Did Dorothy Parker have children?

by Yule Heibel on May 27, 2003

There are many worthy, important things to point to in a blog right now. Here’s a laundry list, unsorted: Dave Winer‘s pointer this past weekend to William Safire‘s article in the Seattle Post Intelligencer; Stuart Laidlaw‘s article in the Toronto Star that complacency is the real killer in mad cow disease (read Stuart Laidlaw‘s new book together with Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, and don’t forget Joan Dye Gussow’s This Organic Life (2001), where I first learned about the 3000 calorie strawberry); the article Silencing of Dissent on Graduation Day in AlterNet, about Chris Hedges getting booed off the stage as commencement speaker at Rockford College in Illinois — he spoke out against the US-led war against Iraq; read a transcript of his speech in the Rockford Register Star; the fish story that is unfortunately true, reported on IndyMedia and National Geographic, that we’ve depleted fish stocks in the oceans worldwide by 90% since 1950; and in that same vein, a recent email from Steve Talbott noting a Sunday NYTImes book review of The Empty Ocean: Plundering the World’s Marine Life by Richard Ellis (Talbott’s recent NetFuture newsletters have repeatedly discussed food production); and a call by environmental direct action activists in the Pacific Northwest to rally to Cascadia now that the Bush administration has unleashed a similar free-for-all on wilderness as the government in British Columbia has done. This would just be a partial list, of course — the socks and t-shirts stuff, no underwear yet. But what I really want to write about is this: I’ve noticed that I have not shared a good, sniggering laugh with a girlfriend in what seems like eons. This undoubtedly has something to do with my sense of humour, which admittedly runs towards the misanthropic. As far as I can tell, Dorothy Parker (it was her, wasn’t it?) nailed it when she said, “I love humanity; it’s people I can’t stand.” To have a misanthropic cast of humour you have to have a keen and unforgiving eye for stupidity in all its forms (including writing a blog that anyone can read….). You have this eye because your mind is like a rapier, not to be confused with rapist, which is what all those jerks you can’t stand are. (This is a terrible mixed metaphor, eye and blade, the Surrealists had a field day with this, but who am I to assume better?) As a bona fide philanthroposophizing misanthropist, you will feel no compunction whatsoever to pick on anyone and anything: the world is fair game. Until you become a mom, that is. Suddenly, just because you were biologically capable of reproducing, you are in a new grouping, and it’s one that doesn’t necessarily share your way of seeing, your eyeballs, or your any of the pointy sharpened objects in your arsenal. Because aside from biological prerequisite, any idiot can reproduce. And when you become a mom and meet other moms, you quickly learn that they do. Since we tend to assume that babies are also idiots insofar as they won’t be able to understand Dorothy Parker’s subtlety until at least the age of 4, we fall into the trap of being nice — to the kid, and to the other moms, who may or may not be idiots, which we won’t really know for sure because we can’t break the spell of niceness. We therefore suddenly find ourselves hanging out with other people being mindlessly nice instead of appropriately nasty, and there go the good laughs. Sometimes one finds a mom capable of being nasty: when, quite by accident, I came across Michelle McBride’s April 18 entry in her blog, Sexy Mothers Do Exist, I laughed out loud. She disses a man so brazenly, using the kind of language that one expects from a smart woman who knows what’s what (she calls him the a-word), that I knew that all hope does not go down the tube when you reproduce. But she’s not anyone I actually know, so reading her blog is a bit like watching tv — British comedy, AbFab, that sort of thing; and some of the comments she got showed that too many people out there are still stuck in a nice-idiot world and have no sense of humour whatsoever. So many of the women I have known since becoming a parent are just so damn nice and we talk about such damn nice things and we behave so rationally and sweetly around our children (where do I put the “damn” in that last bit?), that it makes me want to scream. Or go shopping. Because — drumroll — this is my theory: we sublimate our nastiness into an urge to shop (which is why it’s called “retail therapy”). I have known very nasty shoppers, even though butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths as they were being so (g-d flippin freakin) nice over tea, but you just knew that they were tsk-tsking your choice of jeans or sofa or neighbourhood or husband or some other equally insubstantial thing, instead of getting down to the real matter at hand: nasty gossip about the neighbours. In a poor-to-middle-class village without a nearby mall, the gossip flew; now, with a strip mall on every street (and on your computer), Miss Marple, for want of material, dries up into the old prune she always was. This of course also means that women’s misanthropic, sublimely intelligent, and nasty sense of humour, nearly obliterated and now sublimated into shopping, is one of the driving forces of western economies. Budge up, Karl Marx, because where would we be without Mrs. Shopper? Now, how do I cook that piston engine.

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