Smartmom wonders if Park Slope is becoming a parody of itself.
Her most-recent concern started on March 21, when a Park Slope mother
of twins posted a message about a lost hat on Park Slope Parents, the
local Web message board that is devoured by tout le monde.
Like any Internet discussion group, the discourse runs the gamut from
the ridiculous to the sublime. From highly informative to exasperatingly
precious, the parenting discussions are often heavily tinged with political
correctness — extra correct, for this is Park Slope, after all.
For Smartmom, much of it leaves her with that “been there, done that”
feeling. Teen Spirit and OSFO aren’t babies anymore and, thankfully,
Smartmom doesn’t need to read about breast feeding, tummy sleeping,
or the latest $1,500 Bugaboo.
But Smartmom does check in regularly to read the latest brouhaha —
because, as Rosannerosannadana used to say, it’s always something.
Incredibly, the March 21 post — subject line, “Lost boy’s
hat” — set off the biggest bonfire yet.
Sad to say, the conflagration has consumed Park Slope, threatening to
become the defining moment when the neighborhood realizes that the rest
of the city is actually right to think that we’re a bunch of progressive,
child-centered, politically correct whack-jobs.
And it all started out so innocently. “Lost Boy’s Hat.”
Simple. Sweet. Almost poetic in its brevity.
“Friday, at the corner of 11th Street and Eighth Avenue, [I found
an] adorable navy blue, or maybe black, fleece hat with triangles jutting
out of it of all different colors,” the Hat Lady wrote.
It was practically poetry — but those jutting triangles quickly became
daggers. Believe it or not, the Hat Lady was chastised by another poster.
“I’m sorry, I know that you are just trying to be helpful, but
what makes this a ‘boy’s hat’? Did you see the boy himself
lose it? Or does the hat in question possess an unmistakable scent of
One can immediately smell an air of self-righteousness in Gender Sensitive’s
post, which began with an apology, but quickly moved in for the kill.
“It’s innocent little comments like this that I find the most
hurtful,” Gender Sensitive continued. “What does this comment
imply about the girl who chooses to wear just such a hat (or something
like it)? Is there something wrong with her?”
That post created its own flurry of charges and countercharges.
“It’s e-mails like yours that drive me up the wall!” wrote
one parent. “The original poster was just trying to do something
nice and return a lost item to someone. If it was my hat, I wouldn’t
care if she posted it as ‘dog’s hat found.’ I’d just
be happy to get it back.”
The heated discussion went on for many days, dozens of posts in all. Many
defended the Hat Lady. Others agreed with Gender Sensitive’s call
for more, well, gender sensitivity.
Some of the posts got personal, some political — but the whole affair
ended up in the pages of New York Magazine and on the Gawker Web site.
And the articles all painted Park Slope with a very broad, and not-so-flattering,
So Smartmom called Hat Lady herself — and landed something those
Gaphattan-based publications couldn’t get: the worldwide exclusive!
And, believe it or not, the Hat Lady defended her attacker.
“Here’s a woman who obviously takes things really seriously
and really cares about how people see the world and how they see objects
in the world,” Hat Lady said about Gender Sensitive. “She is
concerned about how things will be passed on to her children. And I can
She even had sympathy for her devil (in Park Slope, after all, every villain
is just “misunderstood”).
“I felt upset that she was attacked so viciously,” said the
Hat Lady. “But I didn’t want to seem like too much of a wuss.
People were sticking up for me, as well. I didn’t want to seem like
a spineless water creature.”
In the end, Hat Lady harbors no bitterness (it’s Park Slope, after
all). She’s so busy raising twins that she barely has time to brush
her teeth, let alone engage in a cyber-debate.
But despite the flame-out, her faith in the Park Slope Parent’s community
is unwavering. “I think there is so much greatness in those e-mails.
There was humor, apology. More compassion than meanness.
“To me, it was all about free speech. That’s the greatness of
America. And Park Slope Parents is a venue for free speech. It’s
about people shouting out their feelings and having their own opinion.
It’s a great display of community.”
The hat that started it all, meanwhile, remains in her apartment.
“No one has come forward yet,” she says. “Who owns this
damn, friggin’ hat?”
So while a gender-neutral child in Park Slope goes without his (or her?)
hat, something much more important has been learned: Everyone else thinks
we Slopers are nuts.
Park Slope is a crunchy, progressive hot bed of politically correct parenting
— perhaps more than ever. But those values do make Smartmom’s
It’s easy for the Gaphattan crowd to make fun of, but in these times,
Park Slopers can be proud that concern for gender and racial equality,
the survival of the planet, peace, and free expression are top priorities.
It does get messy sometimes, but as the Hat Lady told Smartmom: “On
Park Slope Parents, all of our values come into play. It’s how we
present our conflicts that dictates how we resolve them.”
True, but when Good Samaritans are attacked for an ill-chosen pronoun,
that’s where Smartmom draws the line.
Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010