Mar 26, 2007

Starsky and Hutch and Baby and Me

The chance to attend a mommy-baby movie at our local movie theater was on my short list of reasons to have another baby. Like under-the-belly maternity pants, Kate Spade-style diaper bags, or affordable Maclaren knockoffs, the brilliant idea to designate one movie matinee a week as a time when caregivers are welcome to bring young children to the theater hadn’t been conceived when my first two children were babies and that made me sad. So we made a new baby on a Thursday in May, I pushed her into the world on a Friday in January, and I took her to see Starsky and Hutch on a Wednesday in March.

I love going to movies. When I worked in retail a decade ago my days off were never in synch with the weekend days off my professional friends had. I began to go to movies by myself and developed a taste for it. I didnt need to worry about whether or not a pal was enjoying a movie I’d chosen, and I could bask in the joy long after the credits ran, without having to rush into detailed analysis.

I am notoriously easy to annoy in movie theaters. I am a glarer (don’t even think about unwrapping your jolly rancher). In fact, as recently as mid-pregnancy I demanded money back from a movie theater manager who allowed someone to bring a noisy three year old to a Friday night Grisham-style date movie; I’d arranged for someone to watch my three year old and I wasn’t interested in having to deal with the fidget-factor of someone else’s. Very few friends pass my rigid movie-theater code of silence--even my husband is on eggshells on the rare occasions we got together.

It is not surprising then that I was nervous about the kid-noise and mom-chatter that would, no doubt, be part of of a mommy-baby movie. But I figured Starsky and Hutch wasn’t going to be a hang-on-every-word kind of show, and I was eager to get out of the house so I grabbed the baby and a diaper and off we went.

I was so excited to be back in a theater I called my husband from the escalator. The smell of popcorn, the carpeted walls... I knew I was in the right place when I entered the lighter-than-usual theater.

There were fifty people in the room under the age of two. Most were attached to stylish moms and gorgeous couples. Expensive strollers filled the aisles, as well as the areas usually set aside for wheelchairs. People were murmuring to each other in typical pre-movie fashion. So far so good. Everyone seemed well-behaved.

I settled into a stadium seat behind a railing. Putting my feet up was going to provide necessary leverage for nursing and I didn’t want to get in trouble for putting my feet up on an upholstered movie seat (I wasn’t sure if they relaxed those rules in mommy-baby matinees and wasn’t willing to find out the hard way).

Several moms showed up in pairs. I noticed that they were able to hand off their babies to one another to make taking their coats off, locating important items in their diaper bags, and getting settled easy. I wondered if I would be willing to trade my love of going to movies alone for the convenience of a mom-friend’s extra pair of hands for my next matinee.

A father muttered to his baby in the row behind me. He was angry that the pre-movie filler included ads for soft drinks and candy, and was eager to share his anti-commercial views. Since he didn’t have any one’s ear but his baby’s he pulled the old parent trick of talking to his baby in a stage whisper. Surely “We didn’t come to the movie to SEE ADS, did we Ginger?” was meant for everyone around him, not the three month old strapped to his chest. I smiled at him over my shoulder so he would feel validated. I tend to go out of my way to encourage stay-at-home dads who show up at events that have the word ‘mommy’ in the title.

A trio of elderly women shuffled into the seats next to me. “It’s a kindergarten in here today,” one shouted to her friend. I wondered if they knew that this was a movie designated for mothers and infants or if they just thought that parents had suddenly become incredibly rude and presumptuous (more so than we actually are).

And then to spice things up two separate groups of mentally and physically disabled adults arrived. ‘It’s not fair!’ one woman shouted as her chaperone tried to steer her wheelchair into one of the few stroller-free zones left.

“It’s not fair!” she shouted at him even when he was on the other side of the theater trying to find available seats for some of his charges--all of whom were wearing down jackets and seemed to have lint in their hair.

“No Marie it is fair--it’s ok, they need the strollers for the babies...” he called patiently from several aisles away as he shepherded one of his grown-ups back in to a seat.

My heart went out to the chaperone who may or may not have had the heads-up that he had been about to bring twelve needy adults into an area teaming with toddlers and territorial moms (no winter coats were being picked up to make seats available for his crew). In an instant my own task proved enormously easy. While he was keeping track of wandering grown-ups in a large dark room, all I had to do was nuzzle my 6 week old baby, feed her, rock her, and enjoy the show.

The lights dimmed and a Barry Manilow song came on, signalling the start of Starsky and Hutch. No sound from the babies, no sound from the grown-ups, no sound from Marie-the-referee who was parked directly in front of my propped up feet.

And then “what time did you leave your house to get here?” old lady number one asked old lady number three, leaning across old lady number two in a voice that was definitely NOT an indoor voice.

“Oh I took the Path and then the blah blah blah blah” pattered on old lady number three.

“Awfully cold outside. I about froze getting here.” old lady number two shouted...

I was hoping Marie would let them know ‘it wasn’t fair’ that they were talking--no such luck. She was absorbed in the movie already.

I glanced desperately at the dad in the row behind me and at anyone else who might give me a knowing-enough look that would make it ok for me to shhh the trio of septugenarians who continued to chatter away. Everyone was focussed either on the screen or on locating some baby item.

At least, I thought, the movie volume is up pretty high. I was alone in that sentiment. A mom and a dad who didn’t belong to each other and who seemed to be mommy-baby-movie veterans approached an usher pointing to their children’s ears, and the sound was promptly adjusted down to their liking. Everything was falling apart.

The women continued to catch up with each other, now they were discussing weekend family get-togethers.

I was furious at them. They were, quite possibly, the only humans in the room who had any control over the amount of noise they could make in the next precious ninety minutes. But could I really complain? Hadn’t I just signed up for a noisy movie?

I considered moving, but since each mom-baby pair was taking up several seats, packing up and getting up and locating another area that could accomodate us and getting settled there would have been a several-minute ordeal. Plus I was pretty married to this railing my feet were up on.

An offer of popcorn from her chaperone prompted another ‘It’s not fair!’ from Marie. He crouched down to give her some anyway, and then rushed off to help another one of his charges.

I allowed myself to be driven mad for the first few minutes of the movie.

Thankfully, an unexpected shooting on screen got their attention and the three ladies stopped talking and settled into the movie. I prayed for more violence, not something I usually wish for when there are small children around, but it was a price I was willing to have them pay.

At one point Marie turned around and asked me what time it was. I was considering making something up, not knowing if it would be fair or not that I really didn’t know. One of the elderly noise-makers came to the rescue and told her the time.

Warm feelings towards this crazy community swelled up inside of me. Post-natal hormones or a sober realization that this is truly one of the greatest groups of people ever assembled in a movie theater in Brooklyn? Who cares. We were all on the same page now. Things were looking up.

The movie was a riot--and this movie-starved mom was grateful for every second of it. People were swift to calm fussy babies, several moms left the theater when necessary. Miraculously I was able to block out all noises from people under the age of seventy. My baby slept for most of it, and when she was awake she nursed quietly or gazed curiously at the flashes of lights and colors on the screen.

Next week I get to choose between Hidalgo with Viggo Mortenson or The Secret Window with Johnny Depp. Sandy Hunk or Scary Hunk? I’ve considered inviting several new moms that I know, but think I’ll just go it alone. What if one of them turns out to be a talker?


Anonymous said...

Please re-address your American Girl thread. A lot of people are waiting to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, I can't see the point of dragging babies to the theater.

jenne said...

we tried one here in the Boston area and it was pretty much the same deal. Thanks for the mention of Dads going to the 'mommy' titled events. my husband felt like he was going to grow breats with the amount of Mommy/Baby events he's attended. :)

Sarah said...

So I suppose you have chosen to neglect the American Girl topic, and leave the hundreds of us hanging?

Matt said...


My name is Matt and I am a journalist who is interested in speaking with you regarding the American Doll post you made. If you wouldn't mind emailing me at an account I set up, that would be great. The email address is Please email me with an email address or phone # where I can reach you. Thank you so much.


Anonymous said...

People wanted an update because your story was clearly an embellishment of an occurrence at which you were NOT present. You wrote the piece with a particular brand of soft hysteria and energetic hyperbole. Of course people would react - the situation you described was worthy of reaction.

Many people contacted the American Girl company - the reaction from them painted a much clearer picture - the customer service was not the problem, the "hyping it up" was. You told a second-hand account of something that can never be verified, then left people to wonder what the hell happened.

Grow up - even now you're ignoring the situation and taking a CYA attitude.

mickey said...

Haha this is a great post! I've always loved to see the kind of crowd that shows up for different kinds of movies and now I can't wait until I'm a mom myself so I can check out this scene.

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