Her Bad Mother

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Strike a pose, there's nothing to it

So, something about me that is not remotely interesting but provides a useful segue to this post: I read Vogue magazine. For the articles, of course. (1) And because it makes me feel inferior, which helps to temper my enormous ego.

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

And this:

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.


Blogger Carolyn S. said...

Am I the only one without this adorably posed photo?

Culture Industry's Oppression of Women through the Propogation of Unrealistic Standards of Beauty sounds like a class I had, or should have had, in grad school.

Great post!


4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it. Thank you for not letting this one slideby - I only read Us Weekly, so I wouldn't have seen it :)

And PS - nice baby carrier, shades pic. I'm so uncool. You, Mom-101. meh.

5:33 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

The site design is second only to the fantastic writing. What an eloquent description of the two directions I'm pulled in these days. And dammit, I work in advertising! I should know that it's all just airbrushing and good lighting.

Love the photo--I suppose this proves that the "insanely adorable daughter" description is right on the money. You neglected however to tell us about the insanely adorable mom that birthed her.

5:46 PM  
Blogger The City Gal said...

you two ladies look absolutely lovely and beautiful in the literal sense.

Many women around the world envy to look as happy as you are when you hold the little angel.

Anytime you feel a tiny bit down, look into her beautiful eyes and you will forget it all.


6:12 PM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Aw come on - you and baby with those uber-cool shades should be in the next ad spread! Cute. Cute. Cute.

Extremely well written post about an issue that I rant too crazily about to be able to present. I'm a born again advertiser (10 years in the ad biz to end up at a feminist charity). I am walking oxymoron. (Which is more than I can say about the model with the heels, half-dress and heavy baby seat - there is NO WAY she was walking - bet she toppled over after they got that shot.

Your blog rocks!

6:25 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Beautifully written post, although I'm feeling a touch of mommy shame at the moment. Why, you ask?

Because as I was reading, all I could think about were those Vogue pictures and how it was not only about mommy fashion but also a feature on all the things we're NOT supposed to do.

Maybe mommyhood has totally taken over and there's no sense of fashion left in my head, but here's what I was thinking looking at each of those pics:

The first pic: Where's the sunshade for that baby? Or at least a hat? Come on, Vogue model mom, hats are fashionable, too!

The second pic: Here baby, have some french fries. Then we can both vomit them up later together!

The third pic: Stroller on an escalator - did she miss those bright yellow and red warnings on the side?

(OK, I'll fully admit that I've done the activities in all three of those pictures. But come on, Vogue shouldn't be promoting them. Britney Spears probably reads Vogue - just think what new things they're giving her license to do!)

6:51 PM  
Blogger ninepounddictator said...

Oh, you're being way too hard on yourself. You only had baby a few months ago. You can only start hating yourself for not losing weight after a year!

Also, re what you posted on my blog...it's so true. When I go shopping now, let's say to The Gap, I come home and say, "Oh I just bought some clothes for the baby she needed"..and then at the bottom of the bag, of course, are a couple things for me....The fiance doesn't need to know about that though....SHHH!

11:17 PM  
Blogger Miguelita said...

Gah - I am having all the same thoughts as Christina - I guess I really am a Mommy now.

You, your baby and your blog - all fabulous. Screw Vogue.

I think hip comes back a little later in the recovery from creating life.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Aw, shucks, I'm blushing from all the love.

Christina, Mommycakes: I had the exact same thoughts. In fact, there was going to be a second post about the Extreme Parenting that seemed to be going on in those photos (aren't fries a chiking hazard?) I guess I just go ahead with that post... give me something to do, so much time on my hands... ha... (weep)...

2:32 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

WTF is chiking? CHOKING. Gah.

2:36 PM  
Blogger tracey clark said...

kay, those pix are HILARIOUS and obsurd and ridiculous and I think that's the way they were meant to be. silly. amusing and in many ways alarming...come on, what chic fashion mom is going to give her baby french fries. they are totally and utterly unrealistic. but that's what makes them Vogue. it's the hip woman, making the scene and oh, hey, since there's a crap-load of mothers out there reading, let's not forget the baby-prop. i find it funny. really funny! but that's just me.
and i find you adorable Bad Mother. simply adorable. and your prop-baby ain't so bad either!

4:39 PM  
Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

That was perfect. Amazing. I lovelovelovelovelove it and you and totally hear you on the post.

There have been days where I have, determined to maintain my fashionista status have taken Archer for a walk in heels & trench, using my Louis Vuitton as a diaper bag.

I looked like a complete idiot. Fashion shoots aside, getting caught in Starbrucks in head to toe Gucci, complete with knee high wedges and puking baby is as terrifying and nigtmaresque as showing up to the first day of middle school, ass naked. (which i'm sure would seem glam if Vogue shot a spread of that as well.)

Someone ought to do a spread on the chic-practicality of a mom's wardrobe. Ha! Yeah, right.

5:07 PM  
Blogger kittenpie said...

Tracey is so right - absurd IS the word!

And Angelina is totally my girl-crush.

10:16 PM  
Blogger ninepounddictator said...

Hey, just wanted to say I love you for sticking up for me all the time. you ever need anything - let me know. I really, truly appreciate it. I think you are good people.

10:34 PM  
Blogger Her Grace said...

I'm up at 4:15 AM because I have two little girls with colds and am developing the same one myself. SO? I'm blogging.

I came to your blog through a comment you left at Moxie and I have to say you have an impossibly cute kid. She is ADORABLE!

I'm right there with you with the yoga pants and tennies.

4:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I laughed when I saw that spread in Vogue.

But the pic of you and the babe - adorable!

11:51 AM  
Blogger Moxie said...

I, for one, think the Vogue spread is highly instructive. Want to save money by getting the Value Meal but don't want to gain weight? Give the kid your fries. Want to get exercise but don't want to have to take any extra time in your day? Clomp around in 4-inch heels to build up your calves and hoist the baby in a bucket instead of a sensible body carrier to build up the biceps. Want to work on your balance but don't have time for yoga? Take your stroller on the escalator and be tense and poised the whole time so the keys dangling from the stroller don't get caught and suck your baby through the grinder.

(Also, yeah. You'll lose more weight effortlessly in the next 6-7 months. The fat lady isn't even warming up yet.)

5:44 PM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Four-inch heels... with a baby... sure. That's do-able. Don't ALL moms dress like that? LOL

8:57 PM  
Blogger scarbie doll said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:22 PM  
Blogger scarbie doll said...

Sorry - deleted prior comment due to spelling error.

Yo - more freaky weird teen mommy fashion photos in the latest issue of Fashion! I am so writing a letter. At least the Vogue girl looked 14, not 12!

2:24 PM  

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