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Nov 18 2010

Pixies and Magical Small Butlers

By at 3:10 pm

Here’s where I get all confessional: I kind of hate New York City.

Don’t get me wrong–I love living near a zillion cousins-in-law and a gabillion kosher restaurants. But you know how people say that, in L.A., people say “thank you” but mean “f– you” and in New York, they say “f– you” but mean “thank you”? Well, I’d rather people hated my guts but were still polite about it.

The Village Voice just came up with their list of 50 things to love about New York. And, fresh off another shift at the Park Slope Food Coop, I fell in love in particular with #25:

25. Except in select ‘hoods like Park Slope and perhaps the Upper West Side, children are viewed as mysterious beings, rarely sighted and only occasionally understood, like pixies or magical small butlers. Until they scream, in which case, they are banished from the palace.

Admittedly, we sometimes are not very good about that (example: seeing Scott Pilgrim in midtown, when our infant was totally quiet for an hour and 25 minutes and then screamed her head off during the last fight scene. (I know, go figure.) But in all other instances: yes.

I really do live in two worlds. At home in Brooklyn, everyone has kids — often 5, 7, 12 or more. When I’m at work, or hanging out with my non-Hasidic friends in the city, though, my kids are like aliens. (Friendly, curious Gizmo-like aliens; not like Alien aliens.) They are treated with curiosity, amazement (childlike amazement, you might say) and utter wonder, the kind given to roadshow zoos and Times Square subway dancers: Do these things really exist? Can people be that cute without the assistance of Japanese animators?

In general, I prefer the Brooklyn side of things. We live there. We don’t have to watch what we say, translating every Hasidic idiom we drop and making sure we don’t talk about our kids too much. But the other thing about kids is they wear you out. You have other things on your mind that have nothing to do with them (job, bills, the Buffy season you’re in the middle of watching), but the things that they have on their mind (food! peeing!) always involve you.

And therefore, it’s a relief — sometimes a huge one — to remember that the island of Manhattan exists, to jump on a subway and watch your hipster friends fawning and E.T.-ing over your miniature heirs. Oh, you will say to yourself, they really ARE wonderful and miraculous — and you’ll be right.

Of course, there are limits. Whilst hanging out with my friends Jason and Emily a few weeks ago, I casually mentioned how it’s hard to find a good babysitter — whereupon they jumped at the opportunity. “Call us!” they raved. “We love kids! We won’t even charge you!” You do realize, I asked them, that we get babysitters at night, when our kids are asleep? “Oh,” they said, shuffling their feet. “Never mind.” And then they bought me a beer — as a consolation prize, I guess.


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