Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Don’t Box Me In

Don’t Box Me In
Robin Dutton-Cookston

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who put people into categories of two, and those who don’t. Right now I am too buzzed on ancient Halloween candy to remember who uttered that “whoa, dude” bit of wisdom—but I know that it is probably blowing your mind like a Pink Floyd album or a Bill and Ted adventure movie.

I must confess that I fall into the first group. As a card-carrying postmodern feminist, I’m not proud of this. Who am I to stuff people into tightly defined boxes? Such judgment goes against the bleeding heart open-mindedness I am supposed to exude now that I am a San Franciscan. Forcing people into faux classifications also toys with my delicate self-esteem.

Take for instance this shrewd mama-venting blog I read the other day. (Note to my Nana: a blog is an online diary sort of thing.) The author argued in favor of the inherent superiority of a Rocker Mom over a Soccer Mom, with the former being all things hip and awesome, despite the presence of a small parasitic person who demands all things plastic and sugar. Soccer Moms were lambasted as sadly square and pathetic, relics so out-of-date, they may as well be wearing flannel and listening to Pearl Jam.

As any good self-absorbed, modern woman does, I thought about how these labels apply to me.

A Rocker Mom gets tattooed, plays base guitar, and dresses her baby in a leather jacket that says, “Smash the State” above a skull and crossbones. Is this like me? No. No. No.

A Soccer Mom drives a gargantuan SUV, wears matchy-matchy sweater sets, and is on the board of her local Junior League. Again, is this me? Afraid not.

As much as I secretly long to don my tenth-grade denim jacket with the Sex Pistols patch and proudly proclaim myself a Rocker Mom, the sad truth is that I lack a certain, how shall I say, coolness. I know that I would reveal myself as a poseur within ten minutes of trying to infiltrate the Rocker Mom playgroup.

I can see it now. I stealthily creep into the tattoo parlor where all the butt-kicking Rocker Moms are busy banging their drum kits or polishing their Harleys. “Hey, guys,” I would squeak. “Anyone up for Trivial Pursuit?” The peals of laughter would follow me out the door. It just wouldn’t work.

Besides, my mom threw out the Sex Pistols jacket with great fanfare about twenty seconds after I left home for college.

So, where do I fit in? I think I can better relate to the distinctions between Geek Mom and Chic Mom. Guess which one I am. Here are some hints:

Even before I had a kid I preferred to stay home and watch Shark Week on a Saturday night, rather than go out for a twelve-dollar apple-tini.

I wear earth shoes, not stilettos. For all I know, Manolo Blahnik is a flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.

My hair defies gravity. No matter how much I coat it with expensive, cruelty-free, organic pomade, wisps begin their voyage toward the ceiling before 10 a.m. By lunchtime the poof is fully unleashed and I resemble a radioactive poodle.

I am a fish-belly-white dough girl who spent her entire pubescent career, in the Texas sunshine, avoiding shorts. I have never been able to get a tan. I know, I know. It is better to save my precious skin from the evils of the sun. But, even when tans are not “in,” they are still “in,” if you know what I mean.

I am a Star Wars fanatic.

I overanalyze everything, from the pros and cons of cloth diapering to which set of tacky lingerie will best embarrass my sister at her bridal shower—hence, this exercise in self-indulgent babbling.

As you can see, the cards were stacked in favor of my becoming a Geek Mom. And now I have a precious little blank slate on which to transfer my utter geekness. My daughter already has a head start with her alabaster skin.

Let me now tell you about the moms who are the yin to my yang, the Chic Moms. The Chic Moms were all members of a special tribe, the Lint Free People, before they ever had kids.

Lint Free women always have smooth hair, glossed back into a shiny, bouncy ponytail. A Lint Free person never has tuna fish breath or a piece of used dental floss stuck to her rear end. She never shoots a dirty look at the unhelpful postal worker or forgets the name of her husband’s sister. She never endures the endless round of daily mishaps that plague us geeks. In high school, she was Prom Queen. And very tan.

Of course, just like I retain my special geek status post-natal, so do the Lint Free People remain flawless once they cross the border into Mamaland. Even as moms, they artfully avoid wearing yogurt as a hairstyling product. Their nursing babies never pop off the breast at exactly the wrong moment, causing a geyser of milk to land on the nice gentleman across the restaurant.

I see the Chic Moms, the Lint Free ones, walking with their babies in the chi chi Marina neighborhood of San Francisco. The Chic Moms’ bellies are toned and their Fendi diaperbags are immaculate. Their clothes match and they actually wear eye shadow. The chrome bars on their Peg Perrigo strollers shine as if their butlers have buffed them with Turtle Wax.

Alright, alright. Before I get too catty, I’ll stop and admit that deep down underneath their rouged exterior, the Chic Moms are probably full of screwed-up-ness and self-doubt, just like the rest of us.

Hormones, culture, and the whole biological urge to nurture do provide a bit of common ground for most of us good old American mamas. Although I often feel more like a freak than a geek in light of some of my more left of center parenting choices, I honestly like to (naively?) imagine that us mamas are more alike than we are different.

Isn’t that a nice thought? The fantasy that we can put aside our categorizing and judging and join hands for a nice round of “It’s a Small Mom World After All.” Considering the lack of institutionalized support that our society offers for the endless litany of mom-related issues, we sure could lean on each other a little bit more and pick at each other a little bit less. And it could start right here, with little ol’ me.

Rocker Mom. Soccer Mom. Geek Mom. Chic Mom. I don’t mean to blow your mind again, but notice a common theme?

That’s right, Einstein! We’ve all emerged from a particularly rough diapering sesh with a hand smeared in poop. We’ve all gotten so fried from “negotiating” with a toddler that we’ve wanted to submerge our heads in a full bathtub while gurgling, “Calgon! Take me away!” And we’ve all experienced indescribable moments of nostalgia and joy when watching our babies sleep, overwhelmed by the rush of time that sends them hurtling from infancy into childhood.

Next time I feel the urge to box in my fellow mamas, it might do this geek some good to remember that.

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