love the message, hate the New York Times

Posted by jdg | Thursday, September 22, 2005 | ,

In the latest chapter of the New York Times' "sloppy and insulting lifestyle journalism" week, today there's a hilarious article about gigantic yuppie strollers in Manhattan. I have two things to say about it:

(1) I'm afraid I have to side with the non-parents on this one. I agree that giant strollers in tight quarters are kind of annoying. I don't care if it's a Bugaboo or a doublewide Graco travel system, these things sort of defy courtesy in the urban environment. But I will pick on the uber-hip Manhattan parents featured in this article. You live in Manhattan, people. In deciding to do so, you entered into an implicit contract with 7 million other souls not to take up too much damn space. Carry your babies! Keep them close to you! When the baby is too big to carry, get a stroller that doesn't have more armor than a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. I like umbrella strollers. Strollers should be like umbrellas. You should be able to leave one in a cab or in a Thai restaurant and say, "Eh, it was just a stroller. Another one will come along." You're pushing the thing down a sidewalk, not racing it in the Antigo Kiwanis Off-Road Championships.

The least you Manhattan Bugaboo owners could do is stop talking about all the advanced features and admit that you love your Bugaboo (a) just because it's pretty; or (b) because traffic and parking are prohibitively difficult and you can't roll around town in some ridiculous luxury car and that $800 stroller lets everyone know that you are, in fact, rich.

(as well as acutely aware of the latest classy celebrity baby trends highlighted every week two years ago in US Weekly)

Seriously, don't tell me about the shocks and suspension. I've got my palms over my ears and I'm yelling gibberish while you tell me about the shocks and suspension. Did I accidentally call into Car Talk? Did I walk into a Pep Boys without realizing it? Shut-the-fuck-up. Admit that it's conspicuous consumption and let's go grab a beer at one of those Manhattan bars with a stroller check so I don't have to keep looking at that gigantic red blight. I don't mind conspicuous consumption. What bugs me out is the denial of conspicuous consumption.

Okay, I know this isn't entirely fair. I'm being a total asshole. Bugaboos aren't even that big. They just seem big. The fact is Junebug doesn't like strollers and neither do I. I just don't like pushing things. It makes me feel like I should be collecting cans or something.

(2) I just so happen to have gone to law school with Elizabeth Khalil, the girl in the article who said (about using a big stroller): "I liken it to the SUV experience. . .it's just your mission to mow down everything in your sight because you can." With that quote she's made enemies of a million daddytypes readers. She is a nice person. And goddamn it, she's kind of right! Bugaboos and their kin are the SUVs of the parent-gear world. People use the exact same excuses to justify SUVs as Bugaboo owners use to justify their strollers. I respect the right to own and drive SUVs, but it just seems like someone who drives a Honda Civic ought to be able to call a new Hummer H3 a gas guzzler without the owner throwing a hissy fit. I simply contend that the same principle applies to strollers.

All the furor over this article and defensiveness over Bugaboos confuses me. Hello: you spent nearly a grand on something you will use for a couple years, tops. Can't you at least be good natured about how some folks might think that's silly? You know how big they are. Can't you just suck it up and admit they're a little cumbersome? I'm not saying you don't have the right to own a gigantostroller or use it. I just don't think it's fair to say, like ModernDayDad (or the author of this NYT piece) that these stroller-haters have issues "beyond the strollers" themselves. That seems kind of petty. The writer of this article loses it completely when she implies there are undercurrents of conflict between "people who have chosen to have children and those who haven't." This is just another example of a NYT writer who came to a shoddy conclusion before she set out to write the piece, and then molded her reporting to the conclusion. This isn't about barren old maids sickened by the conspicuous reminders of others' fertility; it's about rude parents with gigantic expensive strollers who fail to respect the rights of others and traipse about town with a sense of self-righteous entitlement! I have a baby and it annoys me too. What are my "issues beyond the strollers?"

Common courtesy still applies, people, and I do think it's interesting when non-parents speak out about behavior that may be invisible to us parents. Much love to the gigantostroller owners who are respectful of others. But the self-righteous parents? Christ, move to the suburbs if you're that sensitive about people getting annoyed by your expensive stroller taking up so much space.

Oh, right, then the "cool" factor of using one goes down exponentially. Therein lies the problem.