The Milk Plus Bar

Bring your baby to a bar, preferably a singles bar, so that when they begin to squall, couples will glance over at the source of the noise, see their possible future, and look back with glazed eyes at the person who might one day deliver that noise unto them. It’s great fun to watch an infant transform the atmosphere in these places, causing a sudden shift in the laws of attraction, and unmasking true character and intention. Some young couples perk up and talk more animatedly upon see a baby, while others cringe and seem to withdraw from each other. Then there are those who react in opposing ways, with one happy and the other grim, telegraphing doom for that particular relationship. We always felt free to invade these hallowed places in lower Manhattan with babies. Perhaps it’s unfair to use your infant to create unscripted theatre for your own personal enjoyment, but it was great free entertainment.

Our first foray into a chic bar with baby occurred while attempting to treat cabin fever. We were wandering the winter streets of Soho, which were beautiful in the swirling snow, until his messy diaper signaled the need for professional attention. Changing his diaper was often a rigorous maneuver, but performing it on a stoop in the bitter cold while snow settled onto his bareness strained my technical expertise to the point where an immediate infusion of alcohol became imperative. I tossed him back into the sling and we all repaired to the nearest unfrozen watering hole.

The Cub Room was a semi-high-brow pick-up spot that enjoyed a decent run on Sullivan Street but is now defunct. On that night, we ventured inside warily, half expecting to get turned away like Mary and Joseph in their similar predicament some years earlier, but no one stopped us. Our luck continued when we managed to find two seats at the crowded bar. I held baby with one hand, a beer with the other, and reflected on how the warmth of that place and the coolness of my beer were rewards for my expert handling of his various needs. Then he caught sight of me enjoying a glass of frothy golden liquid, and began demanding one for himself with great urgency. Under normal conditions, I might have felt reticent to let my wife bare her breast in a pheromone-filled barroom, but once again, baby’s need overcame any sense of decorum. So we sat at the bar and all enjoyed a good drink.

There is something about a baby breastfeeding at a singles bar that harkens back to a simpler era. Like around twelve hundred years ago. Bartenders probably didn’t mind it back then either, and they certainly don’t mind it now. They’re so bored with all the repetitive adult preening that nothing could be more refreshing than the sight of a tiny man getting a free drink. They know that there should be more babies in these places. Little tikes should be encouraged to come out for happy hours, and get paraded about as living testaments to the end result of the veiled sexual maneuvers unfolding around them. They lay bare the fulfillment of our deepest natural urge for all to see. So go forth, procreate, and bring your baby to the bars. Show the horny people what they’re actually aiming for with their high paying jobs and gym memberships. Clue: it’s not sex. That’s just nature’s ruse.

While ensconced at the bar in the Cub Room, I had a moment of awakening that marked my transition to middle age. Normally, a fish cannot see the water in which it swims, but thanks to the undeniable reality of the baby who was staring me in the face contrasted with all the other people who remained in a different universe, I suddenly knew that I was middle aged. Some might argue that maturity came late for me, and I would agree, if childcare had not mysteriously turned back my mental clock. For me, middle age had become much more like childhood than the young-adulthood I had more recently left behind, because I no longer have any trouble making a fool of myself. All you have to do is consider this book for a moment and you’ll agree. But then again, if you’re doing this work yourself, you already know that inspired foolery might be one’s highest achievement on any given day. Today happens to be April 1st, but I’m being totally serious here.

All the other child raising books drum home the idea that during adolescence, boys are more immature than girls. What they don’t tell you is that we remain that way forever, thank God. It is the one competitive advantage that men bring to the job of childcare: we might be better able to access the child within us. After a short time on the job, you begin to glimpse the wisdom of being a fool, and the longer you’re on the job, the bigger fool you become, in the best possible way. A holy fool doesn’t hold onto a shred of the hubris so highly prized by modern society—the type that causes war profiteering, famines, child slavery, murder, robbery, and film production. To do this job well, you must strip off the veneer of adulthood, let go of your self-importance, and rejoin the kids in their games.

Research shows that children who spend lots of time with their fathers benefit from higher grades, greater motivation, fewer anxiety disorders, and a reduced risk of delinquency or teen pregnancy. The flip side is that fathers who take care of children lose IQ points, jettison ambition as it is popularly defined, suffer bouts of anxiety, risk dropping out of the workforce, and might just get the neighbor’s Au Pair pregnant. Every fool knows that the universe maintains a fearful symmetry. The trick is to know when you’re being a fool, as opposed to just being an idiot.


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