Friday, March 28, 2008

Only the Matron Can Pontificate On Vacation

Hip is a slang term, an adjective meaning "fashionably current", referring to someone who is conversant with or deeply involved in a particular trend or subject. "Hip", like "cool", does not refer to one particular quality. What is hip is in constant change. ... (slang)

The Matron pondered words like 'hip' and 'chic' as she assembled her New York wardrobe. She spent some time frowning at herself in the full-length mirror.

Hmmm. Brown leather knee-high boots and skinny jeans? Green suede jacket? Or do we go black leather, vintage? Forget the fanny pack; she turned to the Lucky brand black leather purse (thrift store! $7.49!).

You see, the Matron? She did not want to look, well like a middle-aged mother of three from Minnesota, blind-sided and wide-eyed in the Big City. All of which, of course, she totally is.

These musings returned our intrepid life traveler to the phrase 'hip mama.'

The Matron once penned these words in (one of her favorite published pieces) a book review:

The past few years have seen an outpouring of books that deconstruct, describe, and frequently denounce contemporary maternity. Recent celebrated titles reveal much of the genre’s slant: Faulkner Fox’s Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life: Or How I Learned to Love the House, the Man, the Child and the ever-quotable The Bitch in The House: 26 Women Tell the Truth About Sex, Solitude, Work, Motherhood, and Marriage. These books involve serious self-scrutiny; each author agonizes over minutia and pounds her fists against Ideals, asking how (and why) she fell down this rabbit hole in the first place. Lighter versions include Confessions of a Slacker Mom by Muffy Mead-Ferro and the cottage industry of “hip mama” books by Ariel Gore. No agonizing here. Motherhood rocks, with an “I’m so cool I barely notice I’m breastfeeding” edge. These books offer lots of witty repartee (even between toddlers!) and thoughtful indifference to expectations that other memoirists deconstruct.


The Matronly profile would indicate that she has given this hip mama stance some studied consideration.

First, she encountered literature. She enjoyed every last bit! Things like Ariel Gore's Hip Mama Corporation and the sweet book, The Big Rumpus. There are the Park Slope moms who write and are written about, with their Bugaboo strollers bearing babes in Hanna Anderson.

But as she read, she came to a profound realization. A turning point, of sorts.

Hip mama-hood is artifice.

Artifice. ruse: a deceptive maneuver (especially to avoid capture)

Please, do not misunderstand the Matron! She tried to be a Hip Mama. She embraced the concept, the ruse, the dream. Remember, this is the woman who took her first newborn to his inauguratory well-baby appointment dressed nearly head to toe in black leather.

Yet she does not own a motorcycle. Or ride on them.

What the Matron discovered was this: hip mamahood was work and hip cost money. Hip mamahood meant careful consideration of wardrobe, both mother and child. Organic hemp diapers? Sounds hip. Casual, just tossed-together lunches (protein, fruit, wheat-free cookie, rice milk) spontaneously by the lake, with children flapping about in hand-made cotton caps? That seemed hip. But for the Matron, casual and without thought translated into: studied.

She finally realized that Hip Mama did not mean casual. Hip was contemplative. One needed to be up to date on trends in (or the revolt against), pacifiers, clothing (mother and babe), diet and accessory. Hip seemed, well, sort of like simple consumption.

On the other hand, artifice meant more than clothing as cover. Cover. Ruse. A deceptive maneuver? Perhaps there was something in the Hip Mama stance that appealed because it made Mama separate from child. The ruse was that the Hip Mama was unimpeded by motherhood. Saucy, tapped in, tuned in, chic--yet unassuming. For those of us (Matron too), swamped by maternity, this individuation seemed not only appealing, but life-affirming.

But the problem for the Matron was that Hip + Mama configuration. There is no Hip Mama without the Mama. Motherhood. Being the mother.

And the Matron? She worries. She ponders these three creatures who started leaving her the day they were born. Who are they? What are their gifts, their fears, their dreams? Their lives will be wild and unknown to her. This oceanic interior that the Matron feels in herself? Theirs will be entirely different. So, the Matron gets these few years of their long, textured lives -- this tiniest bit. And it matters to her.

So she is in New York. Waxing philosophical. She strutted her stuff in the skinny jeans, leather boots and vintage green suede jacket. Hip? She hopes so. Hip Mama?

Looks good on someone else, but not her style.


Suburban Correspondent said...

Interesting thoughts - should we not be chasing the chimera of hip mama, then, and instead just wallow in the mama part as long as we can? Should we be mavericks and completely reject hipness? Should we make frumpy the new hip?

Suburban Correspondent said...

More thoughts - need maternal equal frumpy? Cannot maternal mean soft, appealing, vulnerable, comfortable, and loving? That trumps hard-edged hip anytime, I would think...

Mrs. G. said...

I'm glad you made it in one piece. I remember joining a Mothering magazine local mommy/child group. It didn't take me long to figure out that I did not have enough $$ to be a true Mothering magazine mother. I didn't have the designer/handcrafted/organic stroller, diaper backpack, sling, specially designed nursing wear, diaper covers, Volvo. And to top it all off, I immunized and owned a television.

I really liked this post. Have a wonderful trip you hip mama.

Minnesota Matron said...

Yes Suburban. Why do we need that edge with the Mama these days? The soft and vulnerable mother seems ridiculed or somehow less strong. Isn't there strength in real connection? And, can't you still look good and feel good about yorself -- both the self separate from and connected to -- children?

Anonymous said...

I live in LA, where the bar for Hip Mama's is so high that I have happily never considered vaulting over it even a remote possibility. I KNEW there was something good about living here.

Jocelyn said...

Just from a writing standpoint, what a tight piece this is.

Much like yer arse, I'm sure.

My bottom line is this: when I see hip mothers, I look immediately to their children, worried. If the mother has put that much time and thought into herself, something had to give somewhere.

Irene said...

Yeah, you just go ahead and be a Momma and don't worry about the hip part and be as old fashionedly maternal as you can be, there is nothing wrong with that. I get so tired of everybody trying to redefine motherhood into something bigger and better and different than it is. And, no thanks, I have had my kids, I am a granny now.

K. said...

You know, when I go off somewhere on vacation and am not in the middle of actual active vacationing, I am sitting on the hotel bed flipping through cable channels and hoping something good is on HBO. You go off and get even more clever and inspiring.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Holy moly! New York is where I'd rather stay! Have fun.

JessTrev said...

"I'm so cool I barely notice bfeeding" - love that. I felt similarly about being pregnant - it was no hip, carefree, glowing with life and bursting with beauty experience for me (barf, barf, moan, pee, moan, ow). I must confess that I have never wanted to pay attention to clothes, though, back to your perfectly captured Hip Mama diatribe. I have always really wanted the chromatic wardrobe of 12 effortless wrinkle free (stylish? sure!) black and grey pieces so I never had to think about my clothing. That would be a lot of effort in the end, as you point out, though! Love the musings on the choosing of clothes. How many hours have women spent choosing their clothes? That would be a # to calculate.

Madge said...

hip mama is just to hard. i guess some women pull it off. i found my self in NYC last year, and realized i was so less hip than i thought i was. which, quite frankly, was not much at all.

laurie said...

hip is contemplative.

you are so exactly right.

(nobody would ever, ever, ever mistake me for hip.)

Anonymous said...

I am so glad that someone else felt like she couldn't possibly live up to the manufactured persona of the Hip Mama. Perhaps someday, we can live in a world where we aren't expected to be that much cooler just to prove that motherhood hasn't eaten our brains for breakfast.

Patti said...

We go to NYC in the early summer. I wear capris, tank tops, flip flops, and sunglasses. That will get you anywhere, even to a broadway show.

Swistle said...

I love this: "But for the Matron, casual and without thought translated into: studied." For the Swistle, too!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think the whole hip mama thing is a bit dangerous. You have to have a dangerous amount of self-centeredness to pull it off. Definitely not for me.

I'm taking Social Butterfly to NYC later this year. I'll be the middle-aged mom with a great haircut and cute shoes who is decidedly not hip.

Anonymous said...

Reading this was liberating. Thank you. I accept that I am not hip. And now I can accept that "hip" is something constructed and packaged by advertisers--and if I have to spend so much time and money on it, well, I lose my cool (pun intended).