Monday, March 05, 2007

Revenge of the happy baby pigs

I'm intrigued by the idea of hipster parenting. (Like "alternadad" Neal Pollack, for example.) I wrote the following a couple of years ago, on an old blog that I never publicized. Here it is, only two years late.

MOMS RAWK. If you're not aware of the burgeoning "mommy rock" phenomenon, it encompasses groups such as the Motherlode Trio, the Mydols, Housewives on Prozac (well, it's rock 'n' roll -- you gotta have drugs), and of course, a festival called Momapalooza.

Not long ago Housewives and Momapalooza founder Joy Rose read an essay on NPR wherein she related her overnight transformation from SoHo punk rock queen with a gold record to . . . "happy baby pig" (her words, with emphasis on "baby" -- implying that making babies turns a woman into a pig). As the reality of motherhood set in, she quickly tired of the artist's life. Navigating the walk up four flights of stairs with kids, baby bag and toys in tow proved too challenging. So she and her "partner" (alternaterm for "husband") opted for -- gasp --


Denizens of insular urban bohemias think differently, to say the least. In some ways, for the better. But in that hothouse environment, there's also that contempt, even terror, for anything and everything perceived as bourgeois: a notion that the traditional family is for the dull, the bland, the conforming -- the people who go to megachurches and shop at Wal-Mart. Marriage ("partnership," whatever) is a transmitter of the patriarchal oppression virus. Children are not only unhip; they are a burden, a disease to be cured by the abortionist. In some circles these beliefs are held quite literally. Traces of these memes are evident in the self-punishing language Rose employs when relating her journey from moshing to mommying. She sounds sheepish and apologetic, as if to say: I'm really sorry ... I know I'm not supposed to enjoy this exploitative subjugation to an artificial gender role forced upon me by the Oppressive Rapist Patriarchy ... but dammit, I'm lovin' it!

It makes me sad that Rose spent so long steeped in a milieu where doing what nature made you to do makes you a "baby pig," but rejecting motherhood to satisfy ambitions often externally imposed by your subculture, and spending your time and money on yourself, makes you not an "anti-baby pig," but strong and progressive.

Yet even punk rock chicks like Rose continue to apostacize from the cult to obey the call of nature to do what they -- perhaps too obviously to need to point out -- are uniquely equipped to do. Rose had to give up her "me"-centered lifestyle, but didn't give up her love of rock 'n' roll -- at least not forever. She continues to rawk, even in the suburbs. (While moving to the burbs is a tradeoff, not all suburbs fit the stereotypes of blandness, homogeneity and cultural barrenness. And as things are today, a good suburb is a helluva lot better environment in which to raise kids than the big city.)

While I don't know all the details of Rose's rock career, I admire her tremendously for simply desiring to be a real mother. And I'm glad to see the new wave of mommy rock. It refutes the notion of a huge conflict of rock and roll vs. home and hearth, of fun vs. family, of art vs. adulthood. It shows that artistic expression is not exclusively the province of nihilistic, solipsistic singles in their teens or twentysomethings. The movement may inject some much-needed perspective into a scene that needs to be reminded from time to time that it actually is not the center of the universe. Definitely, it will inspire creativity, since rockers who are mommies automatically have a whole new world of material to draw from. And with little ones depending on them, they have even more reasons to change the world.

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