Single-Minded: Why 'BABIES!' Just Don't Do it for Me


The first column I wrote for Single-Minded was about the mixed feelings I have about my unused uterus. Because as central as that lady part is to the marquee of me as a woman, its role in my day-to-day is closer to that of an unpaid extra. "Eventually it might just pack up and leave me," I wrote, "off to some better body that appreciates it. Wants it. Worries about it more." 

Sometimes I'm the one that's worried. Most recently, I worried about how many more flips my stomach did for the Sex and the City 2 trailer than it did for BABIES!—a wildlife documentary on babies by French filmmaker Thomas Balmes. (That exclamation mark gets me every time. Should I be excited, enraged or terrified? How ‘bout all three.) 

So should I be watching four women on the wrong side of 40 flit about foreign lands? Or watching four little babies go from goo goo to ga ga? One seems almost defeatist, and the other triumphant, filled with possibility. Everything seems awesome when you're a fetus, and when you're 40 everything seems done—at least that's what 29-year-old me thinks. It's as if both movies can't play at the same theater. Seeing one might negate the other—cinematic cognitive dissonance. I guess I always saw my success as more single in the city than pregnant in the 'burbs. But since SATC2 isn't out yet, BABIES! got to me first.

Everybody loves babies, right? Perhaps not in real life, but I figured it was impossible to catch a case of them by watching a few on the big screen. I mean, it's not like the babies can touch me or anything — grasping my fingers with their tiny ninja death grip. Smell-o-vision came and went in 1960, so that new baby perfume won't be able to seduce me into wanting one. Plus, I watched it alone, eliminating the possibility of me turning to the man next to me and sighing audibly, the first sign that you're walking down Reproduction Road.  

In the end what really saved me was the fact that BABIES! isn't a pregnancy propaganda film. I giggled, I smiled, I even sighed extra-loud once (or thrice), but after 79 minutes of eavesdropping on the first year of four infants I felt nothing close to longing-or lacking.  

The movie opens in Namibia as a young mother smears red clay over her bulging belly as if painting a huge target. Inside is little Ponijao, who will become the newest member of the Himba tribe. Meanwhile, in Mongolia, baby Bayar and his mother leave the hospital clinging to the back of his father's ancient motorcycle—pulling their house, a giant yurt, behind them. Living the high-rise life is Mari from Tokyo, an only child whose parents seem way cooler than yours. On the opposite end of the hip spectrum are Hattie's parents, San Francisco hippies who hand out homemade mugs with her footprints on them.

"My uterus is not talking to me at all," one of my friends told me. Born abroad, she'd just recently returned home for a wedding and described the scene as a veritable cornucopia of eligible singles. Everyone wanted to know why she wasn't thinking marriage, why she wasn't baby-crazed or salivating for a ring. "You think I'm weird, but I don't think I'm weird," she told the folks back home. 

"I plan to want to have kids…but I don't want them," she said to me.  

So clearly I'm not the only one who thinks BABIES! are best in 2-D. I've got a family that is constantly procreating. Since January, there have been three new additions to the Andrews clan that I have yet to see and smell. Believe me, I can't wait to do both and then, when I'm done, hand them back.

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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