I'm waiting for my copy of Alternadad to arrive, but when it does I anticipate enjoying it in the same way I enjoy Neal Pollack's blog. He talks about parenting in a way that speaks to me. It's funny. It's littered with poo stories, which, as you know, always go down well with me. But he also strikes poignant notes that never cloy, and he's not afraid to talk about messy taboo subjects like circumcision. And while you get the sense he considers himself a good parent -- an attitude some critics, strangely, take exception to, labelling it "smug" -- hey, good on him. These days, if the media is to be believed, the only acceptable way to be a parent is to be a dithering, second-guessing mess. And he seems to be somewhat honest about discussing his flaws, inasmuch as I can tell.
It's hard to imagine why anyone would take exception to any of these characteristics, but for some reason, Pollack seems to drive some people nuts. Of late, he's become the media whipping boy for an entire group of parents, the aforementioned "hipster parents." And, you know, whatever. People like to have other people to disparage. Also, it's great fun to write off an entire group of people as shallow if you don't ever question the irony of the fact that labelling and dismissing an entire group of people is a pretty shallow thing to do. I know. I've done it myself.
So the media judges parents. What else is new? And the general public judges parents. That's been going on for a while, too. No, what gets my goat -- and it gets my goat good; let me tell you, that goat is NOT happy -- is when parents judge other groups of parents. I mean, I can see the value in ganging up on folks who beat their children, or who sell their children into white slavery rings, or who, say, eat their children. All these things certainly should be frowned upon in any civilized culture, and I my very own self am prepared to give such a parent the scowling of a lifetime should one cross my path. But come on. Hipster parenting? For serious? I don't even know what the fuck that term means, and I've always sort of assumed that Pollack is being semi-ironic when he uses it. What exactly is a hipster? Please, someone educate me. Am I a hipster parent? I do have a fondness for cool shoes, after all. And eclectic music. And funny t-shirts. Should I be cultivating a more apologetic expression when I go out in public, should I encounter one of those hipster-parent haters? And for the love of all that's holy, don't we have more pressing issues to worry ourselves with?
To the best of my knowledge, the bulk of the "hipster" moniker -- and the seat of people's loathing -- seems to be predicated on the fact that Pollack doesn't hide the fact that he's a music snob and would prefer to cultivate his son's taste in directions that he, Pollack, likes. "Oh my god," people respond. "How dare he? He thinks he's so cool! What a douchebag!" (I am, of course, paraphrasing.) I'm glad reading isn't considered cool. If it were, I'd probably be sporting a big red "H" on my chest, too.
Here's part of a comment I wrote here, in response to this whole conflated issue:
The only thing that's remotely new in this artificially constructed parents-versus-parents kerfuffle is that, for a change, it's not pitting mothers against mothers, which the media [I'm looking at you, Salon] has been aggressively doing for decades in a transparent ploy to boost readership. Now fathers are in the mix. Hip-hip-fucking-hooray. How progressive. Did I say "progressive"? Whoops. I meant "boring."(If nothing else, this issue has made me realize how much I really like standing on a soapbox. You can see for miles! On a sunny day, I can see my house!)
Let me tell you something: if I hear/read the word "hipster" used in this smug, derogatory way one more time, I'm going to totally lose my cool. Jesus christ, people. Imagine if your kids could hear you. And yet you probably plan to preach tolerance at them some day. Nice work. Get a good head start on that.
Wear the clothes you want. Listen to the music you want. Read the books and magazines and websites you want. Be a little self-satisfied. IT'S OKAY. Be a hipster. Be a nerd. Be a badass. Don't take it all so friggin seriously. We can still get along. Did Breakfast Club teach us nothing? Somewhere, John Hughes is weeping silent tears because his entire ouevre was for naught.
Perhaps I could understand this hipster-parent-hatin' better if I could understand what exactly the endgame is. Is it that people think that, somehow, being parented the hipster way will irretrievably screw up kids? Is it bad for the environment? The economy? What? If we stop the hipster parents from doing... well, whatever it is they do... will the world will be a better place? After we wrap that important job up, can we go back to worrying about child poverty and crack-addicted babies and the fact that our climate and the environment are going down the shitter? Or, more likely, will we find another part of our collective navel to explore?
Here's what it boils down to, for me. When someone writes a book, you critique the writing. If you don't, you do literature a disservice. When someone writes a memoir, that opens things up to where you can critique the person. You're in dodgier territory there, and your mileage will vary depending on how much you like to flay open real people who have real thoughts and feelings and motivations. But when someone writes a parenting memoir, then you're on iffy ground. Because calling someone a bad parent -- which is the perilous territory this whole hipster fracas is stumbling at the outskirts of -- well, where I'm from, them's fighting words.
Let me put it another way. If people were talking this shit about MY parenting? I'd be calling them out to the alley, and I'd be kicking their smart balls right up to the roof of their smart mouth.
*A debate that, I should point out, seems to be happening AMONG SO-CALLED HIPSTERS. Since when did Onion articles start dictating real life? Kee-rist on a clamshell.