Thursday, August 30, 2012


Sometimes I do the right thing.

Today, I held the coffee shop door open for the world's slowest stroller-laden mother of two, even though, had I shouldered past, I could have been halfway back to my house and covered in muffin.

This morning, I sent a measured email to colleagues suggesting that, in future, we do X, despite the fact that what I wanted to write was: XBJKLWEJLASDF.

I have listened, patiently and with appropriate murmurings, to people discourse on any number of topics in which I have no interest whatsoever.  I should note there aren't many of these topics -I have a high boredom threshold- but in case you would like to bore me in future, they include a) Your child's potty training b) NASCAR c) Ars subtilior d) Dog grooming.

Other times, though, I do the wrong thing, and the rightness of the wrong thing -its electric, sparkling whoosh- shoots up my spine as if I've hit the third rail.  The power of the right kind of wrongness lies in its direct line to desire: whenever you do the right kind of wrong thing, you're finally admitting that, despite what you told yourself, you've wanted it all along.

And thus it was that I came to this.  A small thing, really: a browser plugin that allows you, finally, handily, to replace all of the baby pictures your friends plaster on Facebook with something you choose, like cats, or daleks.  Free at last!

It's a small thing, a stupid thing, but it points at something larger: the fault line, growing though not undbridgeable, between folks who are parents and folks who are not.  I doubt that many people with children will use, or even find it particularly funny.  But I do. 

The plugin touches something in me.  It's something a little bit nasty and not at all compassionate, an aggrieved something, a something both judged and judging.   To admit to it makes me uncomfortable, but I have to say that when I think about the app I feel the zing, the delectable spark, of doing the wrong thing, of having someone else speak, at last, the words that have been rotting on my tongue.

Hey!  Parents!  No one thinks your kids are anywhere near as interesting or awesome or gifted or so all-fired-cute as you do!  You're programmed to think that way; get some perspective,  have some consideration, and spare us the constant updates on your progeny!  Your kids are only doing things the hundreds of children I see every day, and in fact every other child on the planet, have done before!  Only your kids are probably doing them more obnoxiously, because you've obviously made them the center of your universe!  

The vitriol I carry around on this surprises me.   I wonder, as I always do, if I'll feel differently when -or if- I have children of my own.  I like children.  I spend most days of the week with them.  They're cute.  I enjoy seeing, from time to time, a photo.  And if the point of Facebook is to share your life with others, and your life consists pretty much entirely of your kids, are you, as an over-sharing parent, really doing anything wrong?

Is it fear?  Do your posts make me worry that I'll have no life apart from kids if I become a mother? Or does my irritation come from feeling judged, from that air of superiority parents adopt, as if you couldn't possibly understand the great sacredness of my undertaking, you poor childless boob.  Is it the frequent and the self-righteous prioritization of children's wants over adult concerns?  Is it jealousy?  Or does it come from grief: I used to have a friend, but now all I've got is Tommy's Mommy?

Probably a little of all of these, plus a soupcon of genuine boredom.  But I get it, parents: that's your story and you're sticking to it.  Keep it up.  You're dong the right thing.   I'll just be here in my corner of the Internetz, turning your children into cheese.


Noa said...

I think you're over-thinking this and shouldn't get down on yourself.

First of all, unbabyme isn't mean or wrong. Does it really hurt the parents to have people not look at pics of their baby in the privacy of their own computer? Absolutely not. It merely gives people more individual freedom to control what they consume on their own Facebook feed. Yay for increased liberty, but that's about it. It's not as if it pings back the baby pic poster with the message "so-and-so can't stand looking at pictures of your offspring, you Stepford-brained, newly hobby-less breeder."

Also, it's a matter of degree. Let's be honest -- some people definitely over-post pictures of their children. (And I say this as someone who loves baby pictures, especially those of my close friends.) I think you'll agree that there are two categories of baby pic posters, much in the same way that there are people who appropriately post pictures with their significant others at events or interesting locations while there are others who inexplicably insist on putting up pictures of themselves essentially making out with their significant other and setting those as their profile picture, to boot. Unbabyme helps restore some decorum in the face of inappropriate over-postings.

Finally, even if you don't buy my above arguments, I'll point out that unbaby me is hilarious. And meanness is mitigated by hilarity. Everyone knows that :)

Anne said...

It is pretty damn funny, isn't it :) And yes, I, too, agree that it's a matter of degree. Kid pics are cute- just tiresome in large numbers or when they're not cut with anything else.

Mara said...

Sure, too many baby pictures can be boring, but so can listening to someone talk about their work, or vacation, or anything they care about that you care about less. It's just part of sharing with someone. But, on the other hand, that app sounds pretty funny so, go wild!