Jan 11, 2010
06:34 PM

Social Studies

Social Studies

Photo: Jason Stitt/Dreamstime.com

Anthropologists and social historians of the future are going to know a lot about our era, even if they can’t figure out the traces of Twitter, Facebook, email and cell phones left behind, when technology has advanced so far they’ve become electronic dinosaurs and extinct.

Thanks in good part to the self-help book.

I’m a big believer in the literal page. In holding a book between my hands when I lie in bed or soak in a tub with water so hot my skin turns red and the walls sweat. I have faith that ebooks won’t take away their unique place in the human scheme, and that self-help books, ubiquitous ever since The Peter Principle and What Color is My Parachute?, will continue as long as human beings give a damn.

Especially self-help books for parents, who are sure they know everything about parenting before having a kid, and then learn afterwards that the longer we’re parents, the less we know anything.

My wife and I are from the era of The Incredible Years, The Explosive Child, Last Child in the Woods, Smart Boys, The Wonder of Girls, Reviving Ophelia, Real Boys, The Out of Sync Child and How to Talk to Teenagers About Anything, when being a perfect parent and ideal soccer mom was everything. We’re before books extolling the virtues of bad parenting, parking the helicopter in the hangar, and calling it good if the kids survive the day, even if it takes a lot of drinking to get there.

No, I even want to know the perfect books to haul home from the library for the kids, consulting Book Lust and Book Crush by Nancy Pearl. Though no parenting manual I’ve come across yet promotes Manga or Marvel, so the shelves full of comic strip anthologies, DC Encyclopedias, graphic novels and comic books are our own doing, and a sure indication we’re all a little childish around here.

Not satisfied with torturing myself for being human, I torture myself as a writer, too, seeking help in tomes like How To Be a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead, Selling Your Screenplay, Wild Ink and Writer Mama, since I have multifurcate literary leanings and am easily tempted by books at conferences. Though ultimately you have to just shut the book and write.

A sociologist studying the modern mother might find it interesting that there are Anne Rice eroticas hiding on top of our kitchen cabinets (until we can find a better spot) and Robert Mapplethorpe photography books high up in my wife’s closet (remnants from our four child-free years together), and rightly judge that while we could Talk to Teenagers About Anything, maybe there are some things we’d like to wait on.

The sociologist wouldn’t find the copy of Your Spirited Child we were given before our son was pronounced “way beyond spirited,” The No-Cry Discipline Solution that was annoyingly obvious, any book suggesting we Ferber-ize our young (a get-your-baby-to-sleep method all the rage with pediatricians years ago; it seemed abhorrent then, and after three babyhoods, downright draconian) or the innocent-looking Some Writers Deserve to Starve that was more an assault on author error than a How-to. Because they’re gone.

School used-book faires will take just about anything.


Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting, ehow.com, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (berendemotier.com)

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