Monday, December 08, 2003

"Having a Baby Changes Everything."

Awww. What a sweet sentiment, Johnson & Johnson. You just gave me warm fuzzies, for real. For real y'all. The ad's freaking powerful. Rolly-polly arms splashing in the bath suds . . . accompanied by a background track not unlike George from "It's a Wonderful Life," a deep-toned paternal figure telling us a bedtime story: "Who'd have thought that short and bald was her type?"

In a different segment a pop with his two little ones is having "boys night in." The baby boy is mesmerized by a glossy frog. He touches it, pressing down with his index finger. The frog lets him. "A night with the boys" . . .

These ads shock me. They take me aback in a minute's swoop. So I say to my girlfriend/sister B, "Have you seen the Johnson & Johnson ads?" And we become caught up together, eyes lit, smiling.

In 1980 the Haley family was the first in our neighborhood, The Four Seasons, to get divorced. A few months later the Robbins joined us. I was eight years old, ripe for all the many influences that tell a girl what the world is all about. Somewhere within that decade Oprah rose up from local news to syndication. When I was a senior at Reagan High School I was thoroughly involved in a group called, PALS, kids who befriended elementary and junior high kids for the fun of it (to be role models and tutors). I remember a short-term gig in those days at one of those high schools where they send teenage mothers. We sat around in a cirlce utterly uncomfortable because we didn't know each other and we were supposed to talk--about babies? About chemistry? Friday nights?

From the time I was eight I have been immersed in a world that breeds the "I." What does it mean to be self actualized? Are you co-dependent? You can be anything you want to be. Try it, you might like it. Save it. Give it up.

"Promise me you won't get married until you're twenty-five," my mom said to me when dear Crysta was getting hitched. I was all giddy with the bridal tea, the dresses, the flowers, the romance. "Yes, yes. Of course, mother. Are you kidding. You know me."

There is something there. It is nascent and old as time. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Christian Coalition. It has nothing to do with drawing lines. I feel it in those ads! Jeez, and it's not my clock a-ticking. It's about what is lost when we indulge in the "I" as a way of life.

Oy-vey. Those women on 20/20 who feel misled because they've been on the career track for ten to fifteen years and nobody ever told them that their fertility factory couldn't produce as long as they needed it to by treadmilling a few extra minutes each week (and the Internet dating bonanza, I don't even want to go there). It's all connected, folks. Believe me.

So what do you think is missing? Johnson & Johnson thinks they know. Babies. "Having a baby changes everything." There's no disclaimer, no personal testimonies to bolster the claim. It's black & white, a close-up shot, one angle, one view, plain. For the first time in my life someone is telling me to have a baby. I am a thirty-one year old woman. I repeat: For the first time in my life someone is telling me to have a baby. If I were living in the 1880's, I wouldn't be spunky. I'd be 15 years past prime. But we're so much more clever than they were. We can do anything. My fertility factory will keep producing. If not, I can make something happen with a dish and some goo. It's perfectly okay to do whatever you want for as long as you want to do it.

So, I am such an interested participant in Generation X. We make it happen. No limits. I love us. And here we are in our thirties. Life is changing around us. Many of my friends have just found themselves past the action that one tends to get when in their twenties. Now the action is creeping. My friends are humbled, and I like them a little bit better because now they have one more angle of life that is teaching them about who they are. Most, well, all of them want one thing. A partner. But my Gen X peeps are so inculcated into the "I" generation, that they can't say it, "I want to get married." They can't say it.

We have been taught that in marriage you sacrifice your potential (professionally and personally). Marriage is a limitaion. We're the no-limit cadre. Singular. Strong. Aware. We have been stretching ourselves across hostels and institutions of higher education for years, exploring and indulging in life as a vocation.

Oh my God, please make it stop! Well, something finally is. And how do I know? Those ads.

Those ads are spectacular.

We have just crossed the threshhold of a new era. It's just the beginning. You may not notice it for awhile to come. It's an era of community, of back-to-the-basics, of home and family. It's been building for a time, this cooking frenzy is telling. People are thrilled by making something with their hands and tasting it. Is it an awakening? Well, we never really have one of those here in dear America. We just swing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

New York City Crime Like 1968

And here I thought Vermont was retro. But what are we going to do about the Sharpie Bandit Graffiti Artist? He's out there, willy nilly, first with the black chisel tip and then with the blue.