Since it’s apparently meta Sunday in the blogosphere, let me just say this nanny flap has me annoyed, disgusted, saddened and amused all at the same time.
First of all, the original blog’s pretty tame. As Amanda points out, what kind of prude is the NYT writer? I’ve read shit online that would turn the stomach of the Marquis de Sade, up to and including Harry Potter pastiches that featured Ron Weasley shagging his pet rat. Girlfriend doesn’t know from promiscuous or offensive or Too Much Information till she’s seen fanfiction.net.
Secondly, if admitting to a cocktail and the ogling of a pretty actress makes you a promiscuous bisexual drunk, well, I’m sitting here with a pisco and Diet Coke thinking about doing naughty things to Angelina Jolie (saw Mr. and Mrs. Smith last night, yum). I must be a h00r, good heavens, what will the neighbors say. To quote Sex and the City, which is not something I do lightly since I loathe that show, but did somebody order a Victorian straight up?
Thirdly, the essay just reinforces something that drives me insane about women, and that is our need to get at each other all the time about our choices in the areas of sex and family life. Politicians don’t help, but we do plenty of snarking on our own about who’s having or not having children, who’s married or unmarried, who’s humped half the basketball team and who hasn’t gotten any since the sophomore year.
I might be a boring mother of two, but my nanny, why, she dined in the hippest Williamsburg restaurants and rated the sexual energy of men and women she met. I was amused – and more than a bit envious.
I was about to turn 40. I’d been married almost 15 years. My ability to attend literary readings and art gallery openings was hampered by two children, and my party life was relegated to the toddler birthday circuit. I imagined the snoozefest that would ensue if I were to post:
Spent the morning at the Garfield Temple playroom. Tried to read Paul Krugman while other parents gave me dirty looks as my younger son attempted to filch their kids’ dump trucks.
First of all, I read that kind of thing all the time and love it.
Secondly, Christ, how depressing to be that ashamed of your life.
I noticed this with a particular intensity right after I got married. Every family gathering, it was “when are you going to have kids?” I got married pretty young, so I bypassed the whole “when are you getting married?” phase, but boy did we jump into the kid interrogation with a quickness. And boy did I hate it. And it all came from the women in the fold: when are you going to become just like us?
But when friends started to have children, I noticed they’d almost apologize to me for having them. “I’m sorry all I talk about is the baby,” one high school friend said to me once. Good God, I replied, why apologize? The brand new human in your house is the most momentous thing in your life right now, and if I’m any kind of friend to you I want to hear about big things in your life and that includes the adorable little niblet who spends his days spitting up on you. Because I was single, and then because I don’t have children, it was presumed I disliked them, would be hostile to them.
We’re at war with each other all the time, aren’t we, girls? And if you’re not on the side of the Marrieds you’re a Single, and if you’re not Mom you’re Childless, and there’s all these categories and a separate language for each one, and it’s like we cease to be people and can’t converse. Which is mad. None of us are living each others’ lives; to presume we need to mirror one another in order to even speak, as if we’ve mutated into separate species, condescends to both of us. My life will never be exactly like anyone else’s. Shared experiences help us relate, but so does listening, understanding, asking questions, having fucking conversations for the love of God and not pretending we don’t understand English anymore.
And that’s all in here, in the original essay in which the married mom worries she’s not cool anymore, in which she imagines somebody judging her. And while it’s sad that we do, so many of us, live lives we’re not happy with (I’m guilty of it too, of dieting before the high school reunion kind of thing), it’s also sad that we’re not secure enough in our own choices to not be afraid of people judging us for them. That’s what this is really all about, all of it. The way we’re not our best selves unless we can tear somebody else down to get there, and the way we always imagine the person in the next seat on the train is looking at us and thinking man, what a loser.