November 28, 2007

Details Knows Its Readers Very, Very, Very Well.

details_k-fed_cover.jpgI can't believe I ever actually wrote for a Conde Nast magazine. And not just once, either, repeatedly. What an embarrassment. The title of one of the cover stories in this month's issue of Details magazine caught my attention, just as it was designed to do: "Are You Raising A Douchebag?"

Surprising no one, this flamebaiting article consists of a near-random list of f'r instances, hyperbolic hypotheticals--and lifestyle tips from Conde Nast magazines. If this is some freelancer's stealth idea of Conde-jamming, like how I once brought an editorial meeting to a dead stop by trying to include a mention of owner S.I. Newhouse's art purchases in an article, then I heartily approve. Unfortunately, I think I have to take the section hed at face value--

Looking for stories with an edge? Welcome to Details' forum for the controversial, the opinionated, and, yes, the provocative. If you have a reaction, well, that's the whole idea.
--and assume that these potential signs of junior douchebaggery don't serve any purpose beyond spasmodically pushing every conceivable button, like a shivering crackhead pounding the intercom in hopes that someone will buzz him into the heated lobby for the night.

Still, I've extracted the "data," 32 specific [sic] douchebag infractions, after the jump. Maybe throwing some analysis at it will help tease out some actual insights into a parenting situation I suspect is either flat-out obvious, entirely fabricated, or some combination of the two:


The Data: I identified 32 examples within the article, which I have grouped according to issue. Though a few signs of douchebaggery sound made up, and several are easily refutable [What kid doesn't have an opinion about a shark in a tank? What kid orders foie gras in the first place?], I excluded just one, "Likes parents," because a) it came from an actual expert [a child psychologist], who b) lives in Dayton, Ohio, a flyover town in a flyover state:

Art Issues [2]
opines about Damien Hirst
"fancies" himself collector of "highly coveted art"

80's Music Issues [2]
can tell Joey and Dee Dee apart
appreciates Roxy Music just like us

Service Industry Issues [2]
has a nanny trained in CPR
belongs to Citi-Babes

Gear Issues [3]
gets pushed around in a Bugaboo By
has his own moon bounce
learns to text message

Birthday Party Issues [4]
gets driven in limo to recording studio at birthday party
gets playtime with real tiger cub at birthday party
gets Criss Angel booked for fifth birthday party
says a friend's party was "unbelievably lame"

Fashion Issues [4]
wears Sex Pistol T-shirts
is bought a $400 Little Marc cashmere hoodie on the recommendation of a baby magazine
has his diapers carried in a Louis Vuitton bag
dresses...just like us

Food Issues [5]
eats sushi
demands heirloom tomatoes
asks how the branzino is prepared
sends back foie gras
chooses your weekend brunch spot

Behavioral Issues [9]
terrorizes peers for not wearing Junior Dolce & Gabbana
parties with parents like Paris, Lindsay and Britney do
flips the bird
thinks "it's weird" that someone else is flying first class
develops some serious entitlement issues
incessantly talks back
vocabulary is limited to "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"
speaks...just like us
reminds you in no uncertain terms

The Takeaway: Setting aside the things that aren't actually douchey--knowing the Ramones, eating sushi, having a qualified caregiver--the majority of the warning signs turn out to be either solely parental or beyond a kid's control. The major issue is not "indulgent parenting," but the parents' own negative behavior, speech, and outlook which the kids pick up on. If your kid is a rude, selfish, insecure, materialistic, status-obsessed douchebag, it's because you are, too.

Wow, I stand corrected; this is a groundbreaking discovery of major importance to douchebag parents everywhere, a population which apparently includes readers of Details, Vanity Fair, and Cookie.

Are You Raising A Douchebag? [ via the magazine's editors]


I love this one:

"dresses...just like us"

When have parents not made their kids dress like them? It's one of those weird things about parents buying their kids clothes. I'm surprised they don't talk about the trends in the seventies for whole family matching outfits, or the matching puff-paint/kitty cat sweatshirt debacles of the 80s.

speaks...just like us ?

who should they speak like, the CPR-trained Caribbean nanny?

"[T]he majority of the warning signs turn out to be either solely parental or beyond a kid's control." Well, yeah, because they are beyond a kid's control. It's not the kid who's the problem; it's the parent(s). Kids don't start out inherently loathsome.

"If your kid is a rude, selfish, insecure, materialistic, status-obsessed douchebag, it's because you are, too." Well, yes -- but isn't that exactly what this list of issues illustrates? Which is not to say that parenting isn't a fraught-filled, difficult venture.

Haven't read the article, though, I'm just going by what's here.

Crap! I just bought my kid a Ramones logo hoodie!

[fortunately, "asks which Ramone is on the hoodie" is not on the list; you're safe -ed.]

I do believe that it takes a village of douchebags to raise a douchebag!

I admit that my 2-year-old has been picking our weekend breakfast joint for a few months now, but that's partly because he likes to say "home plate" (name of restaurant). And okay, granted, because the owners revere him like a tulku ever since the first morning he walked in cheering "home plate! home plate! home plate!" If that makes us indulgent douchebags, I guess I can live with that.

So this article is a hipster version of that time-honored tradition of decrying "the kids these days", I guess. The stuff of outrage? Perhaps, until you remember that what doesn't sound made up by a lazy journalist in this article is really only talking about a tiny demographic - .000001% of the wealthiest population of NY and LA.

My 18-month old has been eating things like foie gras and sushi since she got her first tooth (two of her favorite things, actually). What's wrong with that? She eats everything we eat, and it's certainly better for her than the chicken fingers and pizza you find in every freezer and kids' menu.

[I know, I keep waiting for someone to explain why the alternative--nothing but Elmo & Dora, buttered pasta and chicken fingers, and Old Navy--is so preferable. -ed.]

Up until I read this article I really liked my kids. But now I see that I was blinded by my own paternal instincts. Thank you Details mag. with out you how would I have ever known what complete douchebags my children are.

[at least you found out early enough. Imagine if you invested a whole 22 years in them, and only found out they were douchebags after you'd paid for four years at Brown... -ed.]

I wish my parents had dressed me in stylish clothes. My folks have no fashion sense and all through elementary school I wore whatever. Junior high was a rude awakening when I found out that kids care about clothes and I was clueless about what was cool. So, hell yes, I'll dress my son like I do.

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