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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

a day late and a $600 man-bag short

i know this ran in Sunday's NYTimes and i know it's been rippling through the various blogtubes of the interwebular cyberway. i also know that i am supposed to be offended because David Brooks presumably had my cohort in mind when he wrote the following screed. but he so utterly failed to adequately grasp--much less even begin to accurately describe--anyone i know that i just can't get all too riled up about it. if anything, he makes me sad. a clueless old codger howling in his Upper West Side wilderness. still, it'll be fun to deconstruct his playa hating one paragraph at time, dontcha think? here we go, with my responses in italics:

Mosh Pit Meets Sandbox
Published: February 25, 2007
Can we stop hearing about downtown parents who dress their babies in black skull slippers, Punky Monkey T-shirts and camo toddler ponchos until the little ones end up looking like sad-parody club clones of mom and dad? Can we finally stop reading about the musical Antoinettes who would get the vapors if their tykes were caught listening to Disney tunes, and who instead force-feed Brian Eno, Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens into their little babies' iPods?

hmm, yes. i just love wearing black skull slippers and camo ponchos, which is why i put them on my daughter. always! she will be just like daddy in his slippers and poncho. someone got me a gift certificate to the baby gap last year and i SPAT IN HER FACE (for the record: i still feel bad about that, grandma). and, sorry bro, but Eno and Sufjan Stevens so don't have the indie street cred required to win airtime on my boombox, dig? my child only listens to cambodian garage rock and the sound of dolphins mating. but never on an ipod -- the first lesson daddy ever taught her is that DRM is for suckas!

I mean, don't today's much-discussed hipster parents notice that their claims to rebellious individuality are undercut by the fact that they are fascistically turning their children into miniature reproductions of their hipper-than-thou selves? Don't they observe that with their inevitable hummus snacks, their pastel-free wardrobes, their unearned sense of superiority and their abusively pretentious children's names like Anouschka and Elijah, they are displaying a degree of conformity that makes your average suburban cul-de-sac look like Renaissance Florence?

if my child doesn't grow up to be exactly as rebellious as me, i will be sorely disappointed. i am so rebellious that i took time away from my career (fuck the Man!) to feed her, care for her, play with her, share things i love with her, explore the world with her, let her discover new things safely on her own and establish as deep a bond as i could with her in the first year of her life. how PUNK ROCK am i? and you're also wrong about the inevitable hummus snacks -- she only eats kale pancakes. i take it you would rather parents emulate the neglecteriffic uptown twats who make sure their tots get to the 92nd Street Y Nursery School in chauffeured SUV's? PS: readers take note that brooks lists Elijah as an "abusively pretentious" name--interesting, last i heard he was a biblical prophet, but whatever. you say "pretention," i say "acknowledgment of heritage." but we'll come back to that later.

Enough already. The hipster parent trend has been going on too long and it's got to stop. It's been nearly three years since reporters for sociologically attuned publications like The New York Observer began noticing oversophisticated infants in "Anarchy in the Pre-K" shirts. Since then, the trend has exhausted its life cycle.

ah, yes, sociologically attuned publication indeed. me, i come for the fake hillary clinton dialogue, but stay for the 900,000-word articles on made-up trends like how assholes from one part of brooklyn dislike assholes from another part of brooklyn. and actually, it gets even better than "Anarchy in the Pre-K," brooksie (which is FUNNY although i suspect you wouldn't recognize a joke if your column turned into one ... oops!). hey, have you seen the "Future Porn Star" t-shirts for toddlers? we're talking about irony-cubed, homeslice. be prepared to have your panties twisted in a whole new kind of knot.

A witty essay by Adam Sternbergh announced the phenomenon in an April 2006 New York magazine. Sternbergh described 40-year-old men and women with $200 bedhead haircuts and $600 messenger bags, who "look, talk, act and dress like people who are 22 years old," and dress their infants as if they're 16. He called these pseudo-adults "Grups," observing that they smashed any remaining semblance of a generation gap.

the last thing i spent $600 on in one place was to pay the monthly utility bills in my new money-pit house which we scrimped till we bled to buy--so our child could have a nice place in which to grow up that was in a decent school disctrict. oh, and my new kitchsy belt buckle. that was $600. but it was $600 of ironic hipsterness well spent. and as for my daughter, we do dress her like she's 16, it's true. the belly button ring is so cute and she begged for that tattoo for like two whole months. too bad she's not potty trained yet -- it's quite messy without those diapers. but diapers are just so, well, uncool. feel me?

He noticed that the music of the parental generation sounds exactly like the music of the kids' generation. They have the same rock star fashion sense, and share the same taste for distressed denim. He found a music video director, Adam Levite, who had a guitar collection propped up in his TriBeCa loft, and then similar miniature versions of the same guitars for his 6-year-old son, Asa.

ok, you score one point here david: adam sounds kinda douche-tastic. too bad you had to rely on a year-old article that someone else reported and wrote to score it though.

Then came the hipster parents' own online magazine, Babble.com. Babble is a normal parental advice magazine submerged under geological layers of attitudinizing. There are articles about products from the alternative industrial complex (early '60s retro baby food organizers). There's a blog from a rock star mom (it's lonely on the road). There's a column by L.A.'s Rebecca Woolf, a sort of Silver Lake Erma Bombeck. ("Who says becoming a mom means succumbing to laser tattoo removal and moving to the suburbs?")

wait, wait! did you just brush right by your one concession, which totally undermines the whole house of cards that is this column? babble is, you say, "a normal parental advice magazine." it is, in otherwords, reflective of what every involved parent is concerned about: child proofing the house, the amount of TV an infant should watch, and how freaky those "future porn star" t-shirts are. (dang, i guess we can't all be hip can we?) hmm, sounds like we're all vain and narcissistic and obsessed with image, doesn't it? wait, it doesn't?

On top of that there's been a flourishing of the movement's official gathering site? the message board complex UrbanBaby.com. Here, highly educated parents trade tips about the toxic dangers of aluminum foil. Stay-at-home Martyr Mommies trade gibes with their working mom frenemies. High-achieving types try to restrain their judgmental, perfectionist tendencies with self-mockery: "I horrified myself the other day when I found myself being surprised that Angelina [Jolie] would let Zahara eat Ms. Vickie's chips. Shoot me before I turn into a sanctimommy!"

i can't speak to this because i have never been on urbanbaby.com in my life. but it sounds AWESOME. i do love me some milf catfights. is there a sign-up fee?

Finally, in a sign that the hip parenting thing has jumped the shark, the movement got its own book, the indescribably dull "Alternadad," about a self-described whiny narcissist who tries not to let his son's birth get in the way of his rock festival lifestyle. Surely a trend has hit absurdity when you have a book in which the most memorable moment comes when the writer succumbs to the corporate temptations of Toys "R" Us.

methinks brooks blew his "jumped the shark" wad a bit too early: in april the singer of Pennywise will publish his book "Punk Rock Dad" (barf) and in July a book about becoming a dad without giving up manhood called (shudder) "Dadditude" will hit shelves. but here is where Brooks shows his hand and proves to us all what a sad little man he is. he mentions "Alternadad." i've read "Alternadad." i'll be honest: the title makes my skin crawl and i hated neal pollack's smarmy one-joke writing back when he was just a smug mini-Eggers. but i was charmed by this book for all the reasons that slate was. pollack comes off as annoying at times, but he'll acknowledge it -- he admits to caring about whether his 2-year-old is "cool" or has "fun" tastes in pop culture. you kind of want to punch him when he gets a lump in his throat because his son requests a johnny cash song. but then you realize johnny cash is awesome and pollack will at least have that fond memory when his son is 16 and hates everything dear to him. brooks misses the whole point of this book -- that it's about letting go of who you think you are as you learn how to become a parent. it's a self-discovery process, and, true, not a unique or even especially interesting one if you're not in the middle of it yourself. so brooks picks on "Alternadad." fine. but notice how he never mentions Neal Pollack's name? no credit to the author. he DOES mention pollack's son's name, though, in the second paragraph: it's the "abusively pretentious" Elijah. now we all know that brooks is shriveled and rotten on the inside.

Let me be clear: I'm not against the indie/alternative lifestyle. There is nothing more reassuringly traditionalist than the counterculture. For 30 years, the music, the fashions, the poses and the urban weeklies have all been the same. Everything in this society changes except nonconformity.

and what's even more traditionalist than the "counterculture?" parenting. so what's brooks' point? i have no idea.

What I object to is people who make their children ludicrous. Innocent infants should not be compelled to sport "My Mom's Blog Is Better Than Your Mom's Blog" infant wear. They should not be turned into deceptive edginess badges by parents who refuse to face that their days of chaotic, unscheduled moshing are over.

ah, so this would be his point: he doesn't like the way the kids are dressing today. my that's a reassuringly traditionalist pose for a curmudgeonly columnist to adopt. that's much more exciting than exploring the fact that parents today are spending more time caring for, teaching and playing with their children than they have in a generation. what's the matter, brooksie? nothing else happening in the news last week worth columnizing upon? no? you sure about that?

For God's sake, let's respect the dignity of youth.

oh, don't be such a sanctimommy!

8 Comments:

Blogger Catharine said...

"The dignity of youth?"

Hmmm... would that be the same dignity where they pull of their clothes and run around naked while peeing on the carpet? No, wait... Brooks must mean that incredibly dignified why they have of stuffing anything small enough into any available bodily orifice. Or maybe its that erudite, elegant way they have of applying the Gerber's Stage 2 Chicken and Vegetables as a dual facial and hair conditioning treatment.

David Brooks is just jealous because he never thought to dress his kids in t-shirts that reflected his sensibility:

"My Dad is a bigger geekwad than your dad is."

Well countered, Mr. NG. (Cambonian garage band? Nice touch.)

~C~

3/01/2007 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Hester said...

Is brooksie honestly arguing that pastels and disney don't comprise brainwashing in the way that of montreal and primary colors do? No, he's arguing that you can't resist the masses and raise your kid to resist the masses, because pretty soon everyone's choosing hummus and then, there you have it, you are in fact the masses (brooksie is so foucault).

As soon as hummus becomes widely available, I'm going back to trans fats, and so is my baby.

3/01/2007 5:53 PM  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

and am i arguing that i am--or anyone i know is--raising kids to "resist the masses?" fuck yeah!

3/01/2007 6:17 PM  
Blogger barbara said...

i love how brooks is so over this so-called trend, then proceeds to blather on about it in an op-ed. bleccch.

3/01/2007 7:56 PM  
Blogger meleah rebeccah said...

AMEN

3/02/2007 1:02 PM  
Blogger Sheesh said...

What I object to is people who make their children ludicrous.

That's my favorite line. As if ludicrous isn't in the sanctimonious eye of the jaded beholder.

Anyhoo, whatever's ailing him, there's nothing can't be cured by a karaoke rendition of "It's Hip to Be Square."

Who's taking D.Bro out for a pint and a song?

3/03/2007 11:58 AM  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

word, sheesh. i'm down.

3/03/2007 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Western Dave said...

I'm puzzled how Brooks still has a job. A Philadelphia Magazine article by a former student of mine showed he actually makes stuff up rather than does research. The guy is a fraud. Plus, where do I get me one of those "anarchy in the Pre-K" t-shirts 'cause that's jsut hi-larious.

3/05/2007 1:34 PM  

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