It’s been very interesting having a baby in Singapore, and even more interesting having a chocolate one!
It started with the nurses at the hospital cooing over his curly hair, remarking in fact that he even had so much hair! Since then it’s been nothing short of eventful. I know my son is INCREDIBLY cute with a teddy bear face and a delightful, giggly smile, but this is just weird. And it isn’t just Singaporeans reacting in such a strange way, its people – women really – of all colours and creeds. His middle name is now “So cute!” because that’s what people squeal as they walk past.
On day 4 of his life my husband and I went down the road to the newly opened PS Café for some food. It’s self service so you have to pay at the till when you order. In the few seconds gap between us switching places (me going to the stroller and my husband picking up the bill) this complete stranger – European I think – appeared beside my NEWBORN, cooed and stroked his hand! In my postpartum, sleep-challenged, hormone-fuelled state I wanted to cut her hand off. “Please don’t do that”, I smiled tightly and she scuttled away. Did she look hurt for a second? Was it ME who had done something wrong? It was so odd.
From then on it’s been constant. Almost every day of my son’s life, a pedestrian walking past has turned and craned their head to peer straight into his stroller. It’s almost as if they don’t want to miss this opportunity to see a black baby! His stroller has sun cover by the way so this requires very deliberate action…
For the first couple months, I said nothing. Because it’s a compliment isn’t it? But then I went to Tekka market (Little India) with my mother(who was visiting), and even though she was nearby I felt the usual anxiety whenever at a till or pausing in an aisle. Sure enough, as I spoke to an attendant, a woman crossed to the other side of the stroller and reached her hand out to touch him. Like a bolt of lightning my arm blocked her, bone hitting bone as I gripped the side of the stroller. “Thank you”, my Englishness pressed down my anger. She said something to her friend, in Hindu perhaps. Probably something to the effect of “What’s wrong with this woman? How rude!” But I didn’t care. What is it that makes people think they can stroke a perfect strangers’ child, no matter how cocoa-delicious his skin, heart-melting his smile or tantalising his curls?
If this were the UK everyone would be on creep alert, so I am really happy that life is much more laidback and trusting here. Truth is it’s not a bad dilemma to have. On the flip side, I’ve had EXCELLENT service because of this cutie. I’ve had complimentary drinks in cafes, and so much help with my stroller. Women of all ages have melted – from teenagers to waitresses – who insist on carrying him so I can ‘enjoy’ my dinner…
What’ll happen when he turns 18? I’m scared.