Don’t touch my children in the grocery store

It’s happened several times now, the latest was this afternoon. I was in Trader Joe’s, and a man came up and started commenting about the fact that Miles was in his jammies. I said, as I often do, “Wouldn’t it be great to be two and be able to get away with wearing footie jammies everywhere?”

He laughed, and then reached out and grabbed one of Miles’ feet. My hand came down and batted his hand away, and I snapped, “Do not touch my child.”

He looked shocked, and said, huffily, “Lots of people like me being around their children.”

“I don’t mind people talking to my children,” I said. “I don’t allow strangers to touch them in the grocery store.”

He then said to Miles, “When you’re 18 you’ll be on your own.”

It was only after I walked away from him that I realized that this exact same man has approached us before and tried to put his hands on Miles and I blocked him then, too. It’s the fourth or fifth time something like that has happened in Trader Joe’s. Close spaces? Friendly atmosphere? Beats me. The others have been middle aged women.

Now, this guy was scruffy. Looked kind of like a bum. But I had ZERO problem with him talking to us… it was when he reached out to grab my kid’s foot that I went from friendly and chatty to snarling mama bear. I’ve snapped the same way at well dressed middle aged women.

Here’s the deal…

People may just be social. However, recent research shows that our behavior can, in some ways be governed by the pathogens we carry. People may be more likely to be spontaneously social when they are contagious but not yet symptomatic with influenza.

There are a number of pathogens that can profoundly change the behavior of the host organism. Toxoplasmosis may have few obvious symptoms in adults…but can actually change behavior and personality in subtle and dangerous ways.

And of course there are those zombie ants, who get infected with a fungus that induces them to climb to exactly the right microclimate, latch on, and die, thus allowing the fungus to propagate.

So when a nice older man or woman approaches my child and reaches out to touch them (why is it always the feet?) they may be a perfectly nice “auntie” being friendly and sociable…

Or they may be a zombie aunt.

(postscript: I did in fact get sick once, possibly this encounter, I don’t remember, but from one very like it. Fun times.)

Posted in Health, Life.


  1. How any adult in this day and age still can think it’s ok and not creepy to touch a child they do not know is beyond me.
    I also think the demands for kisses & hugs from far flung relatives & so forth is gross.
    I’m as touchy feely as they come, but touch or contact that is uninvited, unwanted or coerced, even with the best of intentions (“aww, can’t Gramma Jenny have a nice hug?) is setting up some problems.
    I can relate to the groping, the unwanted touching, and eventually I have in fact been assaulted/raped several times, especially as a teen. Unlike you, I didn’t have the “no” response, I had the “I shouldn’t make this person angry by refusing them, they might hit me” response, and froze up. No person should have to deal with that, and I applaud your lessons in self-preservation & autonomy.

    • I know this is super old, but I agree and I tell my kids that they don’t owe access to their body or affection to anyone, even me, without their consent. And only touching without permission in an emergency when their health or safety is at risk. My SIL recently grabbed one of my kids for a hug, which, let me be clear, he would have given her if she’d asked, and I told her to let him go and never do that again. Even though I don’t feel she’s a threat, it’s not her body and he’s got autonomy over who he gives hugs and kisses to. “Even” if he is only a little kid. He’s not a doll, you don’t get to kid-handle him because you love little kids or are happy to see him.

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