Monday, August 3, 2015

Internet Hero Defeats Toddler

I know, the rest of the country has moved on, but I was deliberately avoiding the topic of the woman who screamed at a toddler in her restaurant. Once I saw it, it didn't take much time for me to become quite confused (and, yes, obsessed). Everyone seemed to be missing the point so completely, it was like The Emperor's New Clothes. Why were all these people going on and on about a screaming baby? The owner of the diner herself, Darla Neugebauer, had made it clear - she was upset at the child's parents for ordering pancakes. Three of them. It was a lot to ask. By the time the girl started screaming, Darla had been ruminating for between five to thirty-five minutes (estimates vary). No wonder she snapped - she'd targeted these people the minute she laid eyes on them. Expecting her to make their daughter breakfast! What did she look like - their maid? After going on about the pancakes for maybe ten....things that looked sort of like sentences, she finally got around to mentioning the child had screamed.

Pancakes take a while. Pancakes, the fastest thing you can make, take a while. Well, they do at Marcy's, because they're famous for their huge pancakes. Which are a major imposition, because they have a small grill and don't have the space.

The story went viral, and soon, Darla Neugebauer was an internet hero. She had defeated a toddler (awesome!), her father (meh), and, best of all, her mother. For people who fantasize they're constantly being oppressed by children and families, it didn't get any better than this.

The problem is, every time Darla has opened her mouth or her keyboard, she's made it clear she is not a well woman. Is it a brain tumor? A personality disorder? A substance abuse problem? The feel bad rainbow offers dozens of possible explanations, and I'm not going to speculate on which one it might be. All I'm saying is, something aside from healthy development, sunshine and puppies is driving this woman's behavior.

I've heard it opined that her rival, Tara Carson, has somehow used her degree in marketing to "make" Darla look crazy. There are a number of problems with this, one of them being that Darla has done most of her talking for herself, another being that, despite Darla's best efforts, most people seem to have fallen firmly into her corner. They don't like her enough to listen to what she actually has to say, but they like they idea of her.

Lest I be accused of "concern trolling," let me be clear. I'm not the least bit concerned. While I don't actively wish Darla Neugebauer harm, I don't like her and don't care what happens to her. It's her fans who should.

Imagine you have a drinking buddy. We'll call her Starla. Starla is more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Mondays, Tuesdays and every other Thursday just wouldn't be the same without her. She's always punching babies whose clueless parents order them pancakes. In short, she's just terrific.

Now, all this is great - for you. But what about Starla? You're having a ball, but Starla's liver is a ticking time bomb. Who's going to intervene? Those entitled assholes who think the world revolves around their special little snowflakes? Not in this culture of narcissism and permissive parenting. They're too busy getting a restraining order to worry about Starla's health. I'm sorry you have to deal with their selfishness, but here we are. If you care about Starla, you're going to have to stop encouraging her.

But enough about Starla. Back to Darla.

"Kids these days are out of control! I can't go anywhere without seeing a kid screaming for 40 minutes straight. People need to teach their kids to behave in public."

Mmmm-hmm. I'm trying very hard to avoid falling into the trap of thinking my experience is universal, but I have never, ever been in a restaurant where a child screamed for 40 minutes. If you say you have, that you see such a thing regularly, do I think you're lying, or at least prone to a certain amount of rather self-indulgent hyperbole? Yes. But I could be wrong.

Occasionally, I've heard a few minutes of screaming at the grocery store. Even at my worst, I know people have to go to the grocery store, and no, in no universe is it reasonable or realistic to think they can or should all get babysitters in order to do it. But I'll admit, the screaming toddlers irritate me. Don't these people get that I'm done with this part of my life? Then it hits me. No, they don't know that. They don't even know I exist, I have nothing to do with why they came to the grocery store, and there's no reason they should care that I'm done with passionate toddlers. Other people have the audacity to be at different stages in life and in parenting than I am, and eventually, I'll die.

At any rate, if you spent any time applauding Darla Neugebauer, I can only assume you believe that not only should kids be included in behavioral expectations, but they should be only for children, because there is not a boundary in the world Neugebauer didn't cross. Either you believe we owe it to each other to maintain a certain baseline of respect, or you don't. If you do, she does not pass inspection. You don't learn manners, you're born with them, and you get to unlearn them. It's the only possible explanation for supporting her.

Tara Carson wrote a column for the Washington Post telling her side of the story, but there was nothing she could have said that wouldn't have been used against her. Say her child fussed a little, and see? Her child is a brat, she said so herself! Say she didn't, and most would have accused her of lying. There's nothing this family can do. Someone said their kid was annoying at a restaurant. Case closed.

I can't say I think Carson did a great job of pleading her case, but in her defense, she must feel like she's entered the Twilight Zone, and not in a good way. I'm going to  make a few assumptions here. They may be way off, but here goes. Tara Carson is generally well-received. She's everything mainstream America usually loves. She's young, white, thin, pretty, middle-class, married to a man in the armed services, and has a degree in marketing. Marketing! Does it get any more young, pretty, white American woman? Yet all it took was one person to claim she ordered pancakes for her daughter, and for the rest of America to interpret that to mean "her child is an out of control monster who is robbing you of your liberty as we speak," and suddenly we all decide Nelson Muntz's mom is more credible than she is.

Please don't think this is an issue close to my heart. It isn't. Or if it is, it isn't in the way you'd think. I've tried to make sure my kids behave in public. I've seen other parents do the same. We're nice to other people, and they're nice to us. If I have one regret, it's that I worried so much about being that mom - the one we all seem to think Tara Carson is - that I prioritized that over my kids' development and well-being. Thinking about it, I'm having a hard time not falling apart. So, never mind. This is an issue close to my heart. Do I hate you for it, every single friend of mine I've seen show Marcy's diner even the slightest support? Yes. Fuck you. I'll never see you again without thinking about it.

I remember hosting a party for a friend. A woman I'd never met before, a single mother with a perfectly lovely son of about three, kept trying to keep him in line, apologize for him, make sure he didn't bother anyone. I knew it wasn't him, and it wasn't her. It was us, or what she feared from us. She was trying to beat us to the punch. If anyone else had looked at him sideways, she'd have just died. Finally, I told her, "No, stop. He has as much right to his place in the world as everyone else here."

Not that I have wisdom to pass around. I don't. I certainly never lived by that.

Tara, no matter what you do, we think you're a terrible mother, and we always will. Always. So you're free. Take care of your beautiful daughter, and don't worry about the rest of us ever again. No big loss. We were assholes anyway.

1 comment:

  1. I'd like to send her some pancakes. Maybe Amazon Prime has them.