And yet people also felt sorry for her. They were angry at her—she was a bad mother!—but they could also identify. “Does anyone ever wonder if celebs post here (like Britney for example) and then feel bad about what people say here about her. I would be so horrified if there were somewhere where people criticized my parenting!”
And “I have been thinking for a long time that even though Britney does some stupid things it’s sweet how much she holds Tater Tot.”
Within days, people began admitting to their inner Britney:
“Call me Britney. I was carrying dd at the park this weekend, slipped on some water & totally wiped out . . . I conked my head & everything & now I can’t stop having these horrible images of what could have happened.”
I think I totally get why britney stuffed herself in that ‘cute figure’ outfit last night: she hasn’t grasped yet that she isn’t still the super-hot-bodied girl anymore. I only know from my own personal experience—not that I wore jean skirts, but it has taken me until after my second baby was born to get it through my head that my body was not as tight as it used to be. it’s like I was seeing the old me in the mirror out of habit.”
Celebrities are huge on UrbanBaby—the boards often clutter up with posts reading “TEAM JOLIE!” and “TEAM ANISTON!”—but of all the famous women whose alternately stuffed and unstuffed wombs have been documented in US Weekly, Britney brings out the strongest emotions. She’s the much-mocked public mother, the one everyone was afraid lurked inside them, the woman with the bull’s-eye on her belly. She was weeping and a mess and totally out of control, and that was the scariest thing of all.
Late at night, the woman on UrbanBaby start talking dirty. They list how many partners they have had. They argue about oral sex and start up extended chats about lesbian seductions—including confessions of playground affairs that seem at once convincing (details about children napping in a Pack n’ Play!) and suspiciously akin to Penthouse’s “Forum” stories. The next morning, the discussion has been deleted.
And then there are their opposite numbers. Search “sexless” and you find a series of posts seeking community: “Anyone else in a sexless marriage?” Some are regretful: “I guess I just wanted to get married and have a baby, but I’m starting to look at everyone else and think they’re happier than me.” Some are wishful: “Anyone know if there’s anything a woman can take to increase the sex drive. like herbal stuff or something?”
One night, a poster wrote in a panic that she’d found a receipt for lingerie that she’d never received. Over the next hour, dozens of anonymous posters walked her through the possibilities: Could it be a gift for her? Was he cheating? She posted again and again: She was a stay-at-home mom with small children; she usually contacted him by his cell phone. UrbanBaby posters argued tactics: Should she confront him when he got home? Coolly place the receipt on his plate? We eagerly waited for her to return and tell us what had happened, but she never came back, and no one could figure out whether that meant it was a fake or whether she had gotten bad news and never logged on again. Days after the incident, people continued posting to her, hoping she’d reappear, but she never did. And when someone would post claiming to be her, it was impossible to confirm if it was true.
Another night, on one of the numerous threads in which people ask for people to post secrets, a woman revealed, “I may get married purposely to get divorced and get the alimony money.” She was quickly called a sociopath. Posters were fascinated that she’d confess such a thing: How could she be so cold? And she did come across as cold but also intelligent and insightful, disassociated yet, like many of the posters on threads like this, startlingly self-reflective. She revealed that she prefers being a single mother. The guy is a nice-enough guy; he’s just “there.” And perhaps unsurprisingly, she was abandoned as a child and abused, although she told nobody about these experiences, or at least nobody except us.
Men on UrbanBaby are a very strange presence. They are necessary, and they are useless. They are critical, in both senses. Although women sometimes post loving accounts of their husband’s sexiness and smarts, more often men are less loving partners than objects for study: Did I know he was like this when I married him? Has he changed or have I? Search for divorce, and you find women in all stages: about to leave, negotiating settlements, struggling with the mess of a custody dispute, and trying to keep things going.