I signed up for Park Slope Parents, the notorious community listserv for procreating BroBos, under absurdly apropos circumstances: via 4G roaming Internet on an iPad 2 in a car on my way back from a President’s Day weekend trip to New England. As I typed away on my convenient keyboard dock, my five-month-old son sat beside me in his car seat, idly drooling on a tarted-up chew toy crafted to resemble an anthropomorphic toadstool with a nipple protruding from its head like a jaunty, pastel fez. This toy retails for almost $20, and is considered a steal at my local baby boutique, where it was sold to me by a cute lesbian shopkeep who favors ironic trucker hats.
The moment you realize you’ve become a cliche—strolling down upper Madison Avenue in your fur and turban, say, or arranging the artisanal cheese and pluot plate at the reception for the dystopian YA novel you Kickstarter-published—is a New York rite of passage. And there on I-95, as I sent in the $35 annual fee, I knew I had crossed the paper-thin threshold that separates the merely pretentious from the parodic: I had become the consummate SAHM (stay-at-home mom).
The only impression I had prior to joining Park Slope Parents—PSP, in the cloying message board slang that substitutes “DH” for “darling husband” and “BM,” somewhat confusingly, for “breast milk” (paging Dr. Freud?)—was that it was full of assholes.
Let me explain. The first time I heard of the group was in 2006, via a Gawker account of a fight among its members. A would-be good Samaritan wrote that she’d found a “boy’s hat” on the street and wanted to return it to its owner. A fellow PSPer replied to the message, taking offense at the “hurtful” sexism inherent in the assignation of gender bias to an item of clothing, which prompted a cross-fire of heated, essay-length exchanges from dozens of members until I can only assume that the original poster was by then committed to Bellevue.
Here I should admit that before I became a Park Slope parent, I was a Park Slope kid. When I was 8, my family moved to the northwestern corner of the Slope. It was the same year that The New York Times deemed the neighborhood a “Walt Whitman ideal,” although apparently no one had informed the prostitutes who still roamed my corner after-hours. We’d relocated from Austin, Texas, and my friends from the Lone Star state erroneously thought I’d moved to the tough-as-nails Brooklyn of Do The Right Thing and Moonstruck-era Cher, of stick ball and zeppoles and gang wars. “Have you held a gun yet?” they would whisper over the phone. “Have you gotten mugged?” But when I told them I lived in Park Slope, they changed their tune. “Have you had a cappuccino?” they’d ask breathlessly. “Can you tell us what spelt is?”
In my defense, for a long time, even as an adult, I resisted the Park Slope stereotype. I went to public school—the lesser public school (no hookers in the 321 zone)! I’m not a member of the Food Co-Op, because I’m too lazy, I don’t care which country my hummus comes from and I refuse to let anyone outfitted in a neon orange vest escort me home unless they’re an EMT and I’m unconscious. I’ve always defined myself as an outsider to the twee-hugging part of the borough. (For Christ’s sake, technically I live in Prospect Heights.) But in the past few months I have come face to face with the distinct possibility that I’ve finally morphed into the species of specious Brooklynite I’ve always mocked simply by making use of my uterus, and allowing a child to do the same.
The evidence against me: Within a few weeks of my son’s September arrival—after enduring an unavoidable and punishing newborn boot camp that found me, most days, slumped on the floor frantically rocking my wailing baby while playing “Ocean Waves,” an iTunes download that sounded more like a shitty cellphone recording of an industrial dryer than the sea’s soft lullaby—I emerged to join the sun-washed masses of mothers and nannies who fill Park Slope’s sidewalks, outdoor cafes and playgrounds during working hours. The eyes of my non-parent peers tended to glaze over a few minutes into my new go-to conversation starter, a detailed update on the state of my infant’s bowel movements, but with my fellow moms I was preaching to the choir. Who would have thought that an apathetic agnostic like me would discover my congregation amid the Sisterhood of the Obstructive Stroller?
Yet at mother’s meetings and playgroups, over decaf lattes and pressed vegetable juices and the odd naughty noon glass of sauvignon blanc, my new clique and I chatted about sleep schedules (for the babies), kegels (for us), and up-the-back poops (hopefully for the babies, although postpartum incontinence loomed like a scatalogical specter), pausing every so often to absentmindedly free a breast from our shirts. (Incidentally, the list of people intimately familiar with my nipples—once limited to my college boyfriend, my gynecologist, and, due to an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction, my middle-school gym teacher—now included my landlord and at least a dozen area busboys). Every mom I befriended seemed to know eight others, and so on like a procreative pyramid scheme, at the apex of which presumably sat Eve, all by her lonesome, getting the side-eye at toddler yoga after word got out about Cain. And whenever I asked how two new mothers had met, the answer invariably led back to PSP. One woman assured me that it was a must for any mom worth her BPA-free playmat. “If it’s not on Park Slope Parents,” she said, “It’s like it didn’t happen.”
So I clicked. I signed. I succumbed. I opened my Gmail and waited to see what secrets my new identity might grant me access to.
Short answer: None. (In retrospect, the whole Yahoo! thing should have been a red flag. I mean, why not communicate via stone tablet or semaphore flags?) It turns out that the main perk of joining PSP is getting a frightening number of emails—hundreds a day—mostly consisting of classified ads pimping “lightly used” items such as a girls’—watch out, friend! Them’s fightin’ words!—faux-fur coat from a “pet, smoke, bedbug-free household.” By and large the exchanges are mundane. One thread that got a lot of traffic was titled “Re: Warning: Question About Baby Poop,”—no ER visit necessary, in case you were wondering. At the end of my first week as a Park Slope Parent, my unread inbox count hovered ominously at 666.
The mark of the parenting beast close at hand, I scaled back to a daily digest.
(Photo via Getty Images)