I live in Canada. Everybody likes Canada. I don’t think anyone has ever said: I hate Canada. If anything, you might feel a slight indifference towards Canadians. And we’re sort of okay with that. We’re not really very controversial, as a people.
This week, however, something happened. A waitress (we say server; it’s more politically correct) at a restaurant in St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Quebec, offered a woman who was breastfeeding in a restaurant a cloth to cover herself up.
How dare she. Shame the beautiful process of feeding infants. How dare she. And cue the insane internet backlash: who is this waitress? Why is she conspiring against breastfeeding mommies? What is her agenda? What is the restaurant’s position on this? Why hasn’t she been fired?
Now I don’t know the specifics of this, ahem, case. Maybe the waitress was a huge bitch and the mother was really being discreet. If these walls could talk…
But what I’m really interested in is the aftermath. This incident has caused me to re-evaluate my personal values, and I’ve come to the conclusion that when I’m eating at a restaurant, I don’t want a breast staring at me in the face. And I say this respectfully, breastfeeding or not, this is just the way I feel.
I understand that breastfeeding is a beautiful, natural process. I get it. I also get that women are not less maternal if they feed their babies formula. My mother did not breastfeed me, but my brother was breastfed. We are now both artists; go figure.
I get that this is a sensitive issue, in a general sense. I am not a mother, but I am a woman, and more importantly, I am a restaurant-goer. I am an avid restaurant-goer.
This is not a feminist issue. This is not a constitutional issue. This is a restaurant etiquette issue. Sure, your milk is ready and the baby is hungry. No problem: nourish your progeny! That’s beautiful. Perhaps you can gently lay a little towel or blanket loosely around your baby’s head as a polite nod to other diners? Of course, you don’t have to. Of course. And it would be infringing on your rights to tell you that you can’t. I get that. We wouldn’t even think of it.
But maybe, just maybe, it would be okay for you to simply… consider the discomfort of other diners who aren’t used to seeing a foreign breast bouncing about as they chew on their steak? I mean, let’s be honest here: baby attached or no baby attached, a breast is still a breast. And don’t get me wrong, I have a great respect for the changing female body and the miracle of birth. I am a direct product of its significance, in fact (newsflash) we all are.
But I can definitely understand why, as a waitress, it would be jarring to take an order and try to pretend like you don’t see the baby and the breast bouncing right in your field of vision. Even as the person eating at the next booth. Are you supposed to acknowledge it? Is it rude not to? Should we applaud it publicly? Should we avert our eyes? Will we become social pariahs if we question whether or not it’s appropriate? I don’t think it makes me judgmental or narrow-minded or uneducated to feel uncomfortable about it. Like I said, I usually like my meals sans breasts, unless it’s chicken.
Above all, please, please, let’s not begin a tirade about women’s rights on this particular issue because it is just so completely misguided it makes me want to cry. Can’t we all agree that having the freedom to breastfeed wherever we want is magnificent? And although we are not obligated to, I think it would be nice for everyone to generally be considerate of other diners in a dining situation. Respectfully.