I’ve been working on a theory that moms are universally embarrassing because they have no privacy, and that privacy is a necessary condition to coolness.
I began thinking about this when I found myself doing an exceedingly embarrassing YouTube workout, in which a cheesy white girl does aerobic “dances” to up-tempo pop songs from the early 2000s (mostly by Black musicians), while Edith grinned at me from her swing. I am not going to link to this workout because I’m sure the lady involved is a nice person who means well, but I will say that at one point, she does the “swim” to an Outkast song, so that should give you a good idea of the level of white nonsense we’re talking about here.
Now, I have never been an especially cool person, but these songs were the backdrop to the years of my life during which I was arguably relatively interesting. At the very least, I was cool enough at the time to publicly pretend I hated these songs while I secretly included them on my running playlist. As I thought about all the ostensibly interesting things I had been doing while these songs were popular (performing alternative comedy on small stages in Chicago, solo backpacking across rural Asia, etc.), it occurred to me that it took a mere three months after giving birth before I became the sort of mom who would do a workout video like this in her living room. A mom with a body like a jumbo muffin and boobs that, while they were never exactly buoyant at the best of times, now need to be fitted for shoes. A mom who spends all day babbling repetitive cliches like “home again, home again, jiggity jig!” and “num num good milk!” and “rub a-dub-dub, it’s bath time for babies!”
I expected a decline of some sort, but I did not expect the transformation to be so fast and so complete.
I had come to this pass because I now have to find ways to work out (a) with Edith right there with me, and (b) in a short enough period of time that Edith will sit still for the duration. This has led to me to doing YouTube workouts in my living room, and to googling lists like “Best 20 minute YouTube workouts” which was how I found this derpy cheerleader (and YES, I know there are plenty of perfectly respectable YT workouts, do not recommend them to me in the comments, that’s not the point of this post). After my workout, I carried Edith into the bathroom with me and parked her in her bounce chair while I showered. She stared at me saucer-eyed through the glass while I did so, and I spent the shower singing and making faces at her in an attempt to keep her distracted enough so that she wouldn’t start crying until I had rinsed off and was able to deal with her again. Edith will usually let me work out (she thinks I am dancing for her and laughs at me throughout, which is somewhat less than motivating) but she typically loses her patience when I need to hose off afterwards. I used to be able to keep her in a good mood longer by dancing around for her while I got undressed and toweled off, but at some point I realized that I was essentially performing a striptease for my infant, so now we are all business.
Anyway, it occurred to me that since having Edith, I have not been able to so much as take a shit without an audience, and that it wasn’t so much that I didn’t do anything embarrassing before I had Edith as that I did embarrassing things in private. And I think this is why moms are embarrassing — they do not have the ability to hide their more shameful moments from other people, and so they quickly abandon any attempt at maintaining a mystique of any sort, because what even is the point. It’s not quite the same for dads (not to say that dads don’t also become embarrassing; they do, but not in the exact same way). Little children follow their dads around as well, but they do not absolutely plaster themselves to their fathers like paint the way they do to their mothers. Moms are furniture from day one, and human furniture simply cannot be cool. This started in the hospital when, after a lifetime of never so much as checking the mail without a bra, I suddenly found myself whipping out my droopy tits every two hours without any self-consciousness or being even slightly aware of my surroundings, my body having become 100% utilitarian overnight. It’s nobody’s fault, but if you have a baby, you’re not going to transcend it, and so you might as well not even try.
As someone who has breastfed in public multiple times, AND forgotten the nursing cover, AND has nipples the size of dinner plates, this resonates. I have someone who accompanies me to the bathroom every morning and asks either if I have a penis (I do not) OR if I pee out my butt (I do not) seeing as I don’t have a penis (sometimes I get both questions). I hear 900 “mom”s for every 6 “dad”s. I’m incredibly popular to just one person (and mildly popular to two more), and that kind of niche just doesn’t translate into coolness.
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I mean, these are valid questions, and are things I have often wondered about you as well.
…because you wonder these things about all cool people, right?
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Elizabeth, there are much cooler workout videos on YouTube! I say this because I workout in my living room and do not have the excuse of being a mom (shhhh).
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I know, I know, I am just trying a bunch of them and don’t really have time to switch to a different one when I realize whatever one I picked that day is dumb.