I break out of NYC every chance I get and spent this past weekend in the suburbs, visiting one of my married-with-children friends. On Saturday afternoon, we went to a two-year-old’s birthday party at a Gymboree-style merriment center that features a big room full of things to safely bounce around on. I couldn’t wait – there’s no better place to get an above-average-quality piece of cake than a rich toddler’s birthday bash. If you know how to work it, 1 mouth-watering piece can seamlessly turn into 2, and then 3. But on the drive over, my friend solemnly warned me that we were about to spend the next couple of hours with some serious assholes.
Where I come from, the hosts of a party are supposed to warmly (or at least fakely) greet, and go through the motions of catching up with, all of their guests. Especially at an event that’s for the children. This birthday boy’s parents marched to the beat of a drum that shouldn’t ever be available on the market. The dad whiled away the time talking shop with the handful of other dads who showed up, as the mom was talking shit with her fellow Stepford Wives-in-training.
My friend was the only working mom in the room and probably one of the only working moms at her son’s preschool. Moms who have held onto their careers are still viewed suspiciously in this community. I grew up in a suburb that’s similar to this one and, although my townsfolk had significantly stronger social skills than these former Manhattanites, there was the same flavor of unspoken tension between the moms who worked full-time and the moms who didn’t. There are members of each group who second-guess the choices they’ve made to the point of developing an inferiority complex that’s publicly projected as a superiority complex in an attempt to save face. Now that there are finally more stay-at-home dads in the picture, it’ll be interesting to see if and how this dynamic shifts. But if the dads who were at this party represent any indication of what’s to come, the future is sure to be as comical as the horrified expression on one of their wives’ faces as she watched her giggling daughter fall onto a well-cushioned mat from no higher than two feet up.
These kids’ moms sequestered themselves from us workers at their own loss. There’s a lot we could have contributed to their loud, impassioned, wild-eyed conversations, particularly the one about multigrain tortilla chips. The consensus was that Whole Foods is the most respectable place to buy a bag. I’ve been boycotting Whole Foods for about 11 months, and it made me smile to imagine how much wilder all of their eyes would have become if I had explained the reasoning behind my resistance.
The 1884 Walthamstow Temperance Poem
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