From Chapter 3, “The Trouble With Mommies”:
I needed to snap out of my isolation and get out into the world again, this time with a stroller in tow.
My liberal arts background prepared me to tackle each and every problem in one place: the library. Deep in the stacks, past the What to Expect When You’re Expecting volumes and The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, I spied a book called The Hip Mama Survival Guide. This was it: a book that acknowledged the dirty truth that parenthood is something to survive, like middle school, meningitis, or the Vietnam War. I wanted to be surrounded by mamas as salty-smart as the book’s author, Ariel Gore. Unfortunately, Ariel lived on the West Coast and had given birth as a naïve teenager; much of her mothering spunk derived from the fact that she was still in the midst of her own bratty youth.
We had a teenage mom on our own block, Matt and I discovered. The homeowner directly across the street from us was Clinton Avenue’s designated loonball (there’s always one), the furious type who believed that the ten feet of curb outside of her house was a valuable piece of real estate and no one, NO ONE, but her was allowed to park anywhere near it. When Matt and I spotted her daughter clutching a bundle that looked more like a baby than a stack of algebra books, we wondered if all of that energy protecting a cement slab might have been put to better use.
This girl cornered Matt on the street one evening, offering him use of her son’s old bassinet if we needed it. Matt said she seemed eager to bond with me about our babies, but I found this horrifying. We were both mothers, this sixteen-year-old and I, but she was not my peer. I wanted to shake her by her shoulders and yell, “You’re sixteen! You should go to the mall to gorge on Cinnabons and buy earrings at Claire’s with your friends, not going to Bob the Builder at Toddler Tuesdays with your kid!”
Our friendship, though imaginary, was over before it could begin.
I clicked through some postings on the forums of HipMama.com, where I found others eager to connect, so much so that the profiles were coded as strenuously as any on eHarmony or OKCupid. SAHM (we know what that means), BFOD (breastfeeding on demand), VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean), AP (attachment parenting or advanced placement? Did they want to know my scores?) DS (darling son?), DH (does that mean she lives with a dickhead?), et cetera. The acronyms tacked onto each blog post made me cross-eyed, though they were all Very Important in the virtual world, for like a pair of Louboutins in the real world, they broadcast to the world exactly Who You Are.
The listings’ very existence spoke to a whole world of moms needing to connect with one another—yet the coded language was so mysterious and ultimately alienating that I abandoned the site without completing a profile.