gall and gumption

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Watch Out for the Gigantic Prams!

There are several types of journalism that I loathe, as some of you may know from this blog. The fawning celebrity profile per Rolling Stone, for example. I bought one to read the interview with Bob Dylan, after his most recent album came out. I was curious because I kept hearing songs from that album and they were good! But about three paragraphs in I gave up. Slobber was just sort of seeping out of the pages.

The sentimental news story is another.

Also the one where the journalist gets the exclusive with the big shot on the understanding that he will not make the big shot uncomfortable with any challenging questions. Nonetheless, after being enlisted to the task of turning this Pod Person into a human being, and failing, the writer presents his subject with great breathy excitement as if All Is Now Revealed. The buildup is out of all proportion to anything actually revealed, but in a way that's a good fallback: "You’re disappointed? Well, I told you he was an inscrutable and arrogant megalomaniac." Worse yet in this category is the one where the journalist, not really having anything to report that wasn’t already known, just gasses on about how awestruck he himself is to be watching Paris Hilton eat a stick of celery.

But the piece that really gives me the pip is the "lifestyle trend" story. I believe it is the main reason I rarely read newspapers any more.

Whenever my eye catches one I'm sure it's the worst one ever. Obviously that can’t be true. That said -- seriously, this is the worst one ever.

There was a time, not too long ago, when the young and the aimless hightailed it to New York City in pursuit of an altogether different urban experience than the domestic bliss enjoyed by Miss Miller and many of her bosom companions. High on a cocktail of recklessness and abandon, they came here to find their id, lose their superego, shake up the world, or simply shake their thang. Then they promptly chronicled these exploits in confessional sex columns.

But recent years have seen a breed of ambitious, twentysomething nesters settling in the city, embracing the comforts of hearth and home with all the fervor of characters in Middlemarch. This prudish pack—call them the New Victorians—appears to have little interest in the prolonged puberty of earlier generations. While their forbears flitted away their 20’s in a haze of booze, Bolivian marching powder, and bed-hopping,

Maybe so, but the mean cynical person in me thinks that these are probably the people who made New York unlivably expensive for those people who went there to work. And then this piece, as you can see, starts from a much narrower definition of work. All the people I know who moved to New York in the 1980s and 1990s went there to work. They worked in bakeries, they worked as housepainters, as proofreaders, as copy editors, and at all sorts of odd jobs to support their real work – painting, writing, music, dance, sculpture, theater.

But those people, the ones, who, you know, did all that unpaid work, would be outside of the living memory of fashion. The ones I’m thinking of are in their 50s now. Walking corpses the lot of them, I must infer. In the living memory of fashion a woman in her 30s who hasn’t gotten herself nicely settled is staggering forlornly from bar to bar, crying about the one(s) that got away.

Another 26-year-old Brooklynite and New Vic, named Christine, is hardly “drifting”—she’s also an editor, a literary one—but she is more introspective than many of her contented brethren and sistren. “Maybe this is also fallout from the sort of these boomer ideas about what sexual freedom is,” she suggested. This theory is a popular one among New Vic observers, just as it was popular to blame the priggishness and probity of the Old Victorians on the ill example of their Georgian predecessors. In this case, the reaction isn’t against specific syphilitic laxity and moral decay, but is rather a vague fear of too much sex (hello, STDs!) as well as the pressure for procreative sex (even men have biological clocks these days!) and the attendant nightmare of becoming—pardon the phrase—an aging spinster, lurching around New York sloshing cosmos and wearing age-inappropriate Capri pants, as in the TV version of Sex and the City and its many spinoffs.

“Don’t people in New York always talk about how it’s hard to find men?” Christine asked rhetorically. She has already received a lifetime’s worth of warnings from elder “singletons”—that overly chirpy, Brit-inflected term. Time and again she has been lectured on the scarcity of men, the sorrows of solitude, and the Clomid-chomping horror of post-35 pregnancy attempts.

In fact, just a few months ago, Christine was out with friends when a pair of slightly older women launched into a jeremiad of dating and despair, imploring her to hold tight to her boyfriend, lest she wind up single and, gasp, 30-something, just like them. “It’s like I was being terrorized by these older women who were like, ‘Don’t let him go, there’s nobody out there!’” she recalled with an alarmed laugh. “I was really scared.”

No, I don’t think I will pardon the phrase, you brainless trend-zombie. For one thing, I don’t know whom to pardon: is that your phrase or Christine’s? Why didn’t you make that clear, you twit and a half?

May you and your very very serious, responsible editor be run over by a gigantic pram.

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At 11:34 AM, Blogger L7 said...

That entire article is such a viper's nest of offensiveness. I think what bothers me most is the underlying assumption that the vast majority of people, those who work normal jobs (including--the horror!--jobs at the Gap) and who don't have fashionable lifestyles with nicknames simply do not matter.

Although now that I think about it, that old baloney about singleness being a fate worse than death is pretty bad, too.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger buckner said...

It's so much easier to imagine life as a bad television program.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous elyzabethe said...

Fabulous. Thank you.

At 7:54 PM, Blogger Chuckling said...

To be fair, that is from the Observer, the official paper of the upper east side. The New Victorians are no doubt limited to the same 20 by five block stretch of Manhattan as their forefunners, the soc's, snobs, bluebloods, and sticks up the ass of yore.

I'm sure that article gets written at least once a decade. Only the names have changed.


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