I am pregnant, and that means I'm trying to figure out which baby advice books I should buy, which means hitting the library pretty hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. I also have gotten horrible acid reflux because I'm pregnant, and sometimes that means I, like my future baby, spit up food.
I barfed in a library book.
However, it was a Dr. Sears book. If you’re unfamiliar, he's kind of a guru to the annoying attachment parenting that all those Park Slope parents do, with the baby-wearing and no-sleep-training, and basically in a (not so) sneaky way telling mothers that they'd better be surrendered wives and moms and not go back to work. I got one of his books because it was a guide to pediatrician stuff, which I thought would be straight how to keep your baby from dying. It did have some "These parents did sleep training and I could tell their three-month-old was detaching from them because she looked like a zombie and wasn't thriving,"asides though.
Anyway, I don't feel bad about barfing in a Dr. Sears book. I DO feel bad for the library. I would like to pay to replace it, but that's another couple bucks in royalties to this massive a-hole! Part of me wants to return the guide as is, even if that means potentially passing off a barfy book to the next lender. (My baby isn’t due for a while, so I have a couple months before I have to be a paragon.) Is that okay?
Thatz not okay.
Of course you have to pay for the book you barfed in. That’s how the library works. Otherwise, it’s just a giant bookstore (that faintly smells of vomit) where everything is free.
Since you’re in the market for child-rearing advice, here’s some: Don’t store vomit-covered objects in your home for days on end. Don’t trick people into using items onto which you have vomited. Don’t steal.
If you barf on someone’s possession, you don’t get to make a critical assessment of it post-barf. (“Here's your copy of Finnegans Wake back. I puked in it. Don't worry, it is pretentious nonsense. If anything, I did you a favor.”) That’s why many stores employ strict “You barf on it, you buy it” policies. You also don’t get to censor books from the library just because you don’t like them. The American Library Association has a whole week dedicated to educating people about why this is a bad practice.
Even if you did refuse to pay for a new book, you wouldn’t be depriving William Sears of his precious royalties — you’d just be passing the cost of replacement on to the library, which was kind enough to let you borrow and barf on one of its books in the first place. (Incidentally, it’s highly unlikely that your or the library’s $3 will be the magic amount that allows Dr. Sears to move into Phase 2 of his empire expansion.)
And remember the part of your story where you checked out the book because you thought it might contain some useful information on how to keep a human baby alive, even though you disagreed with the philosophy of its author? Maybe another parent-to-be will find themselves in the same situation, only when they go to the shelf and scan the spines for 618.92 P, they’ll find a book whose pages have been cemented together by a thin coating of tomato soup and orange juice that you shouldn’t have had for breakfast.
If you want to counteract the influence of the book you don’t like, why not donate a parenting book you do like when you go to pay your fee? Smaller libraries often accept used books and place them right on the shelves. Large ones bring them out during fundraising sales.
If you really want to dissuade people from picking up the guide, go to Amazon and leave a negative review. (Opening line: “This book made me VOMIT.”) Then, when your child is born, take him or her on regular trips to the library, because that is a great habit to get into.
Pay for any books he or she barfs on.
A few weeks ago I was at a tech conference and was schmoozing during a coffee break when I was approached by another conference attendee, a young woman, who appeared to have one (or two) top buttons unbuttoned. I was a bit mortified because I wasn't sure if this was an accident or not. You could see a bit of her bra, but not enough to make it obvious that a button indeed had come loose. I, of course, carried on our conversation like any true professional and desperately avoided trying to look down her shirt. However, I debated whether I should quietly tell her something like "Uh, it appears your button came undone" or if I should keep my mouth shut. Perhaps it was an ill-fitting shirt or she was OK with showing that much cleavage/bra and if I said something it would make things even more uncomfortable. In the end, I said nothing but I was wondering if I did the right thing. Is that okay?
A good rule of thumb regarding strangers’ breasts: You can look at them, if you’re discreet about it. Everything else—touching, photographing, casually mentioning—is off the table.
Can you imagine how much talking you would have to do if you took it upon yourself to notify every woman with visual bra straps or decolletage that you could see her bra straps or decolletage?
On the subway: “Excuse me, miss, I can see your bra straps...Excuse me, miss, I can see your bra straps.”
At the grocery store: “Those aren’t the only CANS in my line of vision...”
At Scores: "Pardon me, mademoiselle— you appear to be nude! In front of all these people! Just a heads up!”
Creepy though you may not be, I defy you to envision a scenario in which, at a networking event, you lean in toward a young woman you don’t know, murmur nervously, “Uh, it appears your button came undone...” and have that not come off as creepy. (Take that awkwardness and multiply it by 1000 if the shirt was just styled that way. “Oh...No, that’s just how it is...” “...Oh.”)
If anyone’s going to make a remark about another woman’s (perceived) wardrobe mishap, it should really be another woman. Pretty much every woman has either been asked for or given a tampon by a stranger at some point in her life, so we’re used to a little wink-wink girl club bluntness.
Personally, unless her breast was full-on hanging out of her top (“What do you think is the best way to visualize the medical data explosion, Tara Reid?”), I would have let it go. Not remarking on others’ potential minor embarrassments is one of humanity’s little graces. It allows us to delude ourselves into thinking that maybe no one noticed the smudge of lipstick on our chin during lunch, since no one mentioned anything.
Judging by the way you characterize your attempts to not visibly ogle this woman’s breasts as some kind of harrowing adventure, I would guess that your nervous glances—over her shoulder, up at the ceiling, BACK TO THE BOOBS, over her shoulder, down at your watch—managed to convey just fine that her cleavage was on display.
"Nice to boob you. I mean nice to meet your boob. I mean nice to meet you, bra. What do you think of the latest developments in BREASTS? I mean technology!"
And, by the way: Dude. Do you see this shirt? According to J. Crew, this shirt is perfect. It is literally a “Perfect Shirt” (in linen). Check out those buttons. By my count: one, two, three open on top, plus another open on the bottom. That’s just how people wear shirts. Leave her alone.
Submit your "Thatz Not Okay" questions here. Art by Jim Cooke.