Thursday, February 18, 2010

baby grabbing

I was out at a mall the other day with a friend who had an infant with her. While we were sitting and waiting for our bus to show up, two Saudi women walked straight up to the baby and began cooing at her, inches away from her face. The first one was so excited she kissed the baby through her face veil. The second one did the same and went in for a grab. Unfortunately, the baby got scared and resisted, so that was the end of that. The women waved goodbye and happily went on their way.

To a western woman, the interaction was a bit strange because we have such a notion of personal space for infants that we rarely ever see strangers walk up to kiss and touch our children on their faces. Hands and feet are a little different for whatever weird reason and are deemed 'touchable zones', and before people pick up babies they always ask permission from the mother. Alarm bells immediately go off for most of us when this sort of ritual isn't followed, to be honest, because we aren't used to seeing anything else, and I reckon there's some notion buried somewhere that the only time people grab babies suddenly is when they want to steal or eat them. But I think it goes to show how babies and children are so cherished here in the middle east. Certainly, Riyadh feels built for them (though not for teens). I don't know how many castles and giant playgrounds I've passed in this city, not counting the elaborate play areas in all the major malls. It's sort of eye opening to see a little glimpse of affection come out of the local women here, because they seem so mysterious otherwise...


Om Lujain© said...

Its kinda cute.. but also annoying at times.. yesterday while at riyadh galary... this salesman out of nowhere tried to give my 5 month old baby water!!! I was like WTF!!! Back off dude.. and he was persistent.. I told him.. listen.. my baby ONLY drinks booby milk! Now back off.. lol

as for the kissing... I don't let anyone kiss my baby on his face.. so u can imagine how annoying it is when a complete stranger steal a quick one! :)

Anyways.. loving ur posts!

Orchidthief said...

Hi Om Lujain! I'm glad to hear it's not just me that finds the whole baby kissing practice a bit off-putting. Sweet, but a bit weird for me nonetheless.

Thanks for reading!

ZazaHardy said...

during our field trip last month, our 3 year old son was given a chewing gum at the security guards in the airport. going back to holland he was given some money (filipino pesos)!

they looked so strict but when they see a baby or a kid, they all changed all friendly and touchy, offering to shake the boy's hand!

i felt so SO bad for it happened infront of the indian workers who were shouted at and scolded at. my heart then sank, and i actually cried after seeing how the indians are being treated there.

yes, i do agee with you.. sweet but a tad bit weird for me!

lots of best wishes!

andaluss said...

In Arab culture, it's NOT actually a big deal. People usually would smile at you, & would not suspect that you are trying to steal their baby! But I still agree that it's always a good thing to be watchful in these kind of situations.

Orchidthief said...

Zaza, it really is quite sweet to see how much they love kids here, isn't it? I can see how it can sometimes be tough to watch the working class get treated differently here - it is also something I'm not used to at home.

And andaluss, I didn't mean that we westerners actually think anyone's going to steal our babies, I just think the instinctive subconscious reaction is one of danger, even if it isn't there, just because we're so used to keeping personal boundaries. No one in Canada even greets with the kiss kiss on the cheeks that they do here (except in Quebec). So you can imagine the shock we get when babies get such an affectionate welcome from people we often have no interaction with.... just a cultural musing, not to say either way is better than the other.