Background statement: I am not a fan of judging. (Outside of courtrooms, I mean.) I have ended friendships with people who became impossible to be around when they were unable to stop judging others. I make an effort to think criticially about my reactions when I feel myself tempted to pass quick judgment. Some of this comes from my work in San Jose, where I found too people far too willing to pass judgment on poor immigrant families. (“They’re lazy.” “They’re just here to take advantage of our country.” “Why do they have so many babies if they can’t take care of them?”) These opinions are poison. They’re easy, cheap responses to hard, complex problems. I do not, as a general matter, respond well to those who espouse these kinds of opinions in my presence. (See “knee jerk liberal”, below). But (and this is not something I’m proud to admit,) I have been forced to conclude that I, too, am a judger.

Just this week, I was studying in a burrito place which shall remain nameless (but let’s just say its one of those annoying suddenly everywhere big national chains that may or may not be owned by mcdonalds if you get my drift and I promise I had more burrito street cred when I lived in California please don’t judge my burrito habits.) A young family came in and sat down at the table across from me: mom, dad, little girl about 4 and little boy probably a year old.

As dad went to pick up the food, mom proceeded to nonchalantly lay the baby down on the seat and change his poopy diaper. RIGHT THERE AT THE TABLE. POOP! AT THE TABLE! I can’t explain why this troubles me so much except to say that I firmly believe that food and poop don’t mix (I may not have organized religion, but I pray at the altar of germ avoidance, amen.) Though the poop was a solid 4 feet from anything *I* was eating, I was unable to stop thinking about how close it was to the family’s food. And the poopy diaper just sat there, between dad and little girl, for the entire meal. It had to be smelly, right? Do poop germs float? Is there some sort of health code rule about poop? Like maybe a radius that has to be maintained between poop products and food products? (10 yards seems reasonable, right?) The poopy diaper incident distracted me so thoroughly that I was unable to learn how to impeach a witness anymore, and had to leave.

Judge-y judge-y judge-y! And I don’t have children!! I have no right to judge. It’s got to be a pain in the ass to realize that your kid, bundled in snow suit and everything, needs to be changed right. this. minute. And yet, instead of feeling sympathetic, I was looking around the restaurant to catch the eye of another patron who might be on my side of the unspoken debate in the matter of poop v. food, so that we might exchange knowing looks. Judge-y, party of one!

This ties in interestingly with a conversation I had with my friend S earlier this week. She and her boyfriend had been debating the propriety of public breastfeeding. S and I both felt strongly that public breastfeeding is not a big deal, and the strong reactions people have about it are a reflection of some seriously fucked up issues that our culture has with bodies, and sexuality, and notions of propriety. I was feeling sort of superior about my accepting, earth-mother openness to all things natural about childrearing. Then I go and judge the poopy diaper lady.

The next time someone makes a lawyer joke at my expense, I will totally deserve it.