Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hey, I Resemble That Statement!

Well, it's Wednesday so that means I've finally finished reading last weekend's Globe and Mail. One article really stuck in my craw. So much so that I am not cleaning the bathroom right now, not doing laundry, and not eating another box of Pocky (and NOT just because I ate it yesterday instead of bringing it to the hostess of the play group). Damn you, irritating news harpie!

This article, by Karen von Hahn, just seems like a cheap shot on a slow news day. I'd seen other articles in the Observer and the New York Times (that have been pointed out to me - it's not like I'm that well-read these days) decrying hipster parents and what we are doing to our children by promoting savoir faire in our children at any cost - but this one's got my Rutstuck T-shirt-covered-back up.

I concede that the shirts she described are among the most obviously tasteless shirts available. It's too bad she didn't see this Daddy Types post before she wrote the article. Now those offend even me, and I am a fan of potty humour, truly tasteless jokes, and amusing t-shirts. Funsucker anyone?

I cheerfully admit that we in fact, own a strawberry outfit for Josephine, and it is so damn cute it stops most people in their tracks on the street and leads to smiles and conversations. As Paloma Picasso once said "When I wear a red coat on a rainy day, I give a gift to all who look at me." My goodness, recoiling in horror at a pineapple hat! Is that what started this?

strawberry

As Karen von Hahn states (for when the link goes down and I don't suggest you pay to read this):

"Clearly we are seeing the rise of a generation of parents whose tastes are not only a flat-out rejection of their own upbringing, but also reflect an ambivalence about inhabiting the role of an authority figure.

Last December, citing what they called a "Peter Pandemic," the editors of Webster's New World College Dictionary chose "adultescent" as its word of the year. In my view, making a joke out of your baby by dressing it in an irreverent costume is a premium demonstration of such "rejuvenile" behaviour. No matter how amusing the T-shirt catch phrase, the larger message is loud and clear: I may be old enough to have a baby, but that doesn't make me old and boring. Babywit.com hits it right on the head with its own cheeky mantra: "You may not be cool, but your baby can be."

Aside from the tastelessness of this punning infant wear, and the neurosis behind it, there is also something repugnant in the mean hearted sneakiness of the gesture. Just because you can dress baby in a "President Poopyhead" T-shirt doesn't mean you should. Baby isn't a whoopee cushion, he's a small person. And like it or not, you are the parent. And, guess what? If you don’t treat your child with dignity - and with the gravitas it requires - one day, when you're too old and feeble to read the small print, he'll think nothing of walking around with you wearing a shirt that says, "I'm With Stupid."

Deep breath. Flexing fingers.

DID SOMEONE HAVE A BOWL OF BITCH FLAKES ALONG WITH HER STARBUCKS COFFEE THAT MORNING?

First, let me just say it. Meany. Big meany. Calling someone's child in his pineapple hat unfortunate looking is just mean. Referring to a mom in her "cult denim" is just snarking.

And JUDGEMENTAL.

Is this what the Globe pays its fashion writer (ooooh 'scuse me - trendspotter) for? To make a running personal commentary on people whose clothing she doesn't appreciate, and then tie it up with a big sweeping JUDGEMENTAL bow and painting all parents exhibiting a sense of humour with the adultescent brush?

This diatribe, which I'd like to take apart further but have already wasted enough energy on, rings a false note. I don't know if she's a parent who has raised her children with all of the formality in bearing and appearance, or substance and weightiness (I checked to make sure she didn't use gravitas carelessly - it's a good word. Writers like it.) that must have been mentioned in some parenting manual that I didn’t get. (I tried to find out, but really, I've spent enough time on this.)

Because I think a sense of humour is one of the best qualities a parent can raise a child with. I might have one, and would be offended to think that someone who writes about adults who are insecure about pulling off a bohemian look thinks I should quash it so that she's not distracted should she catch us in a Starbucks. I don't think that putting tasteless t-shirts on babies is nice. But, I do think that because Josephine has always liked Blitzkreig Bop more than Baby Beluga that it was fine to put her in a little Ramones T-shirt. The Clash transfer didn't fit on such small sizes. And yes, I am still rebelling against my upbringing. Don't we all think that we want to be better parents than our own in certain ways? In my case, I don't want to dress my child like an extra on Three's Company, like I was. But there is no doubt that I accept my role as an authority figure WITH GRAVITAS. I didn't sign up for parenthood because I needed a two foot tall best friend. One who makes this awesome decision doesn't show ambivalence about parenting by putting their child in a "Mommy Drinks Because I Cry" T-shirt. One does it by going out Salsa dancing for two days and leaving your child to dehydrate to death.

I even disagree with Babywit's mantra. I am cool. I am not living vicariously through my daughter. Yet another link from Daddy Types mentioned this article:

In short, more attractive children receive more attention from their parents. I'm going to spin that. When we identify with our children, we are more likely to give them more care or attention. When we like how they look, we may laugh or smile more at them. And they like that. For the same primitive reasons that men need to see something of themselves in their baby's face in order to trigger that primal protective quality (why else are all those baby daddies on Maury Povitch claiming the baby doesn't look like them so they can't be the father?); when mothers see their baby (hopefully clean) and dressed in an outfit they enjoy, it enhances their attraction and triggers minute enthusiasm boosters. From personal experience, I can use the arguments with my mother over returning outfits that I deem inappropriate for Josie (Navy. Polyester. Sailor Suit Dress. Straw Hat. Ankle socks. MARCH in Toronto. And for what occasion?! A trip around No Frills?). I learned that when it's Steve's turn to care for her, if she's dressed in a little outfit that he likes, he's more likely to play with her instead of letting her amuse herself while he reads the newspaper on the day it was issued. When, as a newborn, she was gifted with clothing that was not our style (Which is, if you can't picture us, retro, a little bit country & a little bit rock and roll, and not at all pink ruffly and fussy. Especially Steve.) we tried putting her in these clothes just because they were there. And I found her cries every so slightly more irritating; and honestly felt that she didn't look like our baby.

In our "adultescence", Steve and I wear casual clothes. He wears the typical graphic designer uniform, I wear the stay at home mommy uniform. Simple trousers or jeans, and t-shirts or dress shirts. Why not have some fun and quirky ones? We don't wear outrageously pornographic designs, and we certainly don't wear free T-shirts that come in a 2-4, no matter what agency Steve's working for these days. High end fashion stores have spent billions promoting a look that we've had for years. Forty-one and thirty-five are the new thirty-six and twenty-four, right? We have formal clothing for formal occasions. Gone are the days when people put babies in ruffled dresses and bonnets just to leave the house. Is that what Karen von Hahn is longing for? When looking at my childhood pictures, my mother dressed me in what she believed was fashionable and appropriate at the time. A bad shag and culottes didn't make me popular in third grade, but I understand now that my mother just liked seeing me as a miniature adult. Yes - a small person. Now she's just trying to dress Josie as a baby or a toddler was in 1969. There was neither gravitas nor mirth - it just was how she chose to dress me. And as much as I cringe when looking at myself then, I don't resent her for it. It's not my fault toe-socks and clogs were the height of fashion. The Donny Osmond purple sparkly socks, however, were my own doing.

When Karen von Hahn says "Like it or not, you are the parent..." I am offended because she implies that my "neurosis" (Any of various mental or emotional disorders involving symptoms such as insecurity, anxiety, depression, and irrational fears) behind choosing something that identifies my child as part of our family of three (really - neurosis! That is a damn strong word, but then again, writers like it.) implies that I am reluctant to be a parent at all. Or that I had a child, as stated in her article because "they continue to be fashionable as an accessory" with the parent as "stylist". That we had Josephine because we thought the world needed more nice people for one reason might not be a good enough reason for her either.

And her veiled threat that this will come back to haunt us? Well, I'll just hope Josephine has the good humour to wear an "I'm With Stupid" t-shirt when she's that much older. And that she stands next to Karen von Hahn in line at Starbucks.

Me thinks that if someone is a parent, she is in danger of raising up some sourpusses who are burdened by her gravitas, and are in dire need of a "Mommy" in a heart tattoo T-shirt. They can ask Josephine where she got hers.

skully and schmelvinramonesdon't gamble with love t

Next time, Karen von Hahn, just drink your damn six dollar sissy coffee and mind your own business.