Monday, September 7, 2009

The Notorious Park Slope Stroller Brigade

New Yorkers - particularly Manhattanites - love to make the "Stroller Brigade" joke. When they hear that you are moving to Park Slope, or Cobble Hill, or any brownstone neighborhood in which thirty-somethings figure prominently, they will make fun of you for the fact that you will soon be run off of the sidewalk by stay-at-home power moms with double-wide luxury strollers, and have to endure the smug looks of yuppid parents who are under the impression that they own the neighborhood and every single person is intruding on their territory. More than one person told me that I could expect to get run off the sidewalk by "stroller moms" which, in sufficient numbers, form a "stroller brigade." In thirteen months of living here, I am proud to report that there is no more evidence to support the existence of the stroller brigade as there is the Loch Ness monster of Bigfoot.

Yes, Park Slope has a lot of families with young children, but then, this is New York City - almost every neighborhood has a lot of families with young children; its just that Park Slope and Cobble Hill is one of the new neighborhoods that also have a lot of bitchy young people and hipsters who feel as if they are having their style cramped by said families with young children. The single people in Normandy Court and on the Lower East Side don't make these complaints, because families don't want to live in those neighborhoods, and young people in Bay Ridge and Flatbush don't make those complaints, because they're not so self-consciously fashionable as to worry about how the alleged Stroller Brigade is making their neighborhood less cool.

I for one like the fact that Park Slope has a lot of actual families (who live in actual houses, instead of high-rise apartment buildings). If you ask me, they make Park Slope feel like the real world, unlike the "filing cabinets for humans" feeling of certain pockets of Manhattan's Upper East Side, or the Epcot Centerish, playground-for-overpaid-private-school graduates feeling that parts of the Lower East Side and Williamsburg possess. It is a real neighborhood, and, for the most part, I like its vibe.

Having said that, earlier today I set up in a coffee shop with my laptop and my headphones, and I couldn't har myself think because there were three screaming children within a 2-table radius. There's nothing worse than a family with young children coming into a restaurant, having the young child run into something or fall down within the first thirty seconds, then scream in paid for the next half-hour. It just sucks.

But that happens in every neighborhood. What makes the park Slope and Cobble Hill-type neighborhoods in Brooklyn unique is the degree to which the parents indulge their children. Everybody is not just open-minded, but Open-Minded, and these parents, who probably work hard for a living and are eager to finally have a chance to get out of the house, refuse to allow their meal to be interrupted by the fact that their child is screaming bloody murder in a crowded restaurant. Some parents even look at you with a hint of challenge in their eyes, as if to say "go ahead, be the reactionary asshole who gives me a dirty look for having a kid who can't sit still or stay quiet. Everybody else in this restaurant will judge you for it, because they probably have young kids of their own and will be on my side." That part of it drives me to the brink of felony assault.

I lived in four or five cities before moving to Brooklyn (the exact number depends on how you choose to count.) In my experience, little children are the same everywhere, but parents differ widely. Young couples in Buffalo and Madison bring their children to restaurants, too, but if their child starts to scream or act up, they take their child out of the restaurant and go for a walk, or find a bench outside and bounce them on their knee for a few minutes until they calm down. Or, you know, they find a babysitter for a couple of hours. I haven't lived anywhere else where parents bring their young children to restaurants and make you deal with the costs that those children impose, and I feel as if I am justified in finding that part of Brooklyn culture a little bit obnoxious.

1 comment:

Cassandra said...

I think you should take the parents up on their challenge. But be condescendingly polite about it. :)