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February 25, 2007

« The View(point) from Florida-ville | Main | We Know What's Wrong ... »

Brooks The Times' celebre-pundit put his values on the table. We know he's enamored of patio men and soccer moms, but would anyone have thought he was this angry, or troubled.  I  guess you'd  have to be a psychologist to sort out what in the world could provoke him to write this. Or perhaps a picture really is worth many thousand words after all.

Update: Steven Johnson weighs in: "Brooks' obsession with the surfaces of hipster parenting ends up blinding him to the real trend here, which is central to almost all the examples he cites: young parents choosing to raise their children in the city, not the suburbs."  It's must read.

Your thoughts? The whole incredibly ludicrous screed after the jump.

February 25, 2007

Op-Ed Columnist

Mosh Pit Meets Sandbox


Can we please get over the hipster parent moment? Can we please see the end of those Park Slope alternative Stepford Moms in their black-on-black maternity tunics who turn their babies into fashion-forward, anticorporate indie-infants in order to stay one step ahead of the cool police?

Can we stop hearing about downtown parents who dress their babies in black skull slippers, Punky Monkey T-shirts and camo toddler ponchos until the little ones end up looking like sad-parody club clones of mom and dad? Can we finally stop reading about the musical Antoinettes who would get the vapors if their tykes were caught listening to Disney tunes, and who instead force-feed Brian Eno, Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens into their little babies’ iPods?

I mean, don’t today’s much-discussed hipster parents notice that their claims to rebellious individuality are undercut by the fact that they are fascistically turning their children into miniature reproductions of their hipper-than-thou selves? Don’t they observe that with their inevitable hummus snacks, their pastel-free wardrobes, their unearned sense of superiority and their abusively pretentious children’s names like Anouschka and Elijah, they are displaying a degree of conformity that makes your average suburban cul-de-sac look like Renaissance Florence?

Enough already. The hipster parent trend has been going on too long and it’s got to stop. It’s been nearly three years since reporters for sociologically attuned publications like The New York Observer began noticing oversophisticated infants in “Anarchy in the Pre-K” shirts. Since then, the trend has exhausted its life cycle.

A witty essay by Adam Sternbergh announced the phenomenon in an April 2006 New York magazine. Sternbergh described 40-year-old men and women with $200 bedhead haircuts and $600 messenger bags, who “look, talk, act and dress like people who are 22 years old,” and dress their infants as if they’re 16. He called these pseudo-adults “Grups,” observing that they smashed any remaining semblance of a generation gap.

He noticed that the music of the parental generation sounds exactly like the music of the kids’ generation. They have the same rock star fashion sense, and share the same taste for distressed denim. He found a music video director, Adam Levite, who had a guitar collection propped up in his TriBeCa loft, and then similar miniature versions of the same guitars for his 6-year-old son, Asa.

Then came the hipster parents’ own online magazine, Babble.com.

Babble is a normal parental advice magazine submerged under geological layers of attitudinizing. There are articles about products from the alternative industrial complex (early ’60s retro baby food organizers). There’s a blog from a rock star mom (it’s lonely on the road). There’s a column by L.A.’s Rebecca Woolf, a sort of Silver Lake Erma Bombeck. (“Who says becoming a mom means succumbing to laser tattoo removal and moving to the suburbs?”)

On top of that there’s been a flourishing of the movement’s official gathering site — the message board complex UrbanBaby.com. Here, highly educated parents trade tips about the toxic dangers of aluminum foil. Stay-at-home Martyr Mommies trade gibes with their working mom frenemies. High-achieving types try to restrain their judgmental, perfectionist tendencies with self-mockery: “I horrified myself the other day when I found myself being surprised that Angelina [Jolie] would let Zahara eat Ms. Vickie’s chips. Shoot me before I turn into a sanctimommy!”

Finally, in a sign that the hip parenting thing has jumped the shark, the movement got its own book, the indescribably dull “Alternadad,” about a self-described whiny narcissist who tries not to let his son’s birth get in the way of his rock festival lifestyle. Surely a trend has hit absurdity when you have a book in which the most memorable moment comes when the writer succumbs to the corporate temptations of Toys “R” Us.

Let me be clear: I’m not against the indie/alternative lifestyle. There is nothing more reassuringly traditionalist than the counterculture. For 30 years, the music, the fashions, the poses and the urban weeklies have all been the same. Everything in this society changes except nonconformity.

What I object to is people who make their children ludicrous. Innocent infants should not be compelled to sport “My Mom’s Blog Is Better Than Your Mom’s Blog” infant wear. They should not be turned into deceptive edginess badges by parents who refuse to face that their days of chaotic, unscheduled moshing are over.

For God’s sake, let’s respect the dignity of youth.   




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OMG! We used dcurbanmom.com to find a nanny and my 3 month old wears a winter hat from LLBean -- where I buy much adult winter gear. How have my wife and I gone so wrong? Should I not buy a jogging stroller (thus setting an example that exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle) and just leave my baby in a basonet or a drawer? Mr. Brooks, where can we turn for help on how to properly raise our son?


DJM - You and yours may have jumped the shark yourself. Have you considered time travel back to the 50s for proper family reorientation.


Okay, Mr. Brooks, when is your parenting book coming out? My three creative and innovative children can't wait to hear your recommendations. Are you going to recommend the "Barney Does Pop Tunes" disc, so my daughter will have to turn in her IPod and her Green Day discs? My son will turn in his cool games and his sketch pad (along with his cartoons and snarky political commentary)and "Republicans for Voldemort" poster for what?

The picture says it all. God help us.


Well, he's got a point. A web site like Babble that features an article on the trials of going to markets in Provence with baby is obviously meant for an especially privileged group of people, and anybody who thinks that they're being "nonconformist" by figuring out how to introduce baby to punk rock is living in a fantasy

But so what? The rest of the world gets to laugh at Bobos and their loinfruit because hey, you're pretty funny. And obviously, a lot of people are just buying stuff for baby that reflects their own tastes, something that's been going on for centuries for those who can afford it.

Meanwhile, Brooks (as always) remains the man without a mirror.

Brian Knudsen

Iraq War in shambles; check.
George Bush hated; check.
Republicans on the outs; check.
Right wing loathed and ridiculed; check.

People to blame for all of this? Duh.



Brian - Touche!


Wow, you guys really don't get him at all do you? He uses overblown examples to make his humorous point. Get over yourselves.


Matt - Really, ya think? That's a lot of over-blowing for one 750 word piece.

Brian Knudsen

Not that all hipsters are left or leftists hip, but I wonder if the political right would think it was merely (or at all) humorous if I interwove the term "fascistically" into some discussion of various aspects of their lifestyle, as Brooks does in the above column.

Calling people fascists? Decidedly not funny, and Brooks didn't intend it to be. He apparently really thinks it.


Brian - Steven Johnson, himself a Park Slope dad and terrific commentator on cultural trends, "What's Bad is Good for You" and on cities, has a thoughtful post on what this trend means for families moving back cities which Brooks chooses to ignore.


Steven Johnson link...


Seems to be the pre-election precursor to the typical right's meme "hipster urban elitists are ruining the world." Building the frame a little early in the election cycle aren't you, David? How many times can they think this will work?

Michael Wells

This article was a wierd anomaly. I generally like Brooks, he's a thoughtful and insightful non-ideological conservative who writes well. Some particular neighbor must have gotten on his nerves and somehow it got into his column -- doesn't the Times have editors?


Michael - I too benefit from some of Brooks' ideas. But I don't think this is an anomaly. Brooks seems to consistently lash out at them, while regaling "patio-man."


Poor, poor, Master Brooks. If only everyone would just plug their kids into good, safe, homogeneous family fare like Disney, the world would be so much easier for him to understand.

Not that putting some Flaming Lips into the baby mix makes you somehow inimitable...but please! Don't do it for the sake of.....well for the sake of what, exactly Master Brooks?

What unspeakable calamity does Master Brooks think will unfold if I introduce my little guy to some Sufjan Stevens, or buy him something to wear that isn't sold in Herald Square?

This is never made clear, exactly. I'm not sure why a black-on-black maternity tunic is so threatening to him - maybe this is just too titillating a sight for his Victorian eyes?

This seems no different from his vapid book "Bobos in Paradise" in which Master Brooks articulates his longing for a world where elite nobles of good lineage ruled the NY Times wedding page and the middling classes filled their coffee mugs with Sanka instead of latte.

There really is no point. It's just Master Brooks, tilting at windmills in Park Slope, and pretending it's a righteous crusade.

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