All The World's a Stage.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The husband has mentioned several times that I've 'changed' since BabyMoo was placed in my arms.

Well... not 'changed' in the sense that I have become a domestic goddess to rival Martha Stewart or have embraced motherhood to the exclusion of all else; neither has my personality or characteristics changed in any way. The change has more to do with how I deal with society and the image which I choose to portray.

I have often wondered... how many of us really and truly project our real selves in our dealings with others.

To ride the undulating trials and tribulations in Life, I guess I have maintained a facade. However, I think this instinctive weapon is not necessarily used to create a false impression... rather, it is used to protect myself.

To the undiscerning eye, laughter would signify happiness, and tears would show sadness. That arrogant strut means: Hey... I'm Cool. Words of empathy means that you can absolutely trust that person to understand. Sadly though, how much of this is real? More often than not, there's more to it than meets the eye.

Maybe all this has something to do with the human's ability to adapt itself to changes. To mould ourselves as per how the occasion deems it. We are all vulnerable in one way or another, and chances are, naïveté at one point in our lives would have made us see how others can cruelly exploit a weakness.

I used to come off as a snob, and an arrogant one at that. I can't really help the way I look... and I don't see the need to have to smile at anyone, at the risk of coming off as being 'over-friendly', or worse - a candidate for the Institute of Mental Health. So I didn't bother with niceties, or making the first move to introduce myself in lot of instances. I didn't care for small talk, because I didn't want to waste time on inane matters like the weather (who the hell cares if it snows in Singapore!), places to eat, places to go, what to wear, or what's currently in fashion. I am comfortable in my own skin, and I didn't care two hoots about that person who has been throwing me hesitant smiles from across the room. I was happy hanging out and being myself with my group of friends, and all other things can wait.

I didn't bother smiling at or greeting neighbours - and given the odd hours that I used to keep, it was pretty easy to do that without steeping on toes, because I hardly came into contact with any of them. In fact, they used to think that I'm staying over at my then boyfriend's, (now husband) place - instead of it being the other way round. It was actually a no-brainer if I were them... the hubs is friendly to everyone and everything, and he always makes it a point to greet them first, more so for the older ones. He even knows when the lady opposite the house is due, or how many grandkids the couple next door have. He greets them by name, and they greet him back by name in return.

I was as I have been for the first 30 years of my life. Polite, but never friendly.
Aloof? Possibly.

Perhaps I didn't realise back then that I am that way so as to create an invisible barrier between me and the rest of the world... for I am of the impression that I only want to be answerable to myself. I guarded my privacy zealously, for perhaps I don't want my vulnerabilities to be exploited. I allowed people to form their own opinion of me based on the mask that I wear, because their opinions mattered little to me. I wasn't self absorbed or worse, a snob in any way - but I projected that image because having them know and deal with the real me can be harder to manage. I am only myself to close friends.

They know the real me because they are the ones who bothered to go deeper beneath the surface layers and made the effort to know me as a person.

I realise that I put up these barriers not to keep people out, but to find out who can be bothered to break them down.

So... since the bub arrived, I have been faced with situations whereby strangers strike conversations with me just about anywhere. They peer in the stroller when he was a wee babe, and make very heartfelt remarks. They play peek-a-boo with him on escalators while he looks over my shoulders on the way down. They exclaim how cute he is. They gush over the wavy curls, seldom seen on a Chinese baby. Random people, from students to the cleaning lady strike conversations with me, not caring if I didn't understand their native tongue.

At first I was always in a state of perpetual discomfort. I didn't know how to react, or how to provide suitable answers to these wonderful remarks without coming across as prideful or arrogant. Should I simply dismiss them, or should I smile and walk away? Should I be appropriately bashful, and play the accolades down? I didn't like that last option, because I AM proud of BabyMoo, and I do not want to downplay his good traits, for the sake of coming across as being humble (which is a predominantly Asian practice). Humility exists in many forms, and this is not one instance which I can afford to adhere to it.

The husband gets amused by my very apparent unease. He is tickled by his wife having to deal with a slew of well-meaning individuals who ask about BabyMoo's age, weight, and remark on his features. A Granny sitting at the next table peered into the home-made porridge whilst I was feeding him, asking for the recipe and precise instructions on how to recreate it. She did so after realising that her grandson, who was seated with her and instructed to call BabyMoo Gor Gor [Big Brother] based on their sizes, is actually 4 months older than he is. DaddyMoo leaves me to my own devices in these instances, pretending to look everywhere else and busying himself with mundane things while my eyes plead with him to rescue me, risking my wrath after that.

Then I got used to it.

My smile became wider, my tone more condescending friendly, and I found a way to redirect the attention back to BabyMoo since he is older, more mobile, and seems to have an inborn knack of charming the socks off anyone when he chooses to.

I make him wave at them. Blow flying kisses. Smile widely. Act coy when he needs to. It helps that he does the necessary with just a whisper from me, and adds on an extra smile or action depending on the audience. He loves pretty young ladies with long hair, and is tolerant with old ones. He only smiles briefly at men, unless they act the clown and make funny faces at him, which would be rewarded with a 'you're so silly but I will laugh loudly and act all amused because you made an effort' guttural laugh. I don't even have to acknowledge them! I don't have to bother with niceties... I just have to talk to my son! Perfect arrangement, at least in my books. But even though I can get away with this, I choose to smile and acknowledge these attention.

Once I got over the initial state of discomfort, I found that being friendly never hurt a soul. I was not exposing myself by simply smiling or greeting a stranger, and I realised that when people think that you have let your guard down, they are actually more willing to go the extra mile for you.

The husband has been right all along. He who has practically given up on trying to tell me to do what BabyMoo managed to make me do, without a word.

No one needs a smile as much as a person who fails to give one.

13 comments :

  1. I was exactly like that before I had K! Lost in my own world, preferred not to be spoken to by strangers, avoided eye contact, hated it when cab drivers or strangers try to strike a conversation. Now I have absolutely no problem starting a conversation with strangers, yes even overly-chatty cab drivers. I still tend to be a lot more reserved with the older aunties and neighbors though, as I get uncomfortable when they start probing too much. Motherhood does brings out the best in us, and in this case, push us out of our shells.

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    1. Rachel, I do know what you mean about the older generation!

      I don't really like it when they probe and more often than not, start comparing, even though more often than not, they reserve nothing but good things for BabyMoo.

      There was the one time when our neighbour opposite, who has a granddaughter around a year older, saw BabyMoo drinking out of a straw at 7 months old (He never took to drinking from the spout type, and managed to drink from a straw straight away) and she remarked that we shouldn't force babies to do things which do not correspond to their age group.

      I was like: HUH?! But I just gave a straight lipped smile and walked off.

      If I wasn't a mother, maybe I would have told her off. Haha!

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  3. I love , love your blog. I can relate in so many ways.

    Keep up the good work ~Felicia

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Felicia, and for motivating me to write more! :)

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  4. Yes, having a baby with you is a very good ice-breaker. Matthew and I are very friendly by nature, and even before we had kids, we'd smile and greet neighbours - especially Matthew. But since we had Isaac, and the twins, now, we practically know everyone in our block! :) It's great though, we love how the kids bring a smile to everyone's faces. It's like they brighten up the world just by being in it.

    BabyMoo too - just looking at him makes me smile :)

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    1. I know what you mean... ever since the boy, the world seems to be a happier place, and when I open my eyes to see him asleep next to me, I just *know* that I am blessed.

      No wonder you intend to have many many!

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  5. I was really closed up, reserved, and defensive before I had Layla! Actually even in her first year I kept to myself, and it was pretty lonely. Fast forward six years: I'm still not the most talkative person at playgrounds, but I now take the initiative to strike up more conversations... and I have a lot more friends! Honestly the world's seemed like a much friendlier place since I became a mom, but I guess the change started with me.

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    1. Evelyn... you are one up on me - I have yet to 'initiate' convos until the boy does something to warrant that! Haha!

      I do agree that the world has becomes friendlier place. In fact, I found that it started when I was in my 7th month of pregnancy, when my tummy finally proclaimed that I'm pregnant instead of just fat. Strangers smile at me, the nice ones give up their seats... and I'm actually prioritised as a person!

      Nice attention, because it was all good - and not the nasty kind when people are just eager to spot a slip up or something not done right! :D

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  6. I used to be really shy and a bit aloof as well. I think I've changed over the years, not only because the kids came along, and suddenly strangers are asking everything about them, but also because of a change in mindset and a conscious decision to not let my inhibitions stop me from opening up on appropriate occasions.

    Now, I'm actually kinda glad that the kids come in handy in breaking the ice. :P

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    1. Yes! They make conversations easier, don't you think?

      I'm so guilty of using BabyMoo as a shield (and an accessory of sorts!) just to make moments less awkward.

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  7. kids are the best communication bridge between me and strangers. :-) this one i really agree. before i had B, my neighbor hardly spoke to us but now we have become closer as the first conversation was struck when they saw us carrying B. :D

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