The Right Coast

January 30, 2005
The annoying New York Times, part 27
By Tom Smith

In its ongoing and probably futile effort to establish the attitude of cute, condescending superiority to everything, but especially blogging, the New York Times opines on family blogs in today's Sunday edition. It is not a bad article, but it is annoying. It is just too rich for the New York Times to critique moms and dads who write about their kids for being self-absorbed. The Times needs a little remedial work on the whole self-other thing. When you worry endlessly about what you should wear, where you should eat (French-Korean? Thai-Bangladeshi? Nouveau Tex-Cal-Puerto Rican?), whether your career is as dazzling as it should be for someone who has just turned 31 and 2/3, that is self-absorbed. Children are, in any remotely healthy family, not the same people as the parents. I suppose a social movement in which people want to adopt themselves as their own children is coming, and when it does, the Times will be the first to sneer at us for thinking it is stupid, but for now, parents and children, take note in New York, are different people. Writing about your kids is not being self-absorbed. It's being absorbed in others. There's a big difference. For a publication that never misses a chance to indulge in irony, you would think the notion that calling others self-absorbed might trigger some sort of warning, when your subscribers probably boast the highest percentage of income spent on psychoanalysis of any newspaper in the world. I once read an entire article in the Times that was about the awkward self-consciousness of sitting in the waiting room of your shrink, wondering whether you were more or less interesting to the analyst than the other patients sitting around. In case you are wondering, it is not normal to think that way, or to have a publication which is read by enough people who think that way, that it makes sense to publish an article about it. If you see what I mean. What the Times really means to say is that by being absorbed in their children, parents are not self-absorbed in a way the Times can relate to, and that makes them uncomfortable. Maybe they should go someplace expensive for a few days, and wonder whether they are too self-absorbed. I mean, seriously. The Times magazine recently started a regular feature about "the things we consume." It's called "Consumed," (get it? -- we are consumed by the things we consume, at least some of us are) and this week it's about middle-aged ladies buying nice red hats, only it's far, far more sociologically significant than that. It's about identity, who you, or actually, more to the point, I am. Call me self-absorbed, but I would far rather read funny stories about moms and dads dealing with life in the HOV lane, than being bored by the hermeneutics of what ladies who lunch wear for toppers. I mean, hats, for heaven's sake. How could anyone be more interested in "the things we consume" than the antics of little persons who run around and break things, when they are not trying to eat them? But life is somewhat just. Starbucks charged me only 50 cents for the Sunday Times, calling it the Times Picayune on my receipt, which makes no sense, as we have no such newspaper in San Diego. Had the line not been so long, I would have probably corrected the mistake, but I had to get my 11 year old back to Volvo and home.