Monday, January 16, 2012

“Don’t Look Too Close”: An open letter to the woman at Macy’s

Dear Ma’am:

I suppose it shouldn’t have bothered me that much. But I stewed over it, and that always makes things worse.

We had been having a good time – my husband, myself, and our six children. We had shared a snack and shopped at Sam’s Club. (We love that there are enough of us to buy the #10 size can of green beans.) We went to the Lego store to daydream but eventually succumbed to the Pick-a-Brick cup. We had plans to spend our Half-Price Books gift card.

The baby – he’s almost one year old already – had been so patient and good. Like babies do, he had leaned out of the stroller to run his fingers over the merchandise as we rolled past, arched his back a few times to test the strength of the restraining strap, and fussed a bit to seek a comforting word from us. It had been a long day for him, and he was hungry and tired.

We headed for the Macy’s restrooms, remembering the women’s lounge where I might be able to nurse the baby while my daughters used the facilities. It was not a comfortable place – the chair seat was too high and the white tiled walls were the same as inside the stalls – but I thought it might be a gender-private place where I would not make anyone uncomfortable with my nursing.
When I first sat down, the lounge was empty, but a line quickly formed and snaked its’ way past me toward the door. You were with a friend, or maybe a sister, sharing pinched expressions as you fingered your pearls. My baby was not nursing well with all the distraction, but it was twenty degrees outside and our van was cold. I had practiced nursing discreetly many times at home, my husband assuring me that he couldn’t see anything even when he was looking. I was doing my best, trying to soothe a fussy baby.

And then I heard you speaking to your friend in a low tone.

“Don’t look too close.”

I appreciate that you tried to keep me from hearing you.

But I did.

And I still don’t understand what could possibly have been so terrible for you to see. Is this not one of the many reasons why God designed the female body as He did – to nourish a baby?

It grieves me that this has become the one unacceptable function of the female body.

If you are like most people, you go to the swimming pool in the summer with your bikini or, at most, a one-piece swimsuit.

If you are like most people, you watch television and movies and view images or videos on the internet that are incredibly inappropriate and perhaps contain wardrobe malfunctions.

If you are like most people, you shop at the mall a lot more often than I do where you see seductively-posed undressed mannequins and larger-than-life size obscene advertisements.

Why is it acceptable to wear a shirt so tight that I can see the outline of your form but it is not acceptable for me to nurse my baby discreetly in the privacy of the women’s lounge?

When did we become a people so stuck on ourselves that we cannot see the needs of helpless babies?

When did we become such profane prudes?

I apologize that I did not think to pray for you then. I admit I was flustered; you may have noticed how quickly I left the restroom. But as I write this, I am praying for you now. And I am praying for myself, that I might learn to speak the truth in love.

May God bless you richly as you draw near to Him,


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  1. Amen!! I can't believe people think thats bad when they see worse just walking in the mall or any other place.

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I wonder what she would have thought if I was sitting in the more comfortable chair in the hallway outside the bathroom!


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