Lost a bit in the story about Manhattan moms who hire disabled tour guides to avoid lines at Disney is how the story came out: from the research of an anthropologist.
“It’s insider knowledge that very few have and share carefully,” said social anthropologist Dr. Wednesday Martin, who caught wind of the underground network while doing research for her upcoming book “Primates of Park Avenue.”
“Who wants a speed pass when you can use your black-market handicapped guide to circumvent the lines all together?” she said.
“So when you’re doing it, you’re affirming that you are one of the privileged insiders who has and shares this information.”
A win for social science? Perhaps not – Wednesday Martin was trained in comparative literature. I imagine there is some more backstory to this including how Martin found out about this practice and how this information made it to the media. Here is more about the book with an intriguing title which is to be released next year:
What happens when an anthropologist from the Midwest moves to Manhattan’s most prestigious zip code…and raises her children there? Primates of Park Avenue is an anthropological memoir of Manhattan motherhood by Dr. Wednesday Martin, author of Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel and Act the Way We Do (Houghton Mifflin, 2009). By turns hilarious, touching and insightful, Primates of Park Avenue reveals the pressures, conundrums and competition that make mothers and mothering in Manhattan unique. From a deconstruction of the exercise and self-care practices of the caste of women with children she calls “Manhattan Geishas” to the lurid details of her own crazed pursuit of a Birkin bag; to an analysis of the rites of passage like the coop board interview, the gut renovation, bed bug battles and “ongoing” school applications that brought her to her knees; to an exploration of what she calls “the world’s most complicated, fraught, and misrepresented relationship, the dance between mothers and the nannies they hire to help them raise their children”; to an inside view of the galas, benefits, kiddie birthday parties and other extravaganzas of conspicuous consumption that define her adopted tribe, Martin spares no detail in exploring what makes Uptown motherhood strange, exotic and utterly foreign and fascinating. At the same time, Primates of Park Avenue illuminates the quests, anxieties and ambitions–for a healthy, happy child, a good night’s sleep, sexual satisfaction, financial security and a concealer that actually works–that connect women with children all across the country and all over the world.
An “anthropological memoir” – this might be easier for the general public to understand than saying it is a personal ethnography. It sounds like the book, in the words of one of my colleagues, will take the familiar, the wealthy in New York City, and make it exotic.