Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Dinner with the h8ers

Last Friday, after I picked G up, we went to Barnes & Noble to feed my shameful addiction to British decorating magazines. (More on that later.) I got a few new issues, and G chose a copy of National Geographic Kids and yet another Spiderwick Chronicles-related book for herself.

As we headed out of the store, she asked if we could have dinner at the Italian restaurant across the plaza, and I said we could. I'd call it a "nice casual" place -- the tablecloths and napkins are real, but the food itself isn't too expensive, and we often eat lunch there either before or after seeing a movie at the theater upstairs. However, it seems the ambiance is a bit different on a Friday night, because when we walked in, the place was candlelit and packed with 30ish couples on dates and groups of people in their 40s and 50s, quite a few of whom gave G an extremely disapproving look as we were seated.

This made me angry. It would have been one thing if I'd arrived with a crying baby, or with a couple of toddlers and no one to help me manage them, but G is nine, and there's only one of her. She's not going to scream or throw food on the floor or careen around the restaurant like a maniac. Even if she were three or four instead of nine, it wouldn't necessarily mean that she was going to do any of those things. But our fellow diners' reaction, if it could have been put into words, was still: Ugh, a CHILD! Take it away before it ruins my meal!

I loathe automatic prejudice against kids, and that's exactly what it is -- prejudice. There is not one whit of difference between making assumptions about someone because they're black or Asian or in a wheelchair or whatever, and making assumptions about them because they're under a certain age. Sure, some kids don't behave well in restaurants. Maybe it's because they haven't developed the ability to sit still yet. Maybe it's because they're tired, or hungry, or uncomfortable. Maybe it's because their parents are flakes who let them run wild. But just because some kids are disruptive, it doesn't mean all kids are, and unless the kid in question has just been dragged to the table by one arm, screaming and flailing, there's no way to know at a glance. So how about a little benefit of the doubt?

Anyway, G was totally fine, of course -- she read her magazine quietly while we waited for the food, put her napkin in her lap when she was reminded, and ate her linguine as neatly as anyone can eat long, sauce-covered pasta. So take that, kid-haters! I'd rather have dinner with her than with you any day.

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