Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Stepford Mom Encounters

Snark alert! If you are searching for a feel good story about rainbows and unicorns and a couple hand holding verses of Kumbaya, look elsewhere. In fact, you'll never find that here so surely you're misdirected, misguided, or mistaken.

I happen to live in an area teeming with Stepford Moms. I bet they lurk where you live too. I have a hunch their uniforms are different in each locale. Surely the Stepford Moms inside the beltline of Raleigh don't look like the hipster chic moms of Santa Monica or the earthy bohemian moms of Portland. I'm talking about the women who have dogeared Lisa Birnbach's Preppy Handbook and are on the perpetual hunt for the ideal bloody mary recipe. The prep school crowd, whether they went to one or not.

Full disclosure, I went to prep school and I live in the same zip code in the same coveted neighborhood as many of these moms. I am not, repeat not, one of them. For starters, I am likely one of five brown people in my whole zip code. I've met one other brown person who happens to be a good friend (but not just because we're brown). The Stepford Moms are not brown, at least until August after three months of sunning themselves at the beach or the club. They don't grace the municipal city pools, no siree. I'm talking about my town's version of Kate Middleton wannabes. A whole swarm of women Holden Caulfield would loathe.

Allow me to illustrate my point. Here's what I just saw in a habitat known to be a common gathering ground for Stepford Moms, the public library, in said zip code.

It is fact that these women have fantastic taste and svelte pilateed bodies. Not a thigh touches or an ass sags, breasts are perky, natch (with the help of Doc Op or Wacoal). The majority of the Stepford Moms are blondes, approximately 2% of them are natural blondes. Not a soul has red hair and freckles. The typical outfit on a spring day consists of white designer jeans with a striped grosgrain belt (mostly I see Paige, J Brand, Hudson, or Citizens of Humanity: the Sevens are reserved for roughing it on the playground or for preschool volunteering), Tory Burch flats in colors that are not practical in the least bit but nonetheless fabulous (lime green, orange, mustard yellow), Lily Pulitzer tunic or Trina Turk ruffled blouse, hobo or otherwise slouchy bag (lots of Kooba and Marc Jacobs), Nicole Richie-esque sunglasses bearing an obvious logo perefectly propped upon their heads (I'm guessing there are a lot of fake Chanels.), and something monogrammed, like a sunglass case, library tote bag, or water bottle koozie. And monogrammed children are a given. I could write a whole separate post on the culture of monogramming among this set. These are not women who buy clothes at Target, Old Navy, or god forbid, the thrift store or yard sales.

The Stepford Moms chatter about all of life's most important topics. When to go to the beach, what private racquet club has opened up the waiting list, tennis match pairings, nanny bargains, private school application pitfalls, sample sales and boutique party nights, Bunco, diamond cleaning, interior decorating guffaws, and the latest fiasco involving the help (their word, not mine). From what I've overheard, the economy, health care, education, reproductive rights, civil liberties, civil unions, equal pay, planet earth, or CSAs do not creep into conversation, even in passing. I'm guessing these women are not Facebook fans of Rachel Maddow or NPR. But maybe I don't give them enough credit.

What strikes me is not just the apparent shallowness of this ilk; I am in awe of how they all look and talk and laugh and point and toss their hair in the exact same way. I swear if you put a Glamour magazine black bar across all their eyes you'd think you were looking at the same woman. Apparently individuality is not a core value among this set (my favorite quote ever about individuality is found in this song).

They all try so hard to be the same, sound the same, think the same. It seems to me that they are afraid. Afraid to be themselves, to stray from the crowd, to think irreverent thoughts, to break the pink and green mold, to turn their paradigms sideways and backwards and upside down. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of not belonging. Afraid of being singled out. Afraid of being exposed. Afraid of being an individual.

What scares me is a flock of lemmings.
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Anonymous said...

It's like high school all over again. With money. Or pretending to have money.

I live in a Stepford Community and I definitely don't fit in. I have a career for starters, and I don't stand around talking about this brand or that brand, whose nanny is steal-worthy and when I'm going to upgrade my Mercedes.

I don't get it. Then again, I didn't get it in high school either.

NYCity Mama said...

I know a version of these moms here in my home town...they are a bit different. Educated, in that they went to college, Liberal, White, rich husbands, and so forth..,none, really is a horrid thing, but man are they awful. The are stuck up, uptight, and very "high school-ish". They would think themselves better than the moms you speak of, as they are better than anyone living outside of NYC..but they aren't. In the end they are very much the same as the moms you speak of, even if the packaging looks different.

Ilina said...

I love that you guys both referenced high school. That is oh so true! Do we ever grow out of that?

Mommyaulait said...

Sadly, here it's like middle school and high school.
You have the Stepford Elite.
Under that you have the Wanna-Be-Stepford that like to brag how much of a deal they got looking like a Stepford but not paying the same high price (I think we remember these girls from school. They bad mouthed the popular girls, but tracked their every move and copied it the best they could.)
I also find it interesting how these two groups also show up in Church settings and some school settings. Walking at the most trendiest park in town. At the same time giving out the exact same look. That says "I'm being seen looking trendy & hip"
Those are just my observances though.

Suzanne P said...

Oh my. I hoped all the Stepford Wives had moved out to the Hills after high school, but sadly, they have propagated nationwide. In my area, a Stepford Wife has to be on a team sport, be a vegan, drive a hybrid car, and vacation in Hawaii or at Sandals in Jamaica every year. Brains are not a prerequisite to be one, but a good manicure is.

Aahh. It's good to not be them! (Typed as I check out my shorty nails while cooking split pea and ham soup for dinner.)

The Mother said...

Those women are the reason I don't belong to the PTA. Or the country club.

And what are they teaching their children? That it's far more important to walk in lockstep with peer pressure than to be themselves.

Anonymous said...

Bravo on your post! I live in the next zip code over and it is no better, especially since this zip code hosts the Stepford Wives club to belong to.

Never wanted to be one and never will be! I agree with everyone who compared these women to high school.

dadshouse said...

Those moms crack me up. We have some in Palo Alto. I just ignore them. I prefer women with spice!

soco said...

Really?? I live in the same zip code and have found the majority of moms I run into to be friendly, interesting and non-judgemental. Maybe it's my natural obliviousness, maybe I hang out at the wrong(or right) places or maybe these status moms avoid me like the plague because, boy howdy, it's obvious I'm a Target shopper, but I just haven't noticed snobbery, cliques and ridiculous consumerism. Or maybe I just gravitate toward like-minded people and am a reverse snob.

Jen L. said...

YES! When we first moved to Alabama from NYC (a serious culture shock in and of itself, even though my husband and I are both from the deep south), I tried to attend a play group with my son. I kind of hate play groups. Well, it was all kind of ok for a few minutes until they learned the following about me:
1. I had just moved from "The Big Bad City"
2. I work in theatre
3. I did not have a child until I was in my 30s
4. I planned to go back to work part-time.

These women were like the ones you described: mid- to late-20s, bleached blonde, Vera Bradley bags (ok, I have a Vera Bradley purse, but mine's black...cause I'm a weird theatre person) kids monogrammed down to the hair bow, perfectly polished nails and super-white teeth. DUDE. On days when I don't work, I often leave the house with dish soap bubbles on my sleeve, mismatched socks and baby food on my knees.

It is like high school. What is wrong with being a freakin' individual????

ilinap said...

Soco, we should hook up. I bet you're hanging out in cooler places than I am.

Jen L, we were so meant to be friends!

Oh how I love all your comments! Cheers to individuality, shopping at Target, and split pea soup!

Caroline said...

Today while shopping with a budgeted handful of bills from my tax refund, I was looking for a few new shirts. But I kept walking away from what I saw. You are describing it. That just so blown out, over-powdered, stepford wife, milf look with blingy embelishments. But I'm 35 - isn't that what the look is for my age? No. I don't want it. I want personality, edginess, identity, artful thought to what I wear - originality. But I couldn't find it. So I shouldn't dress like a college kid but I don't want to be the 35 yr old I am supposed to be. Welcome to suburbia I guess. Originality doesn't live in these parts. So once again, we live our parallel lives.

Magpie said...

I think my town is full of the same, but because I have a full time job, I have nearly no contact with them, for which I am grateful.

I can't find my blog said...

Oh my. Word to the wise: Don't move to Southern California. Try adding the celeb culture to what you're talking about, with massive boobs, and you get where I live. Seriously. Imperfection is not tolerated.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I also live in your zip code and love the moms I run into in the neighborhood. Yes, there are some that i've met who fit your description to a tee, but I've met so many great moms who are interesting (most seem to have moved here from somewhere else like me or grew up here and are trying hard not to fit your description), shop at Target, don't dress their boys in smocked/monogrammed one-piece outfits, and like us belong to the cheapest pool around just so our kids can revel in the joy of summertime like we did. Sure, we all may go to Gold's Gym, shop at North Hills, and worry about the best schools for our kids, but I think we're all unique and fascinating once you get to talking at the playground. I actually find your description to fit my sister-in-laws up in the DC area more accurately. They all have 2 income families and are so focused on competing with everyone else up there. You couldn't pay me to trade Raleigh for that lifestyle!

Drew @ Cook Like Your Grandmother said...

Soco nailed it with the "natural obliviousness". For me it was in college, when the girls were all wearing UVA boxers over tights, big baggy sweaters, and huge Laura Ashley bows in their hair. And for the guys it was the long-sleeve, white button-down shirt with madras shorts.

Damn that was a look, and I was not having it. It wasn't until my second or third year there that I cracked the code -- well, the girls were so cookie-cutter I noticed that the first weekend. I knew there was something I wasn't doing right, but didn't realize how "wrong" my wardrobe was until much later.