And this month’s Vogue, as it happens, is the perfect antidote to any Mommy-ego that I might have been developing in these heady days that comprise Baby’s fourth month. Because just when I thought that brushing my teeth and putting on matching socks represented the gold-standard of mommy-togetherness, Vogue goes ahead and mocks me with this:
Mommy-Fashion Do #37: Always match shoes to belt to infant car seat
Corset Belts as Post-Partum Must-Haves. There’s a Women’s Studies Masters’ Thesis in here somewhere (‘Motherhood Bound: Defining the American MILF through the Patriarchal Sign’)
I know that editorial fashion spreads are by definition unrealistic. I know too that that model is probably 14 years old and has a eating disorder and a drug habit that are shrivelling her ovaries as we speak. But still. I look at these photos and think to myself, just for a moment: Damn, girl. You are a slob.
For the record, I usually don’t have time for lengthy oral dissertations on the Culture Industry’s Oppression of Women through the Propogation of Unrealistic Standards of Beauty. I mean, duh. We all know it and we all still buy the magazines and watch the TV shows and go to the movies and say to ourselves damn but that Angelina is smokin’ hot. (2) (Except, I suppose, those of you out there who still wear black berets and sport Down With Patriarchy tattoos and shun all media in favour of reading Sartre in smoky cafes. But I probably lost you at ‘I read Vogue.’) Me, I make my living reading Very Important Books and exploring Very Important Ideas and so when I’m not totally preoccupied by High Culture and Philosophy (and, of course, not otherwise engaged in baby-wrangling or blogging), I like to indulge in a little mindless entertainment, even if it is, on some level, Fundamentally Oppressive.
But these days, I’m feeling a teensy-weensy more insecure than usual and so pictures of very skinny models wearing very high heels and pretending to be mothers grated. Just a little bit. But you know what grated more? The product and lifestyle-lust that the layout inspired. A Maclaren stroller designed by Starck? The slick portable baby chair that would blend perfectly into a slick modernist dining room? Want, want, WANT.
Not so much because I like having beautiful things – I absolutely do, but I don’t need beautiful baby equipment. (I got over that issue really fast. Baby equipment must needs be functional. It’s got a job to do, and if the ugly plastic thing or piece of cardboard does the trick better than the High Design Model, then we go with the plastic or cardboard. And? Babies ain’t cheap. The usefulness of the Oeuf bouncy chair does not correspond to its price and when there’re a thousand other things to buy and save for, well, might as well go with the cheap or secondhand Fisher Price model…)
No, the reason that these things got to me was that they spoke to my pre-Baby ambitions for my New Mother Self. I did not expect that I’d be gallivanting around in four-inch heels and Marc Jacobs trenchcoats (although, hello? Spit-up would roll right off of a slick patent leather trench…) But I did imagine myself maintaining some respectable level of hipness and traipsing hiply around the city with my super-hip baby by day and lounging with martinis while hipster baby chortled peacefully in a discrete, black bouncy chair by night. The truth of life with Baby, however, looks more hippy than hip. We’ve been over this before, but here are the facts, again: yoga pants are stretched over the child-bearing hips, and running shoes are strapped onto newly-widened feet for balance. And instead of well-designed baby equipment tucked discretely in the corners of our tidy home, we are buried under mountains of red and yellow plastic. (Martinis, in case you haven’t heard, now give me seventh-circle-of-hell hangovers.)
I don’t mind this at all. In fact, most days, I love it. I wear spit-up stained t-shirts with pride, and sip happily at the Guinness to boost milk supply. The superficial trappings of hip are much, much less interesting now. But that Vogue spread? That pushed some superficial buttons.
Which is what it was supposed to do, so don’t read this as a complaint, or as the foundation of a treatise on the Evils of the Fashion System. Truthfully, I laughed as much as I salivated and fretted. Four-inch heels? Carrying a baby that looks to weigh about 30 lbs (in other words, about half the size of the model) in four inch heels without a Baby Bjorn Active Carrier? Ha Effing Ha.
(And? WonderBaby has more hair than slickity-slicker-Vogue Baby! Triple HA!)
So even though that Philippe Starck stroller would be lovely to have, if I have to give up the comfortable shoes (am working up to ballet flats) and the comforts of outfit-creasing baby carriers to make it work, I don’t want it. And I don’t want the life that goes with it. I like this one just fine.
This is how we rock it in the real world. (3)
1) Am not kidding! OK, mostly kidding. But seriously? Jeffrey Steingarten is the best food writer in the world. And where else would I find out that Frank Gehry is going to be designing for Tiffany?
2) Angelina is hot (not going to touch the issue of her slutty man-thievery, tho.’ Or the grottiness of the man that she thieved.) But she’s not my girl-crush. Catherine Keener is my girl crush. Catherine Keener rocks! But most people don’t see this, so I go with the more obvious example.
3) This unveiling of Bad Mother was inspired by Mom-101, who is an inspiration to us all.