Today’s question: Have the British always existed solely for the amusement of others?
Yes, they had their world-conquering phase, but it’s hard to imagine anyone taking these folks seriously — although I’m sure the rifles helped — when you consider a case like this one, which I’ll call by the Telegraph’s headline: Mums behaving badly.
I defy you to read that story and not giggle. Every detail is funny. The gist: Gina Ford, a leading British “childcare guru,” is threatening legal action against the British website Mumsnet, over personal remarks made against her character by users of the site. Ford is the author of “The Contented Little Baby,” which has sharply divided parents along fairly predictable lines — that is, those who believe in her methods of strict scheduling and “controlled crying,” and those who believe she advocates “strapping babies to rockets and firing them into south Lebanon.”
Mumsnet has suspended all discussion of Ford and her books, pending arbitration. Among the remarks Ford took issue with is one describing her as a “a fart-faced, rolly-fluff poo,” but you don’t have to read very far into the story to suspect this is about more than a few playground taunts. Any mother of a certain age and education level and, shall we say, type-A temperament will find herself nodding along with this:
But this is more than simply a battle between David and Goliath, it is every bit as much a revealing portrait of the curiously fraught phenomenon that is modern motherhood.
Both Mumsnet and Ford offer very different coping strategies to help those beleaguered professionals who have climbed the career ladder without raising a sweat, who have video-conferenced and multi-tasked with effortless ease, and yet find themselves utterly floored by the arrival of a single mewling infant. A report last week into ageing mothers revealed that the number of women giving birth aged 40 to 44 has doubled, to 23,459, in a decade, and that these mothers were “nervous wrecks” during pregnancy, not least because many of them had never held a baby before. No wonder childcare experts are hailed as the new spiritual gurus.
In an age when the idea of having extended family nearby has all the pinch-me-I’m-dreaming nostalgia of a Hovis advert, there’s something uniquely isolating about 21st-century childbirth. Which is why Ford’s diktats have such a wide appeal among women used to being in control, who may feel their only hope of clawing back some shred of sanity in those milk-drenched, sleep-deprived early weeks is to impose an hour-by-hour timetable on a tiny baby, worthy of a Soviet apparatchik.
Part of my delight in this story is my anglophilic love of British English, which seems so much more pungent than the Yank variety; “mewling” is simply a better word for the fuss a new baby makes than “crying,” which should be reserved for the fuss a new mother makes. And part of it is the happy relief I feel over being beyond this part of parenthood, which the author describes as “a sea of cracked nipples and confusion.” I remember when I would have had a strong, fervently held opinion on Gina Ford’s book, when I would have spent hours online and in mother’s groups arguing about it. It’s the nature of new-motherhood.
But mostly because it’s hard to read a phrase like “fart-faced rolly-fluff poo” and not giggle. It’s already in heavy rotation here at NN.C Central.
It was 6 degrees when I rolled out of bed this morning, which may contribute to my lack of interest in women who wear scanty clothing — I get cold just looking at them — but would someone with a better handle on scantily clad women explain the Pussycat Dolls to me? I know they have some horrible single that makes “My Humps” sound like Mozart, but what are they actually? Singers, dancers, media celebrities, something else? What they are at the moment is stars of their own reality series, but you can say that about pretty much everyone these days, can’t you?
The guy who killed his wife — known around here as Torso Man — was shipped back to Macomb County today. You don’t see jail outfits like this so often, but it’s a classic look, and I’m pleased it’s making a comeback.
Have an acceptable day. I’m off to noodle through yet another radio essay draft.