We’ll let columnist Leah McLaren tell the story in her own words, which have since been scrubbed from the Globe’s website but will burn forever in the memory of the Internet.
It happened many years ago. McLaren was at a house party in Toronto, single and feeling “broody in the way that young women in their late 20s often are,” she wrote.
She wasn’t into the party. She went upstairs to look for a bathroom.
“I walked into a bedroom with coats piled high on the bed,” McLaren wrote, “and noticed that in the corner, sitting wide-awake in a little portable car seat, was the cutest baby I’d ever seen.”
“I smiled at the baby,” McLaren continued. “The baby smiled back.”
“I leaned over and gingerly picked him up.” Uh.
“Somehow, my pinkie finger ended up in his mouth and I was astonished at [the] strength of his sucking reflex.”
“ ‘C’mon lady,’ said his eyes.”
“Would it be so bad, I wondered, if I just tried it out — just for a minute — just to see what it felt like?”
No summary can do the story justice. Read its preserved remains here. But to skip to the end: The baby’s father walked into the room and “could not entirely conceal the fact that he was flummoxed to see me sitting there with my top half-unbuttoned holding his baby.”
The father, Michael Chong, retrieved his baby and prevented whatever happens when a non-lactating woman feels compelled to breast-feed someone else’s child.
Chong is now a well-known Canadian politician, a candidate to lead the conservative party. And McLaren went on to become a well-known columnist, who regularly amused her readers with self-deprecating anecdotes before last week, when she confessed her failed experiment in dry-suckling and initiated what another Globe writer calls
The Globe deleted the column from its website after publishing last Wednesday, and has not explained why. That hasn’t stopped its fame from exploding beyond the Canadian borders.
Some wondered if the anecdote was real, spotting hiccups in McLaren’s timeline.
But the father himself, while not exactly enthusiastic to be recalling the incident in the midst of a political campaign, confirmed that it happened.
But for the moment, at least in certain corners of the Internet, this is the preeminent story of Canada.
And the Internet wants answers.
Another Canadian journalist, the editor of Walrus Magazine, reported that Globe editors “love [the] surreal premise” of the story and thought it was funny — then took it down for “legal reasons.”
The paper hasn’t yet responded to The Washington Post’s questions, or anyone else’s.
After recounting her house party adventure, McLaren turned the rest of her column to the social politics of breast-feeding other people’s children, which can provoke strong reactions even when consensual, as Salma Hayek and an American blogger have both learned in recent years.
McLaren did it, with a friend’s child many years after her misadventure at the party.
“It doesn’t actually feel odd at all,” she wrote.
Just sometimes reads that way.