream twice in my life but here’s what you’re gonna want to do…”. Here are three men I  met recently and the advice they gave me.

All Day Breakfast: It was around 7 a.m. on a weekday and I met a man in his 50’s smoking a cigar. He said what a lot of people say, “Hey! Cute baby!”. I agreed and he asked the usual about age and what my boy’s name was and then apologized when I told him she was a girl. All this time I am focused on his shirt. It was a plain white shirt with the words “All Day Breakfast” written on it. There are no logo’s of any sort, nothing to indicate it’s a walking ad for a restaurant. It looks homemade. I’m not the best at conversation (that’ll become apparent shortly) but I had to say something about it. “Great t-shirt”, I said. He said, “That’s what they call me!”. And while I riddled this the conversation sort of ended and he walked away.

There are a few things I should have asked at this point. Some unresolved issues to be sure. The main question being, “Why?” My hope is that he won it somehow. That the moniker was awarded to him for some sort of marathon day of breakfasting or, preferably, over the course of many many years. Can man survive on breakfast alone? I don’t know. I’ll Google it. Later.

Hot Dog Romantic: Dadbod requires more than just a complete lack of organized / willful physical exertion. It requires fuel. I don’t eat hot dogs all the time but if it’s lunch and I’m passing a hot dog vendor I will indulge. It is an easy food to eat with a baby strapped to you. It goes down fast and if you’re judicious with the toppings there’s little chance they will spill all over your baby’s head. My hot dog vendor is from Russia and you can’t just buy a hot dog. You must submit to a story. I actually love this. I mean I think I prefer them to the actual hot dogs. He usually begins with, “Let me tell you something…”. I’ve never NOT let him tell me something cause it’s always interesting. He asks, “Where is mama?” and I said she was at home and he proceeded to give me some relationship advice. “Most young men they don’t know love. They tell the woman I love you. They say baby I going to be with you forever. I do whatever you want. You want this I get this. You want that I get that. They talk and they talk and they talk. Most young men they tell the woman I love you. My friend do you know what the wise man does?”.

I confessed that I did, in fact, not know what the wise man does.

“The wise man SHOWS the woman he loves her”.

Show don’t tell isn’t especially new to me but it is kind of weird to hear it from someone who is playing a small role in poisoning me with nitrites and tail and hoof and whatever else is in a hot dog. He went on to list things I could do to show my wife I loved her paying particular attention to smelly socks. Pick them up wherever they might be. Show the woman you love her.

Sobering Cyclist: Another older man, this one fit, not smoking cigars or selling hot dogs, smiled as he rode past on his bike. A few seconds later I heard, “Hey! Wait a minute!” and I turned to find the man pulling his bike up on the sidewalk. “Cute baby!”. YES. I KNOW. Please just dispense whatever wisdom you have. “Do you always hold your baby like that? Like in the harness?”. I don’t but said I did. “You don’t ever put her on your shoulders?”. I said I didn’t but I do. She loves it and I’m desperate to win her favor. “Can you promise me something?”. This is new. Yes of course I can. “Promise me you’ll never put her on your shoulders. You could be walking with her and you could think you’ve got in under control but if you’re wearing sandals and you trip…”. And here the man’s voice breaks. “If you trip… everything changes”. I nod, slackjawed. “Promise me you won’t put her on your shoulders?”. I promise. He leaves and I walk home with tears welling up in my eyes.

Sometimes there’s a better way to eat ice cream I guess.

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