Wednesday, January 19, 2011

love and honor, yes, but not obey

I was a big fat dynamo at my house yesterday, so I didn't get back here in time for the yelling. Before we get started, there are a few matters of maintenance to address.

1. I am long past tired of my children having special blog names. It annoys me to type them. So from now on I'm just going to call them by their real names, but if any of you steal their identities to sell nuclear weapons to hostile governments I am going to be super t.o.'d. Their real names are Grant, Emmett, Ike and Willa.
2. I realized today that the best part of my day is the few minutes after the boys get on the bus and before Willa wakes up. I wondered if I should feel bad about this, but decided that just because I love them doesn't meant that I can't be glad when the unrelenting noise is absent for a few precious moments. Also, my next favorite part of the day is when they get home (not a lie), so I think that means that I just need a break for a little while during the day.
3. It makes me sad when people say that puffy Cheetos don't need to exist. I agree that crunchy Cheetos are superior, but puffy Cheetos have a totally different flavor, and they do have a purpose.

Now, I know everyone is waiting with bated breath for my reaction to that Salon piece on "Mormon mommy bloggers," which . . . the term "mommy blogger" is a topic all its own, but anyway. Let's start with the first paragraph.

"At first glance, Naomi and Stacie and Stephanie and Liz appear to be members of the species known as the "Hipster Mommy Blogger," though perhaps a bit more cheerful and wholesome than most. They have bangs like Zooey Deschanel and closets full of cool vintage dresses. Their houses look like Anthropologie catalogs. Their kids look like Baby Gap models. Their husbands look like young graphic designers, all cute lumberjack shirts and square-framed glasses. They spend their days doing fun craft projects (vintage-y owl throw pillow! Recycled button earrings! Hand-stamped linen napkins!). They spend their weekends throwing big, whimsical dinner parties for their friends, all of whom have equally adorable kids and husbands."

Now, if you were to put this paragraph into the "Off-Putter 2000" (patent pending), it couldn't possibly generate a more repulsive concept for me. I read Nie Nie every once in a great while, and it is sweet and often provokes much-needed self-examination. It's a little precious for my taste, but that's because I am a pessimistic grump, and because I am secretly jealous of her well-organized, colorful home. Her story is inspiring. But that paragraph makes those four women and their families sound vacuous, self-absorbed, self-aware, and hateful.

The article gets better and nicer after that, for a little while, anyway. It's clever and funny and I think it describes the phenomenon, if that is the correct term for this, of non-Mormons reading Mormon blogs fairly well. It's nice that she says the blogs are uplifting, and that they present family life in an attractive light. But then you get this:

"Indeed, Mormon bloggers like Holbrook make marriage and motherhood seem, well, fun. Easy. Joyful. These women seem relaxed and untouched by cynicism. They throw elaborate astronaut-themed birthday parties for their kids and go on Sunday family drives to see the fall leaves change and get mani-pedis with their friends. They often have close, large extended families; moms and sisters are always dropping in to watch the kids or help out with cake decorating. Their lives seem adorable and old-fashioned and comforting."

Is there anyone out there who thinks that to describe a grown woman as "adorable" is a compliment? And I don't know of an easier way to make someone appear utterly disposable than to say that they get "mani-pedis"--by which I mean that they use that term unironically.

I think what really bothers me most about this article is that it's such a lean-and-slap. She starts out by saying how much she enjoys reading the Mormon blogs, but spends most of the piece portraying Mormon women as brainless Stepford wives. Another excerpt:

"This focus on the positive is especially alluring when your own life seems anything but easy. As my friend G. says, of her fascination with Mormon lifestyle blogs, "I'm just jealous. I want to arrange flowers all day too!" She doesn't, really. She's just tired from long days spent in the lab, from a decade of living in a tiny apartment because she's too poor from student loans to buy a house, from constant negotiations about breadwinning status with her artist husband. It's not that she or I want to quit our jobs to bake brownies or sew kiddie Halloween costumes. It's just that for G., Mormon blogs are an escapist fantasy, a way to imagine a sweeter, simpler life."

How nice for us. How nice that we are sweet and simple. How nice that we don't have any of those grownup concerns of higher education and financial obligations. How nice that our lives are so easy. How nice to be a homogeneous group of dunces.

Is there really anyone who arranges flowers all day, unless it's their job?

Then she wonders if maybe things aren't as perfect as they seem, and that's probably true in many cases. People usually do pretty up their lives before they put them on display. But what if they're not on anti-depressants? Do they just not know any better? Or could they possibly be actually happy?

Hmmph. I guess I'm not really qualified to respond to this, because though I may be a Mormon, and a mom, and write a blog, I'm certainly not "untouched by cynicism." And I get so tired of people who say, in effect, "I'm so impressed by your ability to cook and clean, but I require more intellectual stimulation." This is not exclusive to Mormons, of course. Anyone involved in the "domestic arts" deals with this dismissive nonsense.

Ugh. For anyone who wondered, there are certainly similarities among Mormon women, as there are among all women. But we are still a very diverse group of people, as one will discover after spending the time to get to know us as human beings, instead of apron-wearing automatons.

To sum up: I hope that none of my non-Mormon readers think of me in the way that this author thinks about these women. I hope you respect me a little more than that. Who else is going to tell you the truth about Monsanto AND terminators AND bandeau swimming tops?


tipsybaker said...

Yes. I think of you exactly like that. Arranging flowers all day and taking drives with your beautiful family.
UGH. I have to go read that full story right now. Perhaps the author addresses this, but there are many blogs by non-Mormon women that sound very similar to what she describes.

Claire said...

I've been waiting for this all morning!

Marsha said...

I'm not Mormon. I like your blog a lot. I am a woman, a mother (work-at-home rather than stay-at-home; the latter always seemed to do interesting and creative things with their children while I was typing and snarling for my daughter to leave me alone so I could finish what I was doing, but I'm not bitter . . . ). I appreciate your grumpiness and frankness and I sort of hate to admit that I was surprised when I discovered your faith. I had some fool idea that you couldn't be irreverent and genuinely witty and Mormon all at once. I was wrong. That said, you are sometimes uplifting as well. So there.

Layne said...

Thanks, Marsha, that was nice, and I have a swelled head now. And man, how I laughed at your parenthetical statement. The imagery is so familiar!

Mindy said...

I read that aritcle a few days ago and it has been festering in my mind ever since. Thanks for telling it like it is.

All8 said...

I think it's silly to read a blog just because someone is Mormon. That's almost as bad as voting for someone just because of their religion.

I read blogs that I like to read, regardless of religion.

As for this young woman and her article, I think that it's a human thing to try and justify and categorize in order to make sense of our own thoughts and actions.

I too think that the author should have qualified it as "Young Mormon Mom" blogs. And anyone who thinks that a blog is an EXACT write up of someones life is sadly disillusioned.

(pst...Ambrose let me keep my remote...)


Tori said...

Man, turn your back on the internet for five minutes and look what happens. I'm still processing, but my initial reaction is that I'm thoroughly annoyed. The tone is just so...smug and condescending.

Tori said...

To clarify, the tone of the ARTICLE is smug and condescending.