My dad is a baby magnet. Kids absolutely love him. We’ll be out at a restaurant, and every child in the room will stare at him like he’s been dipped in sugar and covered in Tonka Trucks. Which is perfect, because he’s a born grandpa and there are few things he loves more than making a baby laugh.
Which is why it’s so sad that, over the last ten years or so, parents in restaurants have started giving him the hairy eyeball when he smiles and waves at their kids.
Tech Support and I are taking a photography class right now (in part so I don’t have to take 1000 photos just to get 40 good ones to illustrate books like Fox Talk!). Our class did a field trip to a local farmer’s market, as practice for travel photography, and part of our assignment was to capture the people as well as the place. In Canada, it is legal to photograph anyone appearing in a public place, no matter their age, and I was totally proud of myself for capturing this beautiful moment of a mother and child watching a busker play.
And yet, when we all discussed the experience in class, the men in the group said they hadn’t taken a single photograph of a child at the market, because they were afraid of how others would perceive their actions. These guys are fathers, who would never in a million years have an evil though about a child, and they’re afraid to photograph or even talk to a strange kid, for fear their intentions would be misinterpreted.
Even children’s authors aren’t exempt from these worries. Barry Lyga has two telling posts up at his blog this week, on establishing boundaries in relationships with teen fans. The first post is here and there’s a follow up here. They are both worth a read.
I’ve been guilty of this kind of suspicion myself. If I’m walking down a street and the only people in sight are men, I’m on full alert. I’m keeping a firm grip on my purse and my eyes out for escape routes. I’ve lost track of when this behaviour is good sense, and when it’s pure paranoia.
So I guess my question here is, what’s changed? How did we as a society go from assuming that people are basically good to assuming that people – and by people I mean men – are basically evil? Are we more aware of potential threats, or have the threats actually increased?
And guys, have you experienced this kind of suspicion? How do you deal with it?