What is the Powder Room?
What is the Powder Room?
Illustration for article titled Keep Staring

I see you. Other people wouldn’t notice your slight blush, but I know why it’s there. I see that you see me. Your eyes dart from the window on the other side of the café, to me, and to the table on an endless loop. Your brow is furrowed, and I don’t know whether it’s embarrassment, irritation, or if you’re overcompensating so that you don’t burst into giggles. Your lips are twitching, or maybe not. Maybe I'm imagining that because I feel like you’re about to say something.

At one point, not knowing what you wanted to say would have mortified me, and I would have second guessed my right to be in the same room as you. I’d have burned with the feeling that my presence was presumptuous and I’d flouted an unspoken social contract. At another point, I’d have stared you down. Not the flickering attention you're paying me, but a laser focus in the center of your forehead as I thought Go on and say something. I dare you. You'll make my day. But now I just pull up one side of my nursing bra, shift my son in my arms, and offer him the other breast.

I have been told that what I’m doing is akin to public masturbation or urinating. I’ve been told that what I’m doing is fine, as long as I cover up with a blanket or a specially made, $35 nursing cover. I’ve been told that what I’m doing is fine, but that I should expect to be leered at because I’m asking for attention.

I’m not asking for attention, but I welcome it if that's what it takes to prove that what I'm doing is not worthy of attention. I accept that somewhere along the line breastfeeding became political: this is my way of participating in the conversation until those politics no longer have any hold or sway on my body. So while I don't invite your stares, I'll host them graciously. I want you to stare until you’re all stared out. I want you to become so familiar with sight of a mother breastfeeding her child that it becomes as normal to you as seeing a child drinking from a bottle.

My breastfeeding is not a secret and there is no reason to keep it a secret, either in my house or under a blanket. Women are kept out of enough public arenas—becoming a mother was not my resignation from society. Nursing in the open is no more a public health issue than sweating in public. It is no more a sexual provocation than wearing sandals is a sexual provocation to strangers who might be attracted to my toes. This has nothing to do with you.

I want you to see me so that one day you will stop noticing me all together.


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