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Motherhood is trending

December 19, 2011

If motherhood were a store in a mall, it went from Hot Topic to Barneys.

That's right, one day we were lame, overly bedazzled, trying painfully hard to be current but failing, and the next day, well, we were filled with obscure but tasteful designers and smelling like $90 fig candles.

Motherhood isn't slinging knit fingerless gloves, cheap straw fedoras and Bob Marley T-shirts anymore. It is, quite simply, cool.

Maybe 10 years ago, things began to turn for moms, and not into a lifeless beige cul-de-sac, but more like right into a subway turnstile in Park Slope, a region of Brooklyn currently overtaken by mothers who look like American Apparel ads. Single moms don't have to pretend they don't have kids to be attractive, and boxy minivans can achieve that thing where they are so ugly they're stylish. Brad Pitt dressed up as DJ Lance Rock from the hit kiddie show "Yo Gabba Gabba" for Halloween, and that made it official: The days of parenthood marking you as a drool-covered loser are over. Brad got down with DJ Lance and didn't have to shave his goatee.

Speaking of Brad, I give much of the credit for this upswing in our street cred to his wife, Angelina Jolie, perhaps the most photographed, most discussed, most admired mother in the world. I was going to say Western hemisphere, but no, world works.

In 2002, when she adopted a Cambodian refugee named Maddox, she not only changed his little life, but also transformed the entire vibe of motherhood. She is our spokesmodel - tattooed, thin, worldly, charitable, impeccably dressed, still starring in movies and kicking butt in action sequences. If motherhood needed an image makeover, she gave it to us.

Not only did she become a mother, she adopted. It was clearly not just an "oops," but something into which she put serious thought and effort.

OK, I realize I'm trying to make a subtle point about our culture by discussing Brangelina, but stick with me. They actually are trendsetters. Our society reveres them. So, sorry, but what they do matters.

Now, this is uncomfortable, but I have to say it.

Wasn't the subtext of the media's coverage of Brad and Jennifer Aniston's breakup that Jen wasn't ready to have kids? Didn't this make her come across as kind of ... cold and selfish (not fair, I know)? The message I got from interviews and interminable magazine and television coverage of this trio of famous people is this: Brad was attracted to Angie not despite the fact that she was a mom, but because of it. Early photos showed him playing gleefully with the boy. He wanted family, longed for it, chose it.

Brad and Angelina are paid huge money to endorse products, and yet they wore parenthood for free, and now we all want to get a pair in our size.

On a smaller scale, check out the Twitterverse. One of its rising stars is Kelly Oxford, a Canadian mother whose tweets don't have even a whiff of Erma Bombeck.

She's an excruciatingly hip and pop-culture savvy former model with lots of Hollywood heat, thanks to her 140 character missives - funny, dark, ironic and R-rated. She hitched her wagon to the formerly dull and staid topic of family life and trotted right into the spotlight. She seems like the girl who would come over just to drink all your dad's beer and then pretend she didn't know you at school the next day. Like all things super-high status - the expensive luggage of a stranger, the premium wedding of a cousin, the cover story of The Economist, the pageant winner - she even manages to make you feel a little bit bad about yourself. She's the popular girl, Mean Girl becomes Mean Mom, always saying, doing, wearing everything right - even a baby sling.

So that's the dark side of all this social currency. No, we don't get bad haircuts like Julia Roberts in "Steel Magnolias." However, we are expected to remain thin, relevant and breezily high style, like real-life Roberts. Trending, if you will, takes work.

Despite the pressure to live up to our new station, it's still better to be a hot topic than Hot Topic.


Teresa Strasser is an Emmy-winning television writer, a two-time Los Angeles Press Club Columnist of the Year and a multimedia personality. She is the author of a new book, "Exploiting My Baby."



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