First, the part where I apologize for breaking my New Year’s Resolution. Who’s with me? Come on… You don’t really go to the gym three times a week, right? You only made it through 20 minutes of “Insanity!” and you’re never getting the t-shirt. Except maybe on Ebay.
I said I’d post on Mondays and Thursdays, and I barely made it a week. I’m revising my commitment to once a week. I’ll build from there.
Now, let’s talk about the kerfuffle on http://getoffmyinternets.net regarding Kelle Hampton’s Instagram photo of naked Nella.
For those of you who don’t follow, let me sum up. Kelle Hampton was a young woman in Florida with a photography blog. She posted lovely photos of her daughter, Lainey — a dead ringer for husband Brett — squeezed between uncapitalized, poorly punctuated text that included such ejaculations of wonder as “dude”.
She “rocked” everything. You name it, she could rock it. She was, if you will, a rockstar. She who didn’t just do stuff. She. rocked. it.
Her husband’s sperm being one of the many things Kelle rocked, she became pregnant with another girl. Nella was born just a few months after my daughter Viva, so I had recently discovered the world of the “mommy blog.” I’d reached the ripe old age of 38 and had yet to follow any blogs. To this old lady, they were still nothing more than the unpolished ramblings of the morons who killed print journalism. Heather “Dooce” Armstrong’s blog link was posted on a thread in my “due date group” one morning and since she had also just recently had a second child, I started reading hers too.
Then, Nella’s birth story hit like the norovirus, and we were all infected. Every mommy group on the internet posted a link to this “amazing, touching story.” Scrolling through photographs of Nella Hampton’s smooshed nose and Kelle Hampton’s bloated, ugly cry face, I felt reprehensibly grateful for my typical baby. I remember one photo in particular of Kelle looking up at Brett as she held her newborn. Her story claimed no one but her knew in those early moments that Nella had Down Syndrome, and you can see the pleading, desperate fear on her face as she looks to her husband for acceptance. I felt sorry for her.
Then, she catapulted to Internet Viral Fame, and my pity turned to jealousy. There we both were, writers with newborn babies, only she was successful and I was not. Jealousy is not something I can claim today.
I read that Hampton recently posted a photo of herself on Instagram, coiffed, made-up, and pregnant, admiring herself in the mirror. Incidentally, in the background, was her three year-old daughter in the tub, naked, eating a giant bowl of ice cream, vulvic cleft clearly visible. Allegedly. I never saw the photo myself.
The outcry was so shrill, even Kelle Hampton, who never addresses her critics except in an adorably wry and defensive way, wrote a response to it. She quoted Bill Cosby. Quite a departure from her usual sucking the marrow out of Emerson. She pronounced her critics full of pain. “Hurt people hurt” was either something she decided, or something a sycophant wrote in the comments. Commenters assured her that anyone who doesn’t agree with her or perceive in all its glory the miracle that is Kelle is a) jealous, b) a moron, c) a hater, d) a miserable troll, e) all of the above. Years ago, her father Rik, nicknamed “Poppa” by Himself, shook his flaxen Moe Howard locks and bemoaned a world where people who criticize his spawn sing the “sad symphonies” of their ugly lives.
I see a difference between a person who leaves hateful words in a blogger’s comment section and a person like me who writes my own blog. I get an email every time someone leaves a comment on my blog, but if I want to read criticism of me, my looks, my writing, my parenting, or my lentil stew, I’d have to go looking for it. Actually, I have a person in my life who would “helpfully” let me know all about it, but I’ll write about my Toxic Best Friend Syndrome more directly later. The former invades your space and startles you. The latter is also hurtful, but you have only yourself to blame if you Google yourself.
The most damning criticism of Kelle Hampton’s choice to post a photo of her naked three year-old daughter who has Down Syndrome has been that pedophiles troll the internet looking for children to victimize, and Kelle handed them her child on a silver platter. Commenters on GOMI pointed out how easy it is to get Kelle’s address and that she’s posted so many pictures of her house, her children, and herself that anyone familiar with her blog could walk right up her chalk decorated driveway and into her child’s bedroom without making a single wrong turn (and presumably leave with a beautifully hand-labeled bottle of homemade bath salts).
Be that as it may, I think the real issue here is that bloggers who post pictures of their children are perched on a knife edge. Do not these children have a right to privacy? When they become adults and someone does an internet search of them, will hundreds of pictures of them as children come up, and how will they feel about that? I’ll tackle the elephant in the room. It is with no unkind intentions that I say Nella will probably not ever be able to understand her internet celebrity. Lainey, the older one, will get to an age where she will tell her mother to knock it the fuck off. In all probability, Nella will not have the same abstract understanding of what it means that her picture on the computer can be seen by anyone in the world. She won’t really understand how she has been used and her privacy violated. Her personhood disregarded.
Whenever I post my daughters’ pictures (privately) for my relatives and close friends on Facebook, I beam over the compliments and the “likes.” I grew those kids in my womb. They are part of me. They look like me (a tiny bit). Having people tell me how adorable and smart my kids are strokes my ego and feeds every narcissistic cell in my body (of which I have many). Imagine how that feeling is compounded when the “likes” are not 30 but three hundred and a book deal.
Kelle wrote that she was going to, wait for it… Rock being the mother of a baby with Down Syndrome. She was going to do it in a way no one had ever done it, or thought to do it, before. I’m paraphrasing. Or completely making this up. I forget which. I wonder if she realized how this little “Nellempire” was going to take on a life of its own and sweep her along with it to the extent that she became virtually a figurehead of the Kelle Hampton Brand instead of the relatable “mama” she started out as.
Why can’t Hamptoloonies say “mother” and “children”? It’s always “mama” and “littles.”
Over my life, I’ve read much about narcissists. They are created in childhoods where they are either over-indulged or ignored. They have grandiose false selves invented for them, or they invent them on their own. They construct these fragile gingerbread houses out of sugar and spice and everything nice, and in the center are hollow, unfillable voids.
The child of a narcissist has no identity or value outside of the narcissist. The child is an extention of the parent. Her only purpose is to bring praise and attention. The men who marry narcissistic women live stressful lives of hopping from foot to foot trying to make that bitch happy, all the while knowing nothing CAN make her happy. She is a bottomless pit. So they settle for trying to avoid being the targets of her fury. Said fury may take the form of passive-aggressive comments like, “You really should think about other people sometimes.” It may look like full-frontal assaults: “How YOU feel? How do you think I FEEL?!” Or maybe just sulky silent treatments. One article I read told me that spouses of narcissists often have all sorts of physical ailments, the manifestations of a life spent on edge, waiting for the fallout of displeasing the narcissist: insomnia, chronic illness, chest pains, panic attacks, hair loss, rashes, the works.
It must be a relief to a spouse to have the narcissistic lens turned toward the offspring. Not so much for the children, of course. Children have a way of rewriting any narrative so that they themselves are the villains. Mommy or Daddy will always gleefully lose the game of “who is the worst person in the world?” with little children of narcissists. Or win, depending on whose side you’re on.
I’m not a therapist, but I am happy to make internet diagnoses of public figures I’ve never met. Ever since I began writing stories at the age of six, I have been a keen observer of people and their stories. I’m fascinated by what motivates them and I enjoy dissecting what they do. Some would call this “gossip”, but I have no use for goody-goodies like them. Someone recently quoted Eleanor Roosevelt to me, the gist of which was “small-minded people gossip.” Well, Mrs. Roosevelt was very likely used to small-minded people having something to say about those teeth. Bless her heart (Southern catch-all disclaimer).
I think there are two categories of people who put pictures of naked children on the internet: narcissists and idiots. Oh, and Anne Geddes. But this last one takes artistic photos of babies dressed as pea pods, and they’re not her own children but anonymous child models whose names and addresses we don’t have. And I’m pretty sure baby junk is not featured in any of them. If you made a Venn Diagram of idiots and narcissists, there would be plenty in the overlapping region. Take from that what you will. What I do believe is that Hampton Enterprises was in danger of alienating potential customers, which is probably why the picture came down, even after much defiant refusal to admit anything was wrong with it. Someone got wise, probably someone on the PR team who ran some numbers.
All of this will soon be moot (not “mute,” honey). The Messiah is coming. The Son. (“Boy is highest blessing!” – Magda). Pour Elijah the Prophet a glass of wine and make ready. February is almost here.