In the article linked here, (and there are more of its ilk, according to my co-workers) the narrator moves from Jamaica Plain, (where I live currently), to the greater Boston suburb of Wayland after her twins are born. She then catalogs the deceit and one-upping that take place on the regular in her new town. Everyone has a distinct persona and caste in her perceived social strata of the suburbs. She writes about new moms in this generation being away from their families and needing to seek out support systems for themselves and their children, which is fair enough, and there is a big theme here of women feeling judged more than ever before on their child-rearing decisions. But while I understand that she's doing an exposé on these social groups, it seems she was already clearly fascinated by their intricacies. To me, it seems she was in the mindset of fitting in and/or making a name for herself ahead of her relocation. This all requires more energy than I could muster for people with hierarchical social agendas.
In my mind, when you fall victim to shallow and competitive social circles, there's a prerequisite for that: it's called giving a shit. You can only fall prey to people's judgement if you care too much about it. I'm not excusing how these other women behaved, but I suspect that had this woman stayed in Jamaica Plain, she would have felt judged too- it just would have been based on what organic market she chose to shop in for her children, and what yoga studio she went to. Sometimes people are going to judge you anyway, and your only choice is not to care. I have good friends whose hearts I can take with me no matter where I choose to move. And I believe a community can always be made without the harshness of a Mean Girls mindset.
And here's where Mother's Day comes in for me this week. For escaping this particular brand of caring, I can take almost no personal credit. The accolade in this case can mostly go to my mom. I may not have been exactly on board with her fashion or social choices as a child, but I can safely say that my mother, probably partially consciously, but mostly just because of her living example of eccentricity, contributed to self confidence in her progeny. When she showed up at my elementary school to pick me up in vintage fur coat, beret, knee socks, and clogs, she may have only had an inkling about the example she was setting. But while some other moms in my suburban Connecticut hometown wore their matching designer sweatsuits to attend coffee and the gym together, my mom was too busy to give a crap.
Ice skates swapped out for clogs in this photo
Aside from the fact that my mom worked fulltime running a business, other contributing factors to her sense of self were that she is slightly older than the other moms, and grew up a few minutes away. So in addition to just being busy all the time, she already had a group of friends in neighboring towns and perhaps a more established sense of self. She also came from a generation that dressed up a bit more, and you would be correct in assuming that as a child, I was perpetually overdressed because my mother remembers a time when you wore a hat and gloves for train travel. The other fact is that she is just a bit odd, that one.* She just likes her vintage fur coat collection and you weren't going to stop her from wearing one- even in downtown New Haven with the threat of Yalies pouring red paint on her. She probably didn't often stop to think that her zealous accessorizing habit, for example, was actually teaching her daughter a valuable lesson, but I'm sure she's aware of it on one level. And the idea of playing subtle mind games or dancing around social topics like the women portrayed in the aforementioned article is completely foreign to her. She has never been one to mince words. If she loves someone, she will do so fiercely and make no bones about it, and if she doesn't understand someone's particular worldview, she will accept that that's just who that person is and that's fine. Her ability to care about others is great, but her ability to care about others' judgement is not. And we'll give my dad some credit for accepting her weirdness and also not giving a flying poo about what the community at large thought of his somewhat colorful wife, (also, he's had his moments himself...) For all of this I am quite grateful.
Last day of school in second grade. While the other kids wore t-shirts and things they could run around in, can you guess which one I am?
So as we approach Mother's Day, this is one big shout-out to my mom. Thanks for not giving a shit, in the best of ways.
*I know, I know, some of this oddness is probably hereditary.