A mom in Katy, Texas, is fuming about her encounter with a waitress at a sushi restaurant, and she’s got the rest of the Internet fuming right along with her. Dylan Downing was out to eat with her infant son, Mason, when she had to take a break to feed the little dude. You can probably see the rest coming. Out comes the boob, and boom goes the dynamite. Turns out a group of nearby men were scandalized by Downing’s shocking display of not making her kid starve, and they tattled to a waitress.
The server, whose name is Rattana, then went to Downing’s table, grabbed a table linen and placed it over Mason. And man, if that’s all you knew about this story, we wouldn’t blame you for being pissed. But honestly, it starts to head into gray territory about here.
Downing was furious (understandable). She ripped the napkin off (also understandable). She let Rattana know that she wasn’t happy (OK). Then she left a nasty note and no tip on her receipt (ick, but yeah, that’s OK too), and uploaded a picture of her handiwork to local news outlet KHOU 11‘s Facebook page and let the tidal wave of shared indignation crash down all around her. How dare that waitress! Downing really showed her!
More: 10 ways millennial moms are changing the parenting landscape
Except that it sort of looks like she didn’t. We get something in this story that we don’t often get in these stories, which is the other side of it. Turns out evil waitress Rattana looks a lot like your grandmother and, in her own heavily accented words, realized as soon as she did it that she shouldn’t have. She was mortified. Not just that, but Rattana is profusely apologetic about the entire thing, insisting she was just trying to help and didn’t mean to disrespect Downing at all. She understands now why it was a messed-up thing to do.
Watching the two women being interviewed, one thing that seems immediately clear is that Rattana is not a monster or an enemy or someone who thinks breastfeeding is gross and wrong. Instead it would appear that she is, firstly, not entirely familiar with the nuances, etiquette and laws of the culture and generation. The second is that she is very, very sorry. To the first, well, considering that we see example after example of people who are familiar with those things ignore them in favor of comparing breastfeeding to urination, maybe we could cut this woman a little slack. At least she wasn’t attempting to be malicious.
To the second, in light of how she feels about what happened, can we maybe stop posting things like this on the restaurant’s Facebook page?
If you’re going to claim that by naming and shaming the people who shame breastfeeding women, all you want is to normalize breastfeeding and raise awareness of the pertinent laws protecting it, then you have to sort of not be a dick when you get what you want.
After all, after the napkins have been thrown and the breastfeeding mothers thrown out, isn’t that the ideal outcome? The deed having already been done, don’t you want someone to feel genuinely remorseful, say so and promise to do better? Because if that isn’t good enough, then you have to admit that you prefer having a boo-boo that you can publicly bandage and not a newfound ally.
Which brings us to thing two: that receipt. There’s a fine line between suggesting a better course of action and tone policing, and that’s one we don’t wish to cross. Of course Downing was mad. Wouldn’t you be? She didn’t leave a tip, and that’s understandable, though anyone who has ever waited tables and committed a faux pas while doing it is probably wincing hard right now. She is entitled to her anger, though in her interview she claims she’s typically laid-back about breastfeeding.
There is not always an abundance of opportunities to truly make a difference or change someone’s mind about something important to you, and it seems like this might have been Downing’s chance. While she is in no way obligated to educate even unintentionally ignorant people on breastfeeding, she might have actually gotten through to Rattana if she had spoken privately to her. She opted instead to sort of giddily and publicly punish her, and whether she meant to or not, she sicced a lot of people who are far less laid-back about all of this than she claims to be on the waitress and the restaurant.
Undoubtedly Rattana will have a pretty visceral reaction to the next woman she sees breastfeeding in her section, but it’s unlikely to be one of dewy-eyed excitement. The phrase “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” is annoying, but it seems a modified version of the saying is appropriate here.
“You do more good for the cause of breastfeeding in public by talking like an adult to another adult — especially when it’s clear they don’t really know any better — than by publicly shaming them on social media in a way that would make Regina George cackle with pride.”
But honestly, that one’s not as catchy.