SOCIETY

Won’t you be my baby?

At ‘adult daycare,’ naps and sippy cups are fine. As for spanking, well...

MARTIN PATRIQUIN March 5 2007
SOCIETY

Won’t you be my baby?

At ‘adult daycare,’ naps and sippy cups are fine. As for spanking, well...

MARTIN PATRIQUIN March 5 2007

Won’t you be my baby?

SOCIETY

At ‘adult daycare,’ naps and sippy cups are fine. As for spanking, well...

MARTIN PATRIQUIN

The place where men go to be babies is on the second floor of an anonymous whitewashed brick triplex in working-class east-end Montreal. Visitors walk up salt-stained stairs past a crucifix bolted to the wall and into another world, where the smell of cigarettes is replaced by baby powder, diapers and strawberry-scented No Tears soap. Sylvester and Bugs Bunny decals adorn the walls, and the faint, happy melody of Frère Jacques emanates from the kitchen.

“Annabelle” is dressed in a thick sweater and stay-at-home jeans, and she worries that your cheeks got too cold outside. She hangs your coat and leads you, a grown man, by the hand into the living room decked out with all the colourful staples of childhood: a rocking horse, a castle playset, a playpen. Annabelle’s specialty is arts and crafts, and

she promises scratch art, a snack, a bedtime story and a nap. But first, to business: it’s $150 an hour to be treated like a baby at ABDL, short for “adult baby lovers and diaper lovers,” and you have to pay upfront.

The transaction completed, Annabelle’s exaggerated grin returns—though she is confused by a question about the sexual nature of a grown man wanting to be pampered and petted like a child. Some of the other nannies, it’s true, spank their charges, but “I don’t like to hurt my kids.”

“There’s nothing sexual at all about it,” Annabelle says, grinning once again. “Now, would you like a diaper change?”

ABDL purports to be the first of a handful

of places in North America catering to those grown men—and they are overwhelmingly men—who find comfort and pleasure in reliving the helplessness of childhood. According to Karl, an owner of and practitioner at ABDL, the experience means different things for different people. Since the overgrown daycare opened last November, it’s hosted a range of people, from those who love to wear diapers to those who pretend to be small animals, or like to splash around the bathtub or just need to be mothered.

There is a sexual side, to be sure—a spanking is never just a spanking when it comes to adults. “It can be sexual, but not here,” insists Karl. “There is no sexual contact whatsoever.” Instead, he says, literally acting like a baby is all about protection and regression, a way to hearken back to the days when a soiled diaper was the worst of one’s troubles. Whatever it is, “infantilism,” as it is known, was deemed just kinky enough to be the fetish of choice on a recent CSI episode, in which the victim was a ruthless millionaire casino owner who died with a diaper rash. “It’s only the truly powerful that have the luxury to relinquish power,” said investigator Gil Grissom, sagely.

Karl would agree: he lists bankers, lawyers and financial advisers as clients, most (but not all) of whom dress up and act as babies only to let someone else be in charge for a change. “When I’m stressed I put on a diaper and I watch TV with my nanny,” Karl says. “When I have sexual relations it has nothing to do with diapers or nannies. It’s totally different. I’m like a Mini Wheat.”

ANNABELLE IS PLEASANT but firm in her directions. “Make sure you use different colours, or else it will all look the same when you draw your scratch picture,” she says. When the student does well, she unwraps a lollipop

and plunks it in his mouth. She teaches Grade 5 in real life, and is in the process of adopting children. One of her other “children,” of the $150-an-hour kind, recently bought a gigantic stroller. He wants her to push him around the park during the summer. “The last thing I need is for a journalist to get a picture of that,” she says. “Can you imagine, on the cover of Journal de Montréal?”

At naptime Annabelle reads Le crocodile amoureux (“The Crocodile In Love”), about a forlorn amphibian that falls hopelessly for a giraffe, in a soft, cooing voice meant to prompt sleep. She gets up, cranks the musical mobile and quietly walks out, leaving you to stare at yourself in the ceiling mirror or at the gang of googlie-eyed plush toys watching you from the other end of the oversized crib. There are stacks and stacks of adult-sized diapers on a bookshelf nearby. You’ve just drank fuzzy peach juice from a sippy cup. Sleep isn’t possible. When Annabelle comes back 10 minutes later, she sees her client with his eyes closed, just for show. “You look beautiful when you are asleep,” she says.

And you think: I bet you say that to all your babies.

THERE IS A CHILD in every one of us, Karl says, and before anyone judges a grown man in Pampers, just think: how many of us hang on to the threadbare blanket or worn-out teddy bear because it reminds us of when we were far more innocent? Infantilism isn’t a sickness or a fetish, he says: it’s a matter of degrees.

Dan Savage disagrees. The syndicated sex columnist, whose blunt and graphic advice on all things carnal can occasionally make paint peel, says infantilism is just another male-dominated submission fetish, like cross-dressing and bondage. “Men are kinkier than women, period,” he says. “Some like to argue it’s because men are socialized to make demands and go for what they want-sexually, socially, professionally—while women are subject to the exact opposite socialization.”

What infantilism isn’t, he adds, is dangerous. “People into infantilism are not sexually attracted to children or infants. They want to be infants, or be treated like infants, usually by grown women. They long to experience the intimacy of infancy and the complete lack of control that characterizes that condition.”

It is certainly how Annabelle sees it, as she spreads cold cream on your hands and buttons your coat. “You don’t have a scarf?” she asks disapprovingly, then hugs you a little too tightly and a little too long. Then it’s out the door, as she waves goodbye like there’s a school bus waiting outside. M