Gather 'Round The Water Cooler
In my line of work, the closest thing I have to co-workers is the group of nannies I see at the park everyday. And while I love seeing their friendly faces, there is one thing holding us back from developing long lasting friendships: the fact that I speak zero Spanish.
This language barrier has never affected me negatively; the ladies love me. They will wave me over to enjoy the impromptu park party they’ve set up, (this could not be impromptu at all, and instead planned for months and discussed extensively at the park, but I wouldn’t know.) They will text me to see if I want to bring the kid I nanny to a fun outing they’ve organized. And they keep their ears open for the occasional babysitting job because they know I love my extra cerveza money. I thought we were all silently accepting of the reality that our relationship would never extend outside of the park, but then I was invited to one of their baby showers and all confines of our friendship were off!
I’ve never been to a baby shower in my adult(ish) life; I’m just barely getting used to the fact that people my age are getting pregnant on purpose. I think we can all agree that pregnancy is weird, it makes a lot of unacceptable behavior, acceptable. People do the strangest things around pregnant women; it’s like body-talk surges to the forefront and personal privacy and space go out the window. I feared that this would be invited, even required at a baby shower. I had no idea what to expect.
Do I randomly just grab the woman’s belly? Do I ask her weird questions about her boobs? Do I get the ins and outs of her upcoming C-Section? Do I harass her about baby names? Are baby showers like those birthday parties where everyone goes out of their way to shift all conversations to be about the birthday girl, only now all conversational shifts to be to her body and its changes and functions? I had a lot of concerns and questions, and clearly no idea what goes on at a baby shower, so deciding to attend one held in Spanish added an extra special stress level.
Would the cliché pregnancy phrases I had stored in my mind translate? When I said ‘bun in the oven’ would everyone turn to check the kitchen to see if its smoking? Would ‘you’re glowing,’ lead to an anxious run to the bathroom to check the mirror? The only reason I ponder is because, about a year ago, when I explained to one of the nannies that my first day at work was easy, consisting mostly of the mom “showing me the ropes” she responded with a confused, “ropes??” The terror on her face said a dark, unfinished, torture basement full of ropes hanging from the ceiling flashed into her mind. Seeing as that common phrase most certainly did not translate, I had some worries.
As it turned out finding baby or pregnant body things to talk about was not an issue. I forgot that I could slip into my park persona, which is hanging out just outside of the conversations taking place with a non-stop, goofy grin on my face. Call me an optimist, but when you have no idea what’s happening the best thing to do is smile. Forever. Regardless of the tone change in the conversation. No wonder these women love me, who wouldn’t love the girl who is constantly smiling in such wonder like there is nothing more beautiful and fleeting in this world than the sunshine all around us?
I’m like an exchange student, which is actually pretty great because I never studied abroad in college. This is my real life immersion program. I’d be lying if I said some Spanish hasn’t seeped into this English loving (literally studied English in college – a piece of information that got a huge laugh when I shared it with the nannies) brain. I know, zappatos, bano, hombre, agua, comida, puerco, cochino, sombrero. Which, unfortunately, when strung together sound like a mental patient recounting his last human interaction outside of the institution.
“shoes, bathroom, man, water, food, help, pig, nasty, hat”
Despite the language barrier, we shared a few hearty laughs, like when Gladys suggested I wear a sign that says “I don’t speak Spanish.” The baby shower as a whole was equal parts wonderful, delicious (homemade tortillas… yum) and awkward. Which is fine with me because that is the balance I strive for in all of my interactions. I truly am grateful for these women, their kindness and it was genuinely very nice to be included in such an important life celebration.
I left with a deeper connection to these women, a better understanding of baby showers, and an invitation to a Quinceañera for next weekend.