Are The (Cool) Kids Alright?

I have been blogging for Babble for two months now and I am more aware every day of our reputation as a website and as contributors. I haven't been personally dismissed but it's obvious that I am one of them. I'm still trying to figure out what one of them means. Beyond the label. Beyond the stereotype and brand that we seem to have manipulated. And then manipulated ourselves into wearing. I do know that one of them makes people angry. And judgmental. And quite obviously, offended.

I was talking to my husband about this last night when he said:

"The website is intended for hipster parents and hipsters like to talk a lot of shit."

I wanted to disagree. Because although I wouldn't like to admit it, I am just as much a "hipster" as every other parent on the Beggars Banquet mailing list. I have always liked indie music (maybe not Death Cab per se. The Postal Service really brought them into the mainstream, which automatically made them less-awesome.*) I collect and wear vintage designer handbags and like to dress my kid up in overpriced t-shirts. I drink Heineken at bars. I drive a Volkswagen. I subscribe to the New Yorker and listen to NPR. I'm a sucker for a dude who can play guitar and sometimes I wear leggings under shorts with leather boots. I'm on myspace and friendster. I'm a member of Moveon.org and a vegetarian. I have girl-crushes on chicks who look like Zooey Deschanel. I buy shit off e-bay. I have bangs.

I wanted to disagree because I don't want to be associated with what is "cool" because in my experience, what is "cool" is boring. And predictable. And REALLY, actually, uncool.

Like any good hipster knows, "it's only popular if it's unpopular."

Because honestly, how much of what I just described did you already know? Without ever having met me? (I know that you know.) Great. Then, let's move on.

After reading through many of the user-comments on the Babble blogs, features and essays these last few weeks, I've been thinking that maybe my husband was right.

Maybe the cool kids really are mean. Like in High School. How wearing Guess jeans automatically made you someone to hate. And now, wearing skinny jeans and a Black Sabbath shirt automatically makes you an asshole, especially if you have a kid. Because you're too old to have taste! Because growing up means retiring your wardrobe! And your music!

We are all different. We are all the same.

I will not deny the fact that Babble caters to an audience of urban-hipsters. The "cool kids" in the city who wear Ipods on the subway, their children tucked against their Helmut Lang tees in customized Baby Bjorns. I personally don't understand why people are so passionately opposed to parents who keep their old record collections and wear Chuck Taylors to the playground but I digress...

Babble has clearly gotten off on the wrong foot. And maybe that was the point. To be controversial and uncensored and get people talking.... shit about each other. To piss people off because it's soooo punk rock to make people mad.

"The cool kids are never nice." Such is the stereotype. Like in Heathers. And Carrie. Mean Girls and my personal favorite, Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion. The list goes on and on. But why must we perpetuate the myth?

It is a myth, isn't it?

We are all sharing a quad, so to speak. And could learn from one another. About how to be a better parent. About how to be kind.

We are all different. We are all the same.

Critique is one thing. But meanness is something I was not prepared for as I entered the parenting community. Both online and off.

Somehow, parenting has caused us to emotionally regress and become teenagers again. Kids on the playground with something to prove. And maybe it's always been this way. I have no idea.

I don't know what it means to be a cool parent. Or what any of these "grup" "yup" "whothefuckcares" labels are, that we have either given ourselves or project upon others.

And I wonder what it's going to take for us to stop pigeonholing ourselves as "hipsters" or "suburbanites" or "cool parents"... or "soccer moms" or "housewives" or "working-mothers" or "SAHDs."

I do know that we're supposed to be setting a positive example for our kids instead of setting ourselves back. Labels aside, we are all the same. We love our kids. We're living our lives. And learning as we go. So what's the big deal?

We are all different. We are all the same.
Give yourself a break. And me. And the guy who isn't "cool" enough or seems like he might be "too cool" and therefore must be a jerk. Or don't. Keep being miserable. And mean. And angry. And watch your children learn to be the same.

*Yes. I realize I am perpetuating the stereotype. I'm being "ironic" as "they" say. Like raaaain on my wedddding day... A freeeeee riiiiiide, when I've alreaaaaaady paaaaaid.

GGC
................................................................................

A great big thank you to my friend at Rock the Cradle who nominated my post, Depth of Field, for January's A Perfect Post Award. I'm flattered and super grateful. To read all of the other nominations for Perfect Posts, go here.

40 comments:

Wendy | 4:30 PM

I have heard (read) a little about Babble. Basically, that it is for young urban parents. Since, I am none of these I never visited the site until you made your appearance. No, I am not a stalker, damnit, just someone who needs to fill her day with something, short, interesting, great and witty to read.

I dont know what all the hype is about, but that could be that I am eternally uncool. I have no idea what you were talking about. I do love the way Archer dresses, but I just figured you have better stores in L.A.

Do you think I will be denied access if they find out that I am 35 (Sept, but why fight it) and live in a semi-rural area? Hey, I can learn.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 4:35 PM

I love me some Wendy. Thanks.

Anonymous | 5:01 PM

bec,
you blog with the cool kids who all the unrecognized bloggers want to be. blather/babble decided who was cool and the left out kids are --are you ready for this stroke of lightning? -- JEALOUS. not everybody can fit into skinny jeans, you know.

mean is the new black.

you just myob and keep writing what you do. honestly, i don't have enough time to write my own blog and hate that. i don't know how others have time to read and hate on so many other blogs at once.

*this* is why there should be zoloft in the water.

signed,
your favorite mean girl, bmc

B | 5:01 PM

Well timed! Um, you mind if I post all of this on my site for the asshole that ripped into me? My post was more of a joke, more of a question about behavior on my personal blog and someone hauled off and let me have it. I hate to admit it because it's not cool to care and all but it caught me off gaurd and maybe a tiny bit hurt my feelings. Moms are mean.

I like your blog and what you have to say and something tells me you are a fab mommy. So keep your bangs and the good work going!

MotherBumper | 5:11 PM

Moms can be really mean. What you said about being back on the playground? I think it sometimes is more like "chance to get back on the playground and have the resources to be the kingpin (vicariously through bambino)" attitude that brings the meany out.

Anyhow, I love reading the new gig and I guess that makes me whatever it makes me. I like nice stuff, so sue me and I love cool things, whatever.

Nice Who ref and Alanis always makes me an angry woman ;)

Scarlett | 6:01 PM

aww i love becca! and psh.. they are just jealous because you kick ass.

christine | 6:14 PM

lurker here

don't worry about it- you can't please everyone

keep up the great work!

Steph | 6:36 PM

I see what you mean. I'm not a parent (yet), and not really urban, but I started reading babble not long after it was created. I really liked it for a while (especially since it's not blocked at work!!!) but lately there has been a very judgmental vibe around strollerderby. It's still on my feed, but I'm not stalking it like I was.

mm | 7:07 PM

Okay, so I am so not cool.
Urban, yup.
Mom, hell yah!
Chuck Taylors on the playground? Oh yeah, from my youngin' days of 19 and under!
They are scuffed, and I'm dragging them after the little monsters though.
And only in warm weather.
Bring on the judgement of my sorry butt and my kids and my life...
I'm sure I could care less.
I love reading your world. I'll never have that life, and really that is part of the whole lure of the "blogsphere" isn't it? Seeing othe peoples lives?
k

Leigh C. | 8:54 PM

I guess it helped me immensely that, while I lived in NYC over a year ago, I was living in Queens, not Manhattan. I'm not entirely sure what the hell a hip mama is. I sure know what an uptight mama is - and I have to say that of all the Babble blogs I check out, I keep coming back to yours, Steve's, and Barbara's the most, because all of y'all are anything BUT uptight.

I'll be submitting y'all's pics to the OED for the definition of "Hip Parent". Until those pics are published, I suggest you keep on keepin' on like you have been. The Babble personal blogs get the most consistent feedback because all three of you are being yourselves. THAT's what matters.

something blue | 1:16 AM

If you read something mean, just picture them naked. Bwahahahaha...

Labels are for soup cans.

Congrats on your Perfect Post!

PunditMom | 7:15 AM

Ah, the mean parents.

I wasn't prepared for them either, but they abound -- they were at R.'s preschool, on the block, at her elementary school.

I'm a live-and-let-live kind of parenting gal, but there are clearly many parents (OK, moms) I run into that definitely give me the same looks I recall getting in high school -- "Oh, that poor girl, she's SOOO uncool," or "She's a lost cause, let's not waste our time on her."

Why was I silly enough to think things would change as we grew up? As Mr. PunditMom correctly reminded me the other night, "All of life is just more high school."

Sigh.

merseydotes | 7:52 AM

I have never left a comment at Babble, and I would never hate on someone. However...I don't read Babble much. Or ClubMom. Or AlphaMom. Because I'm not into these websites that are trying to lump parents into categories. And they all do. Do you think there are many indie music fan/vegetarian/VW driving 'hipster' parents on ClubMom? Similarly, are there many minivan-driving/Barney-watching/McMansion-living parents on AlphaMom? Each website caters to a certain type of parent, and if you don't fit the mold then you don't feel comfortable. I don't fit the mold. I visit those websites, and I think, 'This is for someone else.'

What's great about individual blogs is that I don't get that feeling. I can read GGC and think, Wow, I totally do not understand buying expensive designer clothes, but it doesn't make me feel like an interloper. You're one person. You're not a lifestyle. But Babble? That's a lifestyle. And when so many people are into living the same way and I'm not, well, it makes me feel like I don't fit in there.

I'm not saying that Babble's writers (or ClubMom's or AlphaMom's) shouldn't be true to themselves. If you started writing about Archer's awesome new Wiggles CD, I would start watching the skies for the other bodysnatchers. BUT I think the flipside of bringing people together who have something in common is that it de facto isolates people who don't share the common thread.

Doesn't excuse the haters, but still.

Siobhan | 8:17 AM

Ok MersyDotes Just left my comment. I know who I like to read, and who I relate to. I'm fine happy going straight to their sites and frankly, I haven't discovered anyone new that I like/realate to, through StrollerDerby. I'd like to think that I am still fun and cute AND a mom, but I haven't figured out what category I'm in. Or, what categoryother people put me in. I just sort of am who am. You are who you are. Stick with it. It works for you. : -)

Mrs. Davis | 9:17 AM

I think there's a real struggle going on right now to "define" our generation of parents and/or to define certain segments of it. The vibe at Babble turned me off immediately, and I would not have visited there at all if you and a couple other bloggers I love to read weren't a part of it. Their tone in the whole Alternadad smack-down (whats-her-name's "review" and then the editorial comment from Ada) turned me off even more.

In a very general sense, our generation of parents behaves differently than the Boomers did. Attempts to label some of those characteristics/behaviors as "cool" or "hipster parenting" or "grup" have resulted in many of us objecting to being labeled or categorized (which is totaly what should be expected of us, as that is one of the most defining traits of Gen X). Many people also seem resistant to any one person acting as a voice for our generation of parents, but I think that may be more sour grapes than typical GenX "don't-label-me" reaction.

All of this, I think, has led to a lot of the discussions and disagreements that have been going on lately. Are we cool? Should we call ourselves cool? And if we're cool, does that make certain other parents un-cool?

Lots to think about. And you make such an excellent point: We are all different. We are all the same.

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 9:22 AM

Great comment, Mrs Davis. And I agree that the babble vibe is throwing me off as well. Which is why I felt the need to post. I thought the attack-of-the-neal-pollack posts were out of line, mean and hypocritical to say the least.

I'm trying to figure out where I belong in all of this and why I need to belong anywhere.

Again, thank you.

Jason | 11:35 AM

Thanks for so eloquently capturing what's been on my mind for the past week. Been feeling like I sold my soul for a few bucks/Strollerderby post.

Kristen | 12:52 PM

I agree- those who judge- teach their children the same and it's just sad. you think you've escaped the mean "cool kids" when you get out of high school, but to be honest motherhood is just the same.

Mrs. Flinger | 5:52 PM

I'm new here, came via beanblog, and read your posts and stopped in to babble. I admit I am a bit out of the loop but I love your post and you so eloquently captured a topic from "the other side" that is often unheard. Fantastic post. Really.

Shannon | 6:44 PM

I must be REALLY uncool, because I have no idea what is going on at Babble. I click your links to read what you have posted there and thats it.


Great post. It definately got me thinking about how I see myself. I have always cringed at the "housewife" and "soccer mom" labels, but I am certainly not a cool parent either.

Troll Baby | 7:49 PM

I get how you feel, but shrug it off. At 32, I don't give a flying fuck what people think of me. My music choices include shit that no one listens to, save Izzymom.com and I. I post song lists on my blog from time to time and it's cool to me when people say they will download them and sometimes they come back and say thanks because they never would have heard of it sooner. I have a zip file if you're interested.

I also dress my dress in indie clothes when I can my hands on them - and a lot of our 'good stuff' comes from the net.

The definition of being 'cool,' to me has always been being yourself. If people don't like how you dress or your tracks, screw them.

As for Babble - I've heard a little about it and haven't checked it out. I will though.

Dutch | 6:47 AM

I feel the same way you do. when I go to write for them, I always end up trying to make fun of them. that makes me one of them. sigh.

Jenn | 8:12 AM

I've been a mom now for just shy of 9 years and have never fit in with any sort of mommy elite/class/social group.
I don't fit in with the soccer moms, don't fit in with the hipster moms, don't fit in with the military moms, don't fit in with...well, any of them as a whole. I can fake my way through any encounters I have to have, but at the end of the day I'm just this oddball mom raising two of the most intelligent and thoughtful little shits this side of the Mason Dixon.

Any site that perpetuates the myth that a mom must be this or must be that in order to be considered a cool mom..or worse, a good mom..is effing bullshit. I refuse to even grace such sites with my presence.

I was a vegetarian and made tofu nuggets regularly for my tots for years.
I own 3 pairs of chucks and wear them (not all at the same time, of course) 5 days out of the week.
I drive a VW (Beetle to be exact)
I have tattoos and obnoxious fire engine red bangs. I love indie music.
I, too, am a member of moveon.org as well as, the nature conservancy and HRC.
I blog, therefore I am!
By all accounts, then, I could be a babblelicious parent.

Uh, no. Not even close. This might bother me if I actually wanted to be considered a cool hipster mom, but I don't. And that's not because I'm trying to be cool by not being cool, it's just that that sort of lifestyle and mentality is too stressful for me. At the same time (and here's the hypocritical JB) I don't want to be considered a typical stay-at-home-mom who's frumpy and boring and given up any sense of womanhood for her role in motherhood. I fight that image (especially as a military wife/mom) regularly.

The truth is the holier-than-thou mommy elites wouldn't care to be in the same room with me. I'm a chubby southerner with only a year and half of college under my belt and absolutely no real career direction to speak of. I cuss too fucking much. I am abundantly flawed. And I've never bought name brand anything for my children (unless the Gap t-shirt I bought at the thrift store counts). Paying $60 for a pair of shoes or a shirt for a kid who will grow too big for it in a matter of months is beyond rational to me. I don't think badly of those parents who do, it's just not for my family. Besides, we be po.

I don't really seem to have a point to this response now that I've gone back and read it. Basically I could have summarized my thoughts by replying with
"what merseydotes said".
But I've got that little case of narcissism and needed to have my say. ;o)
Besides, all the cool moms are doing it.

mothergoosemouse | 5:39 PM

I hate to say it, but other than your column, I've been viewing Babble as a bit of a train wreck - especially the Carver/Pollack BS.

That said, adulthood is just like high school in many ways - no matter what crowd you're in, there's a standard of conformity. But even then you could spot the phonies, and I think it's even easier now.

(Which is why I like you so much and must insist now more than ever before that Yo GGC Rapz be performed at BlogHer '07.)

Peter | 2:54 AM

One of us... one of us...

Yeah, the Babble stereotypes are coming on fast. I don't even know exactly what a "hipster" is, but now I'm told I am one. Better than many things I've been called, I guess.

I know I wasn't cool in school and I wasn't cool in college, yet at the city playground I'm considered cool. Maybe it's because I'm hanging with three-year-olds.

kittenpie | 7:32 AM

It's funny, it reminds me of how all the "alternative" oursider types in high school and university all rebelled in exactly the same way (you know, wear black, blah blah) and now all the urban hipster parents are totally identifiable by doing their own thing in exactly the same way, too... Some days I really do believe there is nothing new under the sun.

Mom101 | 10:47 AM

Having spent way too many hours and brain cells on the urban baby message boards, I can tell you that people love to snark, particularly under the veil of internet anonymity. The truth is while they're complaining about babble they're also reading it.

My guess is part of the problem is the way the site was marketed. No one wants to be told they're being hip - they sort of want to find it themselves. (It even bothers me when we're called the cool moms of cool mom picks - the picks are what's cool! Me? Not so much.)

I bet if it was marketed as more the urban parents' website it would have opened the door to less sniping.

Anonymous | 2:17 PM

Yes, this is truly ironic.

http://girlsgonechild.blogspot.com/2006/11/pta-wtf.html

Rock the Cradle | 2:32 PM

Hey grrl, You are so welcome...

Thanks for all the great writing.When I read your work, I realize I'm not quite so alone in my own experiences as I sometimes feel.

This posting reminds me of a conversation I had with my Hub as we were navigating the possibility of his taking up psychiatry. The short version of it was:
"if you are an asshole, and are in therapy for 20 years, it doesn't mean that you become a better person. It just means that you can become a more self-actualized asshole."

It doesn't matter what your background is, anyone can be a jerk. It's easy. You just need to not care. The challenge is knowing you CAN be an asshole, but CHOOSING not to be.

Her Bad Mother | 5:45 PM

Thank you so much for writing this. Because isn't this exactly what the blogosphere is NOT supposed to be about? Doesn't the anonymity of the screen function - at least a little bit - as a veil over our hair and shoes and brand of stroller and the perfect fade of our vintage t-shirts and/or the stone wash of our so-last-century jeans? What the fuck is a hipster blogger anyway? Can't one live in the suburbs and have great, up-to-the-moment taste in music? Or live in the city and be a total dork (um, HELLO??? SPRECHEN DE MOI???) Some of the best writers out here are, for all I know, closet hausfraus. The cool is in the writing.

And that, my friend, you need never defend, regardless of whether cool is cool. Or not. YOUR words transcend cool.

Her Bad Mother | 5:47 PM

And, also, wtf anonymous? True cool means containing contradictions.

Kristina | 10:29 PM

I live in a isolated, rural-ish area that is totally NOT urban OR cool. And me? Certainly not a "cool kid" - never have been. But I truly love strollerderby and babble. Maybe I enjoy reading about an urban life that I used to love and am missing, or maybe I just enjoy seeing what the urban shiek are talking about. Sure, snarky by definition is insulting, but it also is an art form that I can appreciate. It's a brand. You're going for a certain demographic. Online, you have the opportunity to take a corner of your psyche and run with it. Personally my blogging seems to be more extreme truth/raw honesty, but does that draw the crowds? No. But I'll keep doing what I'm doing. I love it. I do it for me and me alone. And so should you.

So I guess what I'm saying is try not to think to hard on what we all think and just write for you. And for the record, what you write is beautiful. Here and on Babble. Truly. Keep on keepin' on and don't let the meanies get you down.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah | 5:33 AM

Wow. You know, I know that the profile on Strollerderby suggests that I'm hip, but truly, no matter what they tell you I'm not a cool kid. Sure, I listen to Black Sabbath, but it is only because I was born in the 70's and listened to metal. I drive a mini-van and technically I live in the suburbs.

Non illigitamus carborundum.

nonlineargirl | 9:06 AM

I started reading your post (as I did a post Dutch wrote a while back about how he wasn't cool, isn't cool, but they let him write for Strollerderby anyway) and I immediately think the bloggers doth protest too much. Because really, what self-respecting hipster admits to it?

But is my reaction (mean or otherwise) it really about you folks, and whether or not you are cool? For me, a chilly response to a hipster site is more about my own insecurities than about what the writers are doing. I guess I am immature enough that sometimes I can't get past my own shit to just enjoy other people's work. Now there's an ugly admission.

Stephanie T. | 8:21 PM

Hey, I'm on myspace, too. www.myspace.com/stefanietroup. Please be my cool friend. :)

Much word to this post. I'm soooooo tired of labels and mean people.

lildb | 11:43 PM
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
lildb | 11:58 PM

Hi. I wrote something stupid, and deleted it. Because, while hipster-dilemmas may be debatable, stupid is not. Stupid needs to go.

Meanwhile, in non-stupid-land, I love this post and you.

The End.

chasinash | 10:39 AM

Be still my heart.

Here's irony for you: I was about to write that I can't believe you're from LA. Stereotyped as being the Land of Exclusion. But that's just as label-y, isn't it?

In any case, this post rocks. I want to drive over to your house in my VW. Even though I'm wearing only Ann Taylor clothing right now and wouldn't be caught dead in leggings+shorts.

I heart you.

Jim | 1:54 PM

I wholeheartedly recommend the book Queen Bee Moms and King Pin Dads. It's by Rosalind Wiseman. She wrote Queen Bees and Wannabees which was in turn fictionalized into the movie Mean Girls.

Anyway, as a new parent, I found Queen Bee Moms to be fascinating as it explains the social structures that form in parenting circles. Fabulous stuff with lots of practical advice and observations.

As far as Babble. I check it out every now and then. As a hopeless geek, I can't strike the pose and generally leave.

"Community" is such a hard thing to define and create. I don't see a lot of community on Babble. On Parent Hacks? Yes. On Sweet Juniper? Yes. Here? Yes.

Just not on Babble.

I don't know what it is, but I just don't get it.

I was struck by how it came on the scene and seemed to say, "Look! Someone cool, Nerve no less, is doing something about parenting. Parenting no longer has to be boring. It can be edgy. You know... like Nerve." The creators seemed to expect instant success and adoration and everyone to agree with this take. I don't fault them. I think they will be very successful. I just don't think I am their market... and that's OK.

crunchycarpets | 9:28 AM

I originally checked out Babble because I was already reading folks like yourself...Strollerderby sounded like a good way to read my fave's.

But with marketing of Babble put me right off...I started to feel like I wasn't welcome to read these bloggers because I did not meet the criteria.

That wasn't the bloggers fault..they were just doing what they had always done..but now it was in grouped and categorized way that excluded people who didn't fit the Babble expectations.

Instead of embracing the modern parent for all it's differences it added to the cliques.

And the mommyblogs are full of clieqes. A lot can't be helped. It is just life. We gravitate to those that we share values, etc.

What IS funny is that the outcry from the cool factor has been about how 'mean' those 'others' are being.

When really...with irony and sarcasm being the cornerstone of the 'hip' parent....are they not just getting a taste of what some dish out on a regular basis???