The dept. in the large institution for whom I work, in their applauded progressiveness, created an annexed lactation room auxiliary to the women’s bathroom. (In less progressive institutions, women have been reduced to lactating in bathroom stalls, or bringing “chilled” lactation acquired earlier at home.) In my role as Administrative Analyst, I am the “default moderator” of this lactation room, and have sole ownership of the lactation room key.
This key, like many keys in a way, serves the abstract purpose of keeping hypothetical “bad people” out. In a world of moral restraint, we would not even need keys. One wonders what a “bad person” would do, having gained unauthorized and/or inapplicable access to said lactation room, a room which merely consists of a chair, table, napkins, and lactation instructions. Would he fuck that room up?
Funny that I — of the less empathetic and, dare I say, obtuse gender – am, essentially, the gate keeper of lactating ladies, their entire anthropological enterprise resting on my whim. One wonders how vulnerable these women must feel inconveniencing me, having me leave my desk in order to somewhat resentfully escort them to the lactation room down the hall, incurring a slow and awkward walk during which I try to make small talk.
— I hope you’re not ‘holding it in.’
— I’m okay, thanks.
I contacted central administration, who forwarded me to Women’s Health, whom I requested that they either (1) disable the lock, (2) pass out keys to deserving lactating women, or (3) appoint someone else lactation room moderator. I explained that I’m a guy, and it’s a disservice to these new mothers that they must negotiate with some dumb bro regarding their most intimate and maternal matters.
Kafka already described impenetrable bureaucracy, so I’ll give it a break. Needless to say, I was unsuccessful in reappropriating the key to another person or agency. I made phone calls, so many phone calls, speaking to spiritually lobotomized machines. I have had this key for the past five years, during which time I have inadvertently upset many women by trying to small talk about lactation. And is it my fault for glancing asexually at their nipples in order to confirm their theoretical swollenness? I think not.
It finally dawned on me. I could simply remove the lactation room key from my “personal” set of keys, thus extricating myself from having to escort lactating women down the hall. This may seem obvious, but the 40 hour work week, over the course of many years, has a debilitating effect on one’s sense of empowerment. You just sort of accept things as they are. I labeled the lactation room key “milk,” somewhat sarcastically, but mostly because I simply needed a shortish 4-letter word to fully embody the act of lactation.
The milk key is resting in my top drawer, attached to the corporate friendly noose of a lanyard, waiting to undoubtedly offend the next lactating woman who sees it, which is why I’m going to remove the label and replace it with a boring abbreviation like “Lactn Rm.” I feel like this lactation room and its key has consumed a good portion of my since diminishing life. This is unfair.
To the breast milk fed kid who grows up a fully nourished 6′ 2″ tall, with pleasant demeanor and perhaps biblical name, I hope you say thank you when — perhaps in line at the gates of heaven, or just Disneyland — I look up at you with longing eyes. They will be near-sighted and crust-ridden, as not all of us are as lucky as you. By the way, you’re welcome.