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Saturday October 24, 2009

Is It Cool to Kiss Babies?


It never ceases to amaze me how here in Mallorca it is customary to see men of all ages making complete fools of themselves in the presence of babies and children. Yesterday for example, I was on my way home from the local market when I noticed a young, bronzed Adonis bobbing up and down by a parked car while a woman stood by, smiling benignly and jingling a key fob. At first I thought he was doing some bizarre squatting exercise but as I drew closer, noticed a toddler in the back seat. Making faces and cooing in front of everyone in the busy street, he continued until his knees practically gave way. Despite having a pile of work on my desk back home, I stood transfixed. The toddler was chuckling away in its baby seat and the woman on the pavement, evidently its mother, was enjoying the moment. As soon as the man got to his feet, a group of his friends arrived and peered with delight through the window, waving and tapping gently on the glass. Then, remembering the mother, they stepped over to give her an embrace. An old man came to join them all and then with a wave, off they went down the street while the mother calmly drove away.

It’s the same in our local town on a Saturday. It’s mostly the fathers, grandfathers and uncles who parade babies and toddlers around the main plaça, throwing them in the air, planting big smackers on their cheeks and beaming with pride as local women and old men come to cluck over them in their prams and push chairs. There’s a good natured one-upmanship as they throng together, comparing the size, thatch of hair, radiance of smile and general demeanour of their offspring. Occasionally one baby is singled out for special macho attention, normally he whose chunky little legs indicate that he might just be a Ronaldo or Beckham of the future.

Why, I wonder, is it OK to be both a macho and a big softie in Mallorca when it comes to kids, but not in the UK?





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