Welcome to Babyburg!

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I walk into a newly opened kids’ store in Williamsburg, just because the eyesore of the façade is too much to ignore. The girl behind the desk greets me, and when I respond to her I can’t help but feel like I have a sort of camaraderie with her. We seem to be about the same age with the same social disposition: postgraduates looking to make ends meet. I look at a few items, and then my gaze shifts to outside the big front windows. I see a small group of scraggly hipsters walk by the store. Eyebrows knitted, faces contorted in disgust as they saw the window display, and, most importantly, the cheesy name of the store. Then I see it: the kids look even more disgusted with the shop girl. I quickly glance back at her, and she’s put on a pained, longing expression.

“No!” I wanted to shout at them, “I agree with you! Just because she works here doesn’t mean she actually cares at all about kids!”

Certainly, these people weren’t unfamiliar to me. I’m one of them, outside the workplace. And I don’t just mean I work at a kids’ store. Two to three times a week, I find myself pushing the stroller that thousands of New Yorkers either come in contact with, or push themselves, every day. I can add my name to the long list of college students in Manhattan who are trying to make a buck by babysitting. Sounds like a high school gig, but as any sitter will tell you—it beats being a barista.

So, after two years and a BA later, I can consider myself an expert.

Not long ago I ran across the phrase “Bugaboo culture” online and I couldn’t contain myself—this culture, this life, was something I was living by proxy. I specifically remember walking in SoHo with a friend, doing some post-weekend-brunch strolling, when we both had to move out of the way of a woman with a bugaboo. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. As every parent/consumer knows by now, it was like an SUV for infants. I knew the stroller by sight, but not by name.

“That’s a Bugaboo,” my friend said, and he immediately went on about how he’d read an article about how they cost, mostly starting at $700. That’s more than half my share of my 2 bedroom 1 bath rent in Brooklyn. Needless to say, I was astonished.

“Well,” my friend said with an appropriate smirk, “that’s how you know you’re in the presence of a top-notch parent.”

How true. I mean, how else would you know?

So began my slow-evolving hatred for the Bugaboo culture. And, needless to say, the sprouting of more and more babies in Williamsburg has started to make me seethe. Or, maybe it’s just because I live and work there.

Once, out of even more curiosity than before, I found myself at the store again. While I was browsing, a thirty-something new mom picked up a vintage-styled T-shirt for her toddler son. Once the shopgirl mentioned that one of the unique qualities of the shirt was that part of it was vintage, she pursed her lips and put the T-shirt back on the rack.

“I’m not really into the vintage thing that goes on in this neighborhood,” she said. She turned her back on the shopgirl and bought something else.

Then why, I thought, do you live in this neighborhood?

That woman was not the last of her kind. After babysitting for a West Village family for two years, I was able to learn a lot about what is, seemingly, expected of New York parents and how they are to conduct themselves now that their “bundle of joy” has blessed this world with its presence.

Days spent at Bleecker Park, Leroy Park, and Leroy Library have given me glimpses of women who I am positive are in, as the Gawker article once noted, “sexless marriages.” They’re worn-out, annoyed, and very much “over it.” They can really only focus on their manicure, their high-end shoes, or the fact that their youth is pretty much over. God forbid the kid starts crying, because then the reverie of their Carrie Bradshaw-like days is cut short.

This part of being a babysitter always both amused and depressed me. Seems like a paradox, but once you see something often enough, it almost becomes entertainment.

Often I took on babysitting jobs on weekend nights. Eighty dollars in my pocket was a lot better than some East Village rooftop party. I got paid to sit on a couch, watch Direct TV while the kids slept, and was even encouraged to fall asleep. When the parents came home, usually a little tipsy, I always was secretly happy that they were out, partying in their own “We-are-parents-now” way.

“Good for them,” I thought. “I hope they have good sex tonight.” And this sort of good feeling that perhaps they actually would, was reason enough to not be completely disgusted with new parents.

That’s the village; this is Williamsburg.

In a gentrified neighborhood there is always a process: young artists take the risk for cheaper rent, small businesses spring up (along with the rent), schools get better, and then young married couples find it the “perfect place” to bring in their new baby. This explains the high-rises that are springing up along the East River, this explains the mass of prissy new parents with their SUV strollers who avoid Beacon’s Closet like the plague.

But, the hipsters can stay, right? As long as they make the moms feel free again. TC mark

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  • http://twitter.com/rawiya rawiya

    for real. babies belong in park slope or the east village. leave williamsburg alone, babies.

  • dignified

    Jesus. Before you guys came in like the alien invasion you are, williamsburg was an authentic and diverse place. Now it's a haven for a bunch of over-entitled, fucked up bigots desperate to feel important. You all need to get a life and stop hating on everyone else who is normal enough not to be reduced to the abhorrent lifestyle you live. I know you guys are all like “oh I care about shit,” but all you care about is competing to wear the oldest chanel bag and the frumpiest clothes possible. If you cared about anything, you wouldn't be sitting on your self-indulgent asses, ruining the borough for the rest of us functional, contributing members of society. If you can't get off your high horse, I hope you fall off it.

    • http://twitter.com/rawiya rawiya

      very original.

    • http://clarifiedconfusion.blogspot.com aaron nicholas

      “dignified”
      you illustrate the concept of hypocrisy in your argument quite adeptly.

      this is how you talk about people, that exist, in our world as humans:
      “alien invasion”
      “over-entitled, fucked up bigots desperate to feel important”
      “get a life and stop hating on everyone else”
      “abhorrent lifestyle you live”
      “self-indulgent asses”
      “ruining the borough”
      “get off your high horse, [or] …fall off it”

      i am hesitant to ever reduce any person to less-than-human, especially calling upon negative stereotypes and hatred to achieve this. no human should be spoken of this way, and if this was a race of people this would certainly be considered racism, flagrant and overt racism, i might add. you deny people their fundamental right to exist as a human and it seems shameful – this is why your method of logic is called “de-humanization” and it is the first step in a genocide movement.

      the most interesting dichotomy that is apparent here is your quickness to 'talk shit' on a culture while simultaneously calling them “fucked up bigots”. interesting juxtaposition.

      i visit williamsburg once a month and my experiences have always been overwhelmingly fantastic, with the majority of people i meet maintaining a radically open-mind to the world, art, and culture.

  • munchkin

    Um, am I the only one picking up on the fact that this woman is jealous of all those people hiring her to watch their babies? It's obvious she's bitter about not being in a position to have babies herself. Isn't THAT the gist of this entire article? The only way for these hipsters to lift themselves up is to put someone else down. Now that's the ultimate definition of hipster culture.

    • http://clarifiedconfusion.blogspot.com aaron nicholas

      dunno if you got it bro/chick

  • Riverbed Is River

    Damn babies. Always looking so cute in their winter outfits, being carried around in strollers, just living the life.

  • Selectivit

    what a brilliant essay.

  • Jill

    You described the process of gentrification without mentioning the low-income people who cannot afford the new, raised rents and expensive shops. I find that really offensive. You act as though you are the victim of yuppie culture, OK fine, write that essay. The materialism pushed in our society, even among “elite” groups like yuppies (and hipsters) can be pretty disgusting. Why don't you talk about the fact that it's fucked up that there are so few supports for parents that aren't super rich. You mention the schools get better for instance– but what do you actually know about NYC public schools, or about your less-than-fabulous neighbors generally?

    This piece just speculates on people's sex lives (and btw, Gawker did not invent the term sexless marriage, no need for scare quotes) and never makes an actual point. You don't want babies to live in your neighborhood? Or just rich babies? Or you want gentrification to stop just at the point that works for you personally? I don't get what you want to say–or I do and it's gossipy, shallow and as apolitical as hipster culture. A movement based on aesthetics will be the hallmark of our generation. Yuck.

    • Reformed Hipster

      I think the phrase “as the Gawker article once noted” says it all.

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