Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


Yes, Yes, Nanny!

Filed under: Headline Shooter   Tagged: , ,

A lot of people are writing about Caitlin Flanagan's To Hell With All That, but my favorite piece so far is the smart, wide-ranging, and fair-minded review by Ann Hulbert in Slate. All of it is this good:

But the Flanagan who dispenses the provocative diagnoses also seems, a la Poppins, to have taken a swig of rum-punch potion herself. What is fascinating—if also infuriating—to watch is Flanagan parading as almost a parody of the spoiled-child-parent she scolds her contemporaries for being and lauds her own mother for not being. The minimemoir that emerges from these essays betrays more adolescent Sturm und Drang than she seems to realize. The mother Flanagan idolizes as the acme of accomplished housewifery in fact got fed up at home and went to work, defying a husband (writer and historical novelist Thomas Flanagan) who told her to drop dead—and leaving a daughter feeling abandoned and, years later, obviously still very ambivalent about her role models. How else to explain a worshipper of domestic expertise who has never changed a sheet or sewed on a button, and who boasts about it in print? Flanagan also airily confesses to being "far too educated and uppity to have knuckled down and learned anything about stain removal or knitting or stretching recipes." In a scene I suspect few readers will forget, the Flanagan who insists on her at-home-mother status describes summoning the nanny, Paloma, to clean up one boy's vomit. Meanwhile Flanagan, the writer with the clout to leave the mucky work to others, stands "in the doorway, concerned, making funny faces at Patrick to cheer him up—the way my father did when I was sick and my mother was taking care of me."

Hulbert observes, "It's telling that this book leaves out the one article in which Flanagan ventured [in The Atlantic] to speak up in the larger liberal cause of economic justice, "How Serfdom Saved the Women's Movement." Also in Slate, posted the same day: Melonyce McAfee's "I Hate Secretaries Day."

Lee Siegel's TNR blog ("an anti-blog blog that consists not of byte-sized thoughts and links, but of arguments, insights, and literary style," says the email promo) just debuted, and I'm sorry to note that for a man purportedly obsessed with accuracy, he's got a bad case of the typos.


Have you read the Joan Walsh review in Salon? I thought that one was extremely good, especially b/c Walsh talks a lot about her own inner conflicts about being a working mother.

Speaking of the never-ending barrage of articles and stories about the “mommy wars,” I just read about this documentary on A&E that seems to take a refreshingly different approach than all these books about high-income, high-pressure moms: NY TimesApril 27, 2006TV Review ‘Oh, Baby…Now What?’ and Growing Up By GINIA BELLAFANTENew to bookshelves last month was an anthology called “Mommy Wars: Stay-at-Home and Career Moms Face Off on Their Choices, Their Lives, Their Families.” It joined “The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars: Who Decides What Makes a Good Mother?,” “Mother in the Middle: Searching for Peace in the Mommy Wars,” “The Mommy Chronicles,” “The Mommy Myth” and “Confessions of a Naughty Mommy.” This month witnesses the arrival of “Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth About Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence and How They Made the Biggest Decision of Their Lives,” whose title seems to belong to a microgenre all its own, following, as it does, “Maybe Baby,” “Maybe My Baby,” “Maybe My Baby: Baby Times Three,” “Their Miracle Baby Maybe Baby” and “Prognosis: A Baby? Maybe: The Babies of Doctors Circle.”Five hundred or so years from now, graduate students surveying our national library will wonder: So what was with all the mommies and babies? Had babies come before? Or was it simply that millennial Americans produced better babies, power babies (maybe)? Darwinian in their thinking, such students might then presume that yes, that must be it, having deduced from the aforementioned literature that only the very smart and directed — the women on their way to running Lehman Brothers or the Centers for Disease Control, if but for swaddling cloth — were the ones bothering to have babies at all.The spark of ingenuity behind “Oh, Baby … Now What?” — R. J. Cutler’s latest documentary, on A&E tomorrow night — is its interest in examining parental ambivalence outside the context of debates about professional anxiety. “Oh, Baby … Now What?” follows the lives of a supremely unambitious couple in their 20’s, living in Los Angeles, who learn three months into their relationship that they are about to have a child. Seemingly by the second trimester they begin referring to this baby as Hunter.Hunter is about to enter a world that is a maelstrom of narcissistic energy though he is destined to be pretty. His parents, Brad and Sara, are fantastically attractive, Sara in possession of the sort of looks that, had she any goals at all, might reasonably be deployed in a campaign to win a leading role in a Roman Polanski movie. As it happens, Sara is a sometime yoga instructor/waitress who, as she tells the camera, does not believe in birth control.“Oh, Baby … Now What?” is ultimately far more riveting for what it says about the cozy relationship between beauty and self-absorption than for anything it reveals about the strains of unplanned pregnancy. The most amazing moment in the film comes when Sara refuses to allow Brad’s best friend and roommate, Megan, to join them in the birthing room. “I have to be reflective of who I have in there when I’m going through this,” she says. She decides, apparently without conflict, to allow an entire camera crew to direct itself to her birth canal.Imagining her lithe figure as a permanent vaccine against all manner of domestic maladies, Sara barely reacts at all when Brad announces in couples therapy, after the baby is born, that he is considering leaving her. She smiles, assuming that he couldn’t possibly mean it. Such misfortunes surely just befall the stout.Oh, Baby … Now What?A&E, tomorrow at 10 p.m., Eastern and Pacific; 9, Central time.Director and executive producer, R. J. Cutler; Biagio Messina and Joke Fincioen, co-executive producers; Michael Bernstein, senior producer; Andrew Takeuchi, director of photography; Conor O’Neill, editor. Produced for A&E Network by Actual Reality Pictures.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree