Possibly the only thing worse than people who bring their babies to bars are the people who hate those people insistently. Talk about babies: they're all, WAH LEAVE ME ALONE I'M DRINKING WAH DON'T LOOK AT ME!
I know nothing will ever solve the Parents vs. the Childfree when it comes to so-called rules about who can go where and behave in what manner. Planes, parties, weddings, movie theaters—you say asshole, I say asshole. But still, we must soldier on and at least try to sort this out with reason and compassion.
David Blend at Thrillist recently gave it a go for the pro-babies everywhere camp, writing a list of 13 rules for bringing a baby to bar. I would give him props if not for the fact that what follows is a list of painfully obvious FYIs that are both insulting to any adult and also applicable to taking a baby anywhere. He warns us that babies knock stuff off tables, pick things up they shouldn't, probably won't eat what is served wherever you are including your own home, and will definitely throw their toys on the floor. Yes, sure, thanks for the reminder.
Some of the "rules" are particularly pointless:
Don't show everybody pictures of your baby
It's sitting right there. It's cute. Nobody needs to see it exhibit the exact same level of cuteness in a different outfit, especially if there aren't even any napkins in the photo.
Nothing's ruder than a baby picture!
Moving on, he offers only two decent pieces of advice. They are:
Don't ask people to please keep it down because there's a baby present and Leave right before everybody gets super buzzed.
He's right. The only place you can reasonably expect people to be quieter for your baby is your own home. If you don't like the volume of a place—and that volume is one typically expected of such places and reasonable due to the activity of said place—it's up to you to leave. And, unless you're really doing it weird, your baby probably needs to go bed by something like 7 or 8 pm. anyway, so you should cut out before the imbibing gets ridiculous anyway. Sorted?
Of course not. In the fuck-your-baby camp, a second Dave over at Thrillist, Dave Infante, fired back with 18 reasons that bringing your baby to a bar makes you a bad person. (Impressively, he was able to come up with five more reasons than the other guy, probably because he doesn't have kids and thus has more time to freak out about things.) He spews:
Just do me (and literally anyone else who has yet to seek out and accept the burden of offspring) a favor, and don't bring your f*%#ing baby to the bar. Or brunch. Or anywhere else people without babies tend to congregate & drink. Contrary to what you may have heard about "rules", it's unacceptable under any circumstance.
His logic begins with these three reasons: the baby is loud, you are loud, and he needs to curse in front of your baby. However, while all of these things are true, none of them are good reasons to not go to a bar or brunch with a baby. Babies are not louder than drunks, and the baby's parent is typically not louder than drunks or babies, and cursing in front of a baby is unavoidable and I believe, largely harmless. You have at least two years to curtail your cussing before it embarrasses you by coming out of your child's mouth.
Nearly all his other reasons are fairly irrelevant to the specific question at hand, such as:
No matter how cute it is, it's not that cute.
I'm not saying your baby is ugly, I'm saying all babies are ugly. Ask me one more time whether it looks more like you or the mother, and I'm going to tell you the truth: it looks like a bald alien with fifth disease. What?! I've been drinking!
Yes, that last part we must assume to be true. And:
Strollers and diaper bags are treacherous obstacles.
"Oh look honey — here's a crowded space full of people with chemically impaired balance! It's the perfect place to park this erector set on wheels, right?"
Other treacherous obstacles include purses, backpacks, and drunk people. Truthfully, I would be more concerned—and have heard of this happening anecdotally—about someone stepping on a baby in a carrier on the floor.
Baby food doesn't smell like food-food.
Even the street meat I'm going to crush after this has a more pleasant aroma than whatever vile puree you're cramming into its gaping maw right now.
Beer farts and bar Philly cheesesteak produce better smells than a small jar of carrot puree? That's reaching.
I can't even reproduce the other reasons Second Dave used here because they are so terrible. However, like First Dave, this writer also has two good arguments to prop up his position. They are:
I am drinking in the immediate vicinity.
When I am drinking, I often: make sudden movements! Belch malodorously! Gyrate my hips in a sexual manner to attract potential mates! Browse Craigslist for potential mates! Weep uncontrollably!
They remind me of my uncertain future, which is exactly what I came here to ignore.
Sunday nights are for bouts of crippling existential doubt about what the next years hold in store for me. Bar sessions and boozy brunches are for not-that.
And here is where we inch ever so drunkenly closer to the truth. Drinking is an escape, and no one who wants to tie one on wants a tiny vulnerable creature right beside them reminding them what's what. It's nerve-wracking, it's anxiety-inducing. It's a buzzkill. But so are most of the people I encounter when in public. Another way to phrase buzzkill is to say LEAVING THE HOUSE.
A lot of this, also, hinges on how we define a bar. Is it a place that serves only booze, escape, choking hazards, and sadness, and nothing else of nutritional value? In that case, you wouldn't find me at one with a kid in most circumstances. Maybe at an airport bar when traveling and you need and deserve a drink, or if you're driving and that's the only place with a bathroom or water? I once went to a private event above a bar in a nonsmoking room at 5 p.m. with an infant to watch a colleague's appearance on Jeopardy! People still acted like it was stupid, but fuck them. We stayed 20 minutes.
But if, like many bar-styled establishments, it's a restaurant and a bar or a restaurant that also serves booze, that my friend is just a restaurant and it is fucking fine to take your baby and anyone who tries to give you any kind of side-eye about it is a gargoyle. Many restaurants have a bar area separate from booths and tables anyway. If they have high chairs, your baby is welcome.
That, in my opinion, includes brunch. God knows I wish I could go to a brunch with a kid, but the reason I can't is not because it's wrong. It's because I'm awake every morning by 7 a.m. and have eaten both breakfast AND lunch by the time brunchers have uncrusted the first eye.
Generally, anywhere casual and loud and friendly is a good place to take kids. Brunches routinely meet that criteria, as do most reasonably priced restaurants that function as bars later at night. Most parents follow this rule of casual + loud + friendly—not to be good to drunks, but because anything else is way too fraught to be worth the expense. If the place is too quiet, you spend the whole time shushing your kid and feeling bad. If the place is too fancy, you spend the whole time picking up food off the floor and policing the kid's every errant crumb.
Much like this polarizing argument, what we need is in the middle, a place to relax, have a beer, have some food, where we can take our kids too, within appropriate hours and guidelines. (Europe gets it.) And preferably, those places would be patronized by people with children or without, who understand that, much like drinky people, most parents are just trying to hang out and relax and not think too much. I get it, Second Dave: We all have uncertain futures. Booze helps.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.