A dumb, small little fact about me and babies: I love babywearing. I have slings and wraps in numerous styles, an (organic) Belle Carrier, and the ever-popular Ergo. I suppose admitting this fact puts me in the dreaded "Bobos in Paradise" category since I am clearly spending way more money on these than a person NEEDS to.
However, what I love about baby carriers is that they a) leave me hands-free so I can do the grocery shopping or laundry folding; b) allow me to write essays while "holding" a baby who doesn't want to be put down (VERY important in academic ;-)) and c) prevent unwanted/unlooked-for baby attention from probably well-meaning people who nevertheless alarm me in the ways they spring out of nowhere itching to touch The Baby.
Okay, enough said about the benefits of babycarriers, because what I really want to talk about is another little, dumb "fact": people who wear babycarriers seem to universally try to ignore each other. Seriously. I'll be in the mall wearing my baby and see someone else carrying their baby in a wrap, and inevitably we both turn up our noses. I've experienced this phenomenon in airports, parking lots, and restaurants as well. It's so ubiquitous, I'm thinking it's not just me. I expect non-babywearers to ignore me, for the most part, but the others? Huh. We have each other on ignore, similar to those message boards that feature an "ignore" button so that you can avoid the people whose posts always make you upset/embarrassed/livid.
With other parenting things (like, say, a tantruming three year old) parents are generally supportive and sympathetic: a small nod and a knowing smile to say, "Yup, I've been there before and I'm sorry you're going through all this, sis." But not so with babywearers. It's like we're embarrassed to be babywearers. Babywearing is still something a minority of people do, and it's something that appears in the news occasionally as an unsafe thing to do (see here for the recall information on certain slings and here for how to safely wear babies).
All of that means it feels a bit like you are putting yourself out there. I think babywearers don't acknowledge each other in part out of not wanting to draw attention to each other, as a way of saying, "This is normal and I don't have to make a big deal about it." (So isn't that the thing to do with the tantruming three year old too?)
But I also think it has something to do with fear of arguments. A babywearer is, in a way, starting an argument by wearing a baby, because we're saying, "Here's a different way of doing things - even a better way." But by not acknowledging other babywearers and by generally assuming that most people won't ask you about your sling, because in our society we set a very high premium on letting everyone do their own thing, we don't have to enter into the argument. We, as a society, hate arguments and would prefer to ignore each other than enter into arguments.
It's something I see with my students all the time, in the classroom, in their writing, and even in incredibly provocative lectures given by famous people. Students are reluctant to make arguments, perhaps out of fear of being wrong or of offending someone so they don't say anything at all, whether they agree or disagree with the people who ARE taking a stand.
I find that I always have to give a lecture at the beginning of the semester making my own case that it is better to take a strong stand than to always stand in the background and let others do the thinking for you. Regarding offending people, I always remind them that this is what being polite is about: listening to other peoples' provocative, interesting arguments (not interrupting, not barging through, NOT ignoring). It is also about being willing to be wrong, being willing to forgive others' foibles when necessary, and being willing to change one's mind. We have a thing against arguments, almost seeing them as impolite, in part because our "role models" (I have politicians on both sides of the aisle in mind here) are not really good role models but instead prey on each other and drag each other through the mud, deliberately misinterpreting meanings.
Being willing to be wrong, to forgive and to change one's mind are in quite short supply in our society and I'm convinced it's because we don't argue well and we don't want to engage each other, even when we see people doing things (like babywearing) that may seem a bit strange and odd. We'd rather whisper out of earshot to known friends: "Did you SEE that weird thing that person was doing?" rather than have an honest but scary conversation that might - gasp- turn into an argument. It IS possible to have a civil, eye opening argument. It's one of the things I hope I'm helping my students do better.