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Getting Old Quickly 0.03

We take the baby to his baby class. He's five months old and has already started lessons. This is Korea. They ask me if I want to come, and I know this will be funny, so I agree.

The room is in a department store. Mats make a circle on the floor. There are eight mothers, a grandmother, an aunt and an uncle (Cathreen and me), and nine babies. I feel vaguely afraid. Nine babies are a lot, and they're like their own little species. Who knows what they do, or will do, when they get together?

The walls are sparsely decorated. Everything is bright. I can't understand anything the mothers say--the babies maybe slightly better. The class is supposed to improve their five senses, Cathreen has told me.

The first few minutes of class the mothers stretch. One baby crawls across the room and molests another as its mother hurries after it. The other women look like they're synchonized swimming in a pool full of sharks.

Then the mothers "give energy" to the babies. They follow the teacher as she demonstrates on a doll that looks like a very small human being, not like a baby and not like a doll. The mothers give energy by rubbing their hands together and pressing the babies faces, their stomachs, the tops of their heads.

When a translation of a Beatles song starts the mothers lift the babies in the air and stretch their legs; one mother slaps her baby's feet. The babies wear socks from Burberry or other designers. They're dressed to the nines. Sweater vests, etc. I could never afford what these babies will grow out of a week later, what will become trash and pollute the earth they'll inherit blah blah blah.

Now the babies are supposed to hug themselves. They look like they don't have any idea what's going on. You're learning, the mothers seem to be telling them. Didn't you know? Our nephew refuses to hug himself. He jumps up and down. The crawling baby crawls into the middle of the circle and goes after the doll. I think, yes, go get him. Tear that simulacrum apart.

One mother comes in late as the babies are sculling imaginary to traditional Korean music. A new song begins, and the babies are taught to clap. Maybe this is what our nephew does at home, swinging his arms together. I thought he was hugging an imaginary friend.

Crawling baby is a force to be reckoned with. I realize why he has two adults to take care of him. Mother and Grandmother go after him again and again.

Now the teacher produces a rainmaker--those tubes with little beads inside. The babies watch and listen as if an alien has just appeared in the room and demanded their allegance. This is a trick the mothers should remember. You can't hear a baby sound in the whole room. The baby doll rests on a table like it's dead and about to rise from its grave.

I kind of can't believe this woman makes a living from this.

We get individual rainmakers, which the babies mostly eat. A baby tries to stand and falls into his mother's arms. The other mothers gasp. I type. The falling baby stares at me with a frown, like who the hell am I, writing about their baby lesson?

Later the teacher blows bubbles and an English song sings that it's time to sleep. The babies are not sleeping and the bubbles are not going to put them to sleep. Maybe no one realizes what the song means. The mothers stand the babies up, pretend they are full-grown people.

They've learned as much as they'll learn for today.

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