Social media and the duplicity of the middle class mum.
If Oscar Hammerstein II converted The Sound of Music into a parody on middle class mums from North London, here’s how it might go:
Cream coloured brioches and crisp croissants from Waitrose,
Smoothies and papayas and fresh fruits that ain’t froze,
Brown paper packages from Planet Organic,
These are a few of my favourite things.
And then he’d probably get fired because his rhyming sucks and he’s clearly too old for this song-writing-for-musicals gig. Hashtag…not happening. Although, in hypothetical Hammerstein’s defence, art ain’t always pretty – neither is truth. A point sure to be debated by the very un-elusive Muswell Hill (etc.) mother and subject of said parody; who’d surely post the question on one of those location-centric Facebook forums whilst sipping a latte and contemplating the next school run (because that’s what middle class mums do):
“Hi all! I have a free bag of lavender if anyone would like it! Also looking for nanny recommendations (only fabulous people, please) and if anyone’s going to IKEA this weekend could they pick up six white mugs; happy to collect from a convenient N10 location. Oh – and what do people give their kids smoothies in; are their special ‘smoothie cups’ that I’ve not heard of? Straws don’t work and the smoothie mixture is too thick to sip – advice please! One last thing: if Oscar Hammerstein II parodied suburban mothers in a song likely to go to theatre, and it was really bad but also really true; would you be offended?”
Sounds nice and friendly. Ha! As long as you’re not talking about vaccines, bottle feeding or admitting that you voted Brexit, hate labour (party and birth) and secretly hope Andy Murray loses Wimbledon. These mumsy -type forums lure you in with offers of free lavender and the answer to your tot’s smoothie-cup problems but as it turns out, middle class mums have an opinion on basically everything – and when offered the opportunity to show it off; they’re like those crazy unmarried American gals from the movies, who rugby tackle one another to catch the bridal bouquet in the hope of securing their fate as a woman authenticated through wedlock. It doesn’t matter who they crush along the way, as long as they come out on top.
Half day jobs and stints as class rep don’t seem to meet the brief when it comes to reminding the proverbial Muswell Hill mum that she is an intelligent, proactive super-human who has ejected a human life (or lives) out of her vagina ( her v.a.g.i.n.a) and has compromised many things to make sure said life grows up to be a healthy, happy contributing member of society. No. School runs and after-school activities and washing and cleaning…and working in between to pay for croissants, brioches and organic fruit send the suburban mother into a state of disillusionment, as her hard-earned identity teeters on the edge of obliteration. And there’s so much guilt – when she’s working, she feels like she should be raising the kids and when she’s raising the kids she feels like she should be contributing to the financial well being of her family. And so she overcompensates in an effort to prove that she is valuable.
It’s no freaking wonder that mum-led forums turn from something theoretically positive into a tirade of opinion; a vortex of vitriol. Another term for such behaviour is ‘cyber bullying’ – kids kill themselves over this. It’s a thing. Unfortunately, youngsters not as hardy as their suburban mums, who remain ironically devoted to the receipt of abuse, as recompense for delivering it in equal measure. Quid pro quo – sayeth the Romans. Living by an unspoken maxim, that she who is able to wreak havoc clothed in the anonymity of technology, must be the recipient of havoc in equal measure. And then integrate herself into her local community as if nothing has happened. I’m a bitch, you’re a bitch – we’re all bitches; and that’s OK because you have no idea who I am.
It’s easy to be brave when retaliation comes in the form of a screen chat – devoid of human context; without the story, the relationship. Words are easy when their purpose is to justify our own being at the expense of others.
We – you, me; the proverbial middle class mum – live in a happy bubble of fabulous, enveloped by the dogma of tolerance we preach at our children but ignore ourselves. It’s all a big, fat, sordid, duplicitous construct; sort of like living in Pleasantville, the town from Gary Ross’s 1998 film. Pleasantville is pure perfection; with no bad weather, a basketball team that never misses a shot and a fire department that exists only to rescue kittens from trees. A wholesome family town where everyone’s nice and everyone’s friendly. Except it’s not. Ross explains Pleasantville as a metaphor for personal repression, which gives rise to larger political oppression; that when we’re afraid of certain things in ourselves or we’re afraid of change, we project those fears on to other things, and a lot of very ugly social situations can develop.
Whether you’re a hardcore commentator, with justice and ethic on your side or a diplomatic bystander hoping to sell your old baby stuff and laugh or ignore everything else, or perhaps something in between; Hammerstein II’s parody is funny for a while but as one Muswell Hill mum said: “I have left the group because its tone and members now offend me more than they entertain me.”