The other night I was hanging with my younger brother, listening to him chuckle with my husband over the sexed-up video for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." My eight month-old son was in the midst of trying to Wolverine my face off with his razor-like baby nails, but I jumped into the conversation:
"Wait –- who’s this again? Robin Thicke? The dad from Growing Pains*?"
To which my brother busted out laughing, and his wife blushed for me. In that moment I had simultaneously revealed that 1.) I have completely fallen ass first off the back of the pop culture cart and 2.) I am old enough to have watched Kirk Cameron's finest work.
Sadly, little embarrassments like this have been happening quite a bit lately. Someone asks me if I like Orphan Black and my mind spins as I try to remember if this is a fashion designer, or some obscure Williamsburg DJ? I have also felt my brain turn to dust when trying to remember the names and details of certain celebrities -– details that previously would have come to me as easily as my own middle name.
The other morning found me furiously insisted to my husband that Phil Collins was American. My husband just stared at me, like I was suggesting we eat our iPhones for breakfast. But the Alan Thicke incident really gave me pause: At some point in the past 8 months, I have made the transition to Clueless Dork Mom. I don’t know when or how it happened. But I now totally understand why my own Mom calls Downton Abbey“The Downtown Mansion.”
I was never that cool to begin with, but pre-baby, I was fairly up on pop culture, and attended my fair share of concerts, films, readings, etc. (I knew Phil Collins' nationality, for christsake.) I used to shake my head at one of my mom friends –- the same one who used to attend the concerts with me -– when I’d ask her about a new band, and she’d stare at me blankly, her child screeching by her side.
I would feel a kind of incredulousness: “I can’t believe she’s never heard of Vampire Weekend!”
Flash forward five years, and not only did I not know Vampire Weekend had a new album, but I learned about it along with the rest of the nation’s senior citizens, while watching CBS Sunday Morning. Because I am now not only up in time to watch CBS Sunday Morning, I am now up so early I am counting down the hours until Mo Rocca’s segment.
My New Yorker subscription is but a dusty tower perched in the windowsill, and is used solely for reading the cartoons during middle of the night wakings. (Which becomes a bit of an existential exercise at 4am: Wait, why is the pizza getting a speeding ticket exactly?) I have “plans” to read them one day. In the meantime, I occasionally let my son rip a cover off when he grows tired of his Whoozit.
And when I purchased tickets to see The Maccabees -- a band I have long wanted to see live -- I ended up re-selling them on Craigslist. A concert that starts at 10pm? I’d need to dunk my head into a washtub of cocaine to stay awake for that.
There is a long tradition of laughing at clueless moms and dads. With things like Shit My Dad Says, or online interviews where kids ask their parents to attempt to name the characters on Game of Thrones -- parental dorkiness has always been mocked and enjoyed by those who are in charge of changing only their own undergarments.
My friend and I used to guffaw over the time she was riding down the road with her father, and he called to the backseat: "OK, in the eighties there were two black children on TV who couldn't grow. And one of them said, 'What do you know, Wilifred?' What were the names of those shows again?"
At the time, my mind boggled at this. How could anyone not know Diff’rent Strokes and Webster?!? Lo the hilarity! And yet now, I can completely understand his confusion, as I have sat on my own couch and stared blank-faced at the The X Voice Idol Can Dance program, and had no idea who somee of the judges were. I now stand in line at CVS and squint at US Weekly covers like I am from a distant planet, and simply don’t recognize any of those white-toothed humanoids. Is Aniston even married yet? I have no idea, though I assumed I’d feel some sort of tectonic shift when it happened.
I of course had a hunch that caring for a tiny human might cut into my concert attendance and Aniston monitoring time. Friends warned me that motherhood was a bit, eh, time-consuming, and that the baby would suck my cerebrum out along with my mother’s milk. So I figured my collapse into cluelessness would happen…but so fast? I thought the kid would at least sport more than two teeth before I went full on spaz.
I once read an essay that described motherhood as “perpetual motion,” and I often think of that, when I am holding my squirming baby in one arm, a bowl of soggy cereal in the other, and trying to pick an even soggier diaper up off the floor using my toes. When I do get free time, it’s almost panic inducing trying to figure out how to prioritize it.
Do I order four million more photos of my son from Snapfish? Brush my teeth? Wash some bottles and breast pump phalanges so the kitchen no longer looks like an MIT lab? When faced with such decisions, the oeuvre of Robin Thicke unfortunately gets pushed to the back of the queue.
This is not to say everyone turns into a clueless dork once they push a baby out of their vagina. I’m sure there are still lots of moms who read Time Out cover to cover -– who still manage to sway to music (while standing!) once the clocks hands have stretched past 10 pm. I don’t really know any, but that’s probably because the cool ones pity my lame ass. But I’m sure they’re out there. That Jemima Kirke lady from Girls, maybe. (See! I know who she is! I even know the show!)
Surprisingly, I am actually not that distressed by my sudden dork factor. I’ve discovered there is actually a sweet kind of freedom in having absolutely zero idea who Demi Lovato is, or what her body of work entails. Keeping up with popular culture can sometimes feel like a part-time job, especially in the age of the Internet, where the next big thing can turn into yesterday’s news in the time it takes to eat an Oreo. It’s kind of nice to just throw up my hands, and surrender to the awesome, sticky, exhausting chaos that is being “Mama.”
That said, I certainly don’t plan to throw in the towel completely. My own mother played Little River Band on repeat for 20 years, simply because she didn’t have time to discover anything new. While I enjoy “Cool Change” just as much as the next person, ‘tis a fate I’d like to avoid.
I am still a curious person. I still want to enjoy what’s out there. I’m just realizing that it’s going to take me a bit longer to get to it, and by the time I do, it most likely won’t be “cool” anymore. I know someday my little son, with his wide goofy grin, and crazy baby chick hair –- I know he’s going to be laughing at my dorkiness, as I call Arcade Fire “Amusement Park Flames,” and insist that David Bowie is Belgian. But the truth is –- right now his little laugh is better than any song I can think of. Even “Under Pressure.”
*Alan Thicke is his Dad! I just Googled! Take that, brother Graham!