How Do I Talk To My Coworker’s Dumb Baby?

Scaachi Koul is a senior writer at BuzzFeed Canada, formerly the managing editor of Hazlitt. Her debut collection of essays, The Pursuit of...

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It’s been a brutal and confusing week for complex and violent geopolitical issues, which, oddly, has likely served to highlight the one true constant in your life: your ill-informed, barely conscious social media acquaintances trying to make sense of said geopolitical issues in semi-public forums. It’s frustrating enough when educated individuals make foolish statements about Gaza in the news; it’s an entirely different problem when your Facebook friend Taylor—you know the one; you used to get high with her in your dorm room in Vancouver six years ago and now she lives in Red Deer and is really sad about it—thinks she knows what she’s talking about. She does not.

Now, let’s assume you’re educated enough to recognize that you know absolutely nothing about this issue (or, at least, not enough to feel any inclination to talk about it on the Internet). What do you do when someone you know—maybe even someone you like—says something incredibly dumb and uneducated about an international conflict? Your idiot sister talking about how “Al Qaeda is occupying the Jewish state of Palestine,” or your coworker yammering about how “Gaza is infringing on the rights of the non-American Jew,” and there’s nothing you can do but slam your face against your keyboard until the spacebar is driven directly through your skull and finally, finally, the sweet gift of death is bestowed upon you.

While I may not be an expert on global politics, I am an expert on conflict with your friendly neighbourhood dumbass. So, should you engage? Should you try to explain even the most basic concepts about Gaza or the IDF or even what a gun is and how it works?

No. Do not do that. Get off the computer and go for a walk. Read a book with unlikeable female characters. Be mean to some dogs in the park. Do something else. Trying to get involved will only a) prove how little you actually know, or b) get you involved in an argument with an even larger group of dummies than you thought were lurking around. (A general rule is that whenever you see one Internet Moron, there are usually 10 to 15 other ones crawling around like head lice.)

While you’re at it, be thankful that you’re not living in a warzone, and that your biggest problem probably involves cousins and former classmates and posting memes with dead bodies in them and not understanding what “genocide” means.

Now, shall we?

Okay, so I have been working at my current place of business for two years now, and I feel I should be a part of a team, included in things and shit, right? Well, the guys hang out with the guys, and the girls are cliquey and mean. It’s like high school, but worse. When a new girl joins the team, they include her in stuff—ask her to come out for lunch, things like that—but for someone who’s been here a while, I’m never invited. How do I handle this?

— Eating Lunch In The Bathroom

Do you work at that boutique that turned away Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? Big mistake. Big. Huge!

The easiest question to ask here is, “Do you want to be friends with these kinds of girls?” But that’s too simple. OF COURSE YOU DO. THEY ARE REJECTING YOU. Nothing makes you want something more than being rejected by humans who—I assume—wear Desperate Housewives-branded fragrances and say things like “let’s take a selfie” unironically any time before midnight.

God, I already hate these people.

It’s possible that you have inadvertently given off the impression that you are unfriendly, and maybe uninterested in joining this Cool Girls Only Club. Who knows? At the very least, you can start by asking these jerks if they want to have lunch or go out for a drink after work. If they refuse, or offer up lame excuses (“My ferret is sick,” “I have to wash my hair,” “I need to go home right after work to catch my boyfriend in flagrante with my ferret”), or do come but act like a bunch of assholes, then you have your answer. You do not, indeed, want to be friends with these kinds of girls. But, more important than that: it is an impossible feat.

Do you work at that boutique that turned away Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman? Big mistake. Big. Huge!

So try to make friends elsewhere in your office. You don’t mention that the guys are still playing by the rules of high school politics, so ask some of them out for lunch. Have a beer with them after work, or plan an office activity where everyone on your team is invited, even The Plastics. If your office is bigger than these two factions, venture out of your current team and be friendly elsewhere. It’s nice to work with people with whom you also happen to be friends, but it’s not always possible. All your coworkers owe you is respect and competency. You can’t expect them to want to watch you tuck into a bean burrito every day at noon as well.

And if you’re still bitter, Google “how to surreptitiously unscrew a desk chair” and behave accordingly.

*

I just moved into a new apartment after getting out of a crummy relationship. Everything has been good so far—the girl I moved in with is a stranger but seemed pretty tolerable—until a few weeks ago. She and I decided to go out together to have a few drinks, and her boyfriend and some of his friends came with. Everyone got a little too drunk and her boyfriend started leaning in too close to me and put his arm around my shoulder. I shrugged him off when I noticed he wasn’t just being friendly. Now my roommate is fuming, saying that I tried to sleep with her boyfriend. I didn’t! I don’t even like him! I was just being polite! Ordinarily I would just ignore it, but my roommate is taking it out on me in weird ways: she turns off the TV while I’m still watching or flicks the lights off in the bathroom when I’m showering. I am starting to feel afraid of this girl. How do I fix this?

— Too Spooked To Go Home

There are people who say that moving in with a good friend is a terrible idea, because it can turn a quality relationship into one of either dependence or resentment. But this here is a fine example of why living with your friend is the way, if not the only way: because strangers have bad reputations.

You know who’s always doing terrible things to you? Strangers. They are the ones who come to a dead stop directly in front of the subway turnstiles to rummage through their purse. They are the ones smoking skunk weed in the park when you are trying desperately to quit. They are the ones walking too close to you at night on a quiet street when you’re just trying to get home. And because they are strangers, you can’t anticipate what weird thing they will do to you.

I am a dramatic person, but I don’t think it’s an exaggeration when I say that this woman is trying to kill you. Turning off the lights in the bathroom while you’re in there, all wet and soapy, is a real safety hazard! What if you slip and break your neck? What if you get some of those exfoliating beads in your eyes because you couldn’t tell where you were soaping? What if a stranger slips into the shower next to you and you accidentally use his genitals as a loofah? THIS IS A REAL RISK.

But this here is a fine example of why living with your friend is the way, if not the only way: because strangers have bad reputations.

Unfortunately, the police do not like it when citizens make complaints about passive-aggressive attacks (trust me, I’ve tried), so you need to deal with this on your own. My instinct is to tell you to get the fuck out of that apartment—if your roommate is this unhinged and unwilling to listen to reason so early on, who knows what she’ll do if you accidentally use her toothpaste. That said, moving isn’t always feasible. So try to work with what you’ve got.

If you think there’s even an iota of logic in this girl’s brain, tell her that you didn’t intend to hit on her boyfriend and you’re really sorry that there was any confusion over it. Don’t blame it on her boyfriend, as that’s likely to only make her angrier with you: just say it was a mix-up, reaffirm your chaste intentions, be vague, and end the conversation as soon as you can. There’s no use belaboring it. Eventually, she will calm down, and when she does, learn this lesson: this girl is not your friend. It’s preferable to move in with someone and connect immediately—just as it is preferable to work with people you can be friends with—but that’s not happening here.

Treat her like what she is: a stranger paying for half of the space in which you both reside. Do your dishes, clean the bathroom 50 percent of the time, be mindful of your noise, and offer her a slice of banana bread when you bake. You don’t need to go out with this girl, listen to her panic over a pregnancy scare, talk to her for any length of time longer than six and a half minutes.

If this doesn’t smooth it over, then take the sentiment one step further: get a lock for your room and protect your shit if you think she poses a real risk. You don’t need to barricade yourself inside, but maybe when you’re in there, take some time to start looking for other apartments and save your money to rent yet another U-Haul.

*

I don’t like babies. They make me uncomfortable and I don’t know how to interact with them. I also work in an overwhelmingly female office, with a lot of my coworkers currently on maternity leave. Every few weeks, someone brings in her kid and everyone wants to get a look at said kid. I go over with everyone, but I feel so awkward with their tiny babies—and I definitely don’t want to hold them! I don’t know how to talk to infants or what the right questions are to ask their parents. How do I handle this social interaction in the future without seeming standoffish and rude?

— Babyphobic

I understand this crisis completely. I have dropped every small child I have ever been allowed to hold without first being seated, flanked by cushions. I let my cousin’s infant son roll off the couch onto his face and now he walks a little funny and I will never tell him why.

If you work in an office where there are multiple women on maternity leave, then clearly it’s a big enough office where friendliness with every one of your coworkers is not only unexpected, but nearly impossible. Judge each baby on the merits of its parent.

Is it someone with whom you work directly, and will continue to in the future when she returns from maternity leave? You have to talk to that baby.

Is it someone who is quick to hold a grudge and will be upset if you don’t coo at her baby? Go make kissy-faces at that soft-skulled gargoyle.

Is it the boss, or any other superior with whom you might want to gain points? Do not listen to your instincts and throw that baby in the garbage. If you touch the baby, don’t touch it directly on its eyeballs.

Otherwise, you are under no real obligation to let some toothless creature suck on your fingers and claw at your chest. No one brings her baby around with the expressed intention of making you uncomfortable. In fact, this has nothing to do with you. No one really cares about your baby-feelings at the office, and it’s unlikely to affect anything.

Do not listen to your instincts and throw that baby in the garbage. If you touch the baby, don’t touch it directly on its eyeballs.

Discomfort with babies is a real affliction, though, like lupus or selfishness, but unlike those two issues, this cannot be cured merely through vaccinations or death. You’re going to need to learn how to be nice to babies. Here are some quick do’s and don’ts to get you started:

  1. Walk by very quickly while saying something like, “Aw, she’s so cute!” (If you can’t tell the gender, truncate it by saying, “Awwww, so cute!”) Then run.
  2. Widen your eyes, wave to the baby and say something like, “HELLOOOO!” Do not make it cry.
  3. If you do make it cry, make light of the situation. Do not start crying yourself. Do not shake it to get it to stop crying. That doesn’t work.
  4. Do not refer to it as “it.” Parents don’t like that. I still can’t figure out why.
  5. Ask the parent a question that would be inappropriate to ask a normal adult, but makes sense to ask an adult about a baby. Anything from “What’s his name?” to “What’s her blood type?” to “How much is she eating?” is perfectly acceptable.
  6. Don’t throw bread at it. It’s not a bird, and also, it will follow you around for the rest of the day asking for more bread.
  7. If they ask you if you want to hold the baby, subtly recoil and say, “No, no, I have a bit of a cold and I don’t want to pass it on.” Then walk away, wheezing, until you are out of earshot. Go outside and smoke a cigarette in celebration of your victory against this stupid baby.
  8. Ask the mother some variation on, “So, how’s motherhood?” and listen patiently while thinking about your own crippling fear of responsibility and vaginal tearing.
  9. Jingle your keys in front of the baby’s face while humming a childhood tune or while taunting, “I know how to drive and YOOOOU DON’T.”
  10. Do not ask who the father is.

You’re going to be fine. And just think—should you ever get pregnant, there will be a whole other generation of coworkers just as terrified to get anywhere near you and your disgusting kid.

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