I have two sisters, both of whom are writers: One is the wife of an Evangelical pastor, and the other is married to a heavy-metal rock star. My sisters have long represented a scenario ripe for sociological study, or, at the very least, an ideal premise for a laugh-track-fortified WB sitcom.
With the soft-spoken churchgoing sister, my duties as an aunt have been relatively uncomplicated. Her nursery had a Noah’s Ark theme, so I picked up a onesie with a pair of heterosexual giraffes on it and called it a day.
But when my fashion-obsessed metalhead sister Celeste bore her first child in January, I was at a loss stylistically. It seemed fundamentally weird to launch a barrage of pink babyGap merchandise her way, given that both she and her guitarist husband were clad in head-to-toe black for their wedding. What’s an appropriate gift for your sister’s firstborn daughter when her daddy is a rhythm-crushing thrash machine?
While driving down Sunset Boulevard, I’m stopped short by a blinding ray of hope in the form of fuschia signage proclaiming “Rocker Moms not Soccer Moms.” I flip a bitch, park the car, and wander inside a small boutique called Sugar Baby.
Entering the shop, you’re greeted by a pintsize mannequin sporting a tiny Black Sabbath shirt. Explore a few feet farther and you’ll find a collection of books with titles like: Hot Mama: How to Have a Babe and Be a Babe and 50 Jobs Worse Than Yours nestled among creepy but kid-friendly insect guides and narrative classics like Little Red Riding Hood.
Trip-hop gently thumps from the sound system, and a center display boasts a collection of baby outfits that bear the likenesses of Iggy Pop, the Ramones and AC/DC. Peering into a glass case displaying miniature leather wrist cuffs, I audibly swoon, and a voice chimes in behind me: “I know, everything is cute when it’s, like, an inch big.”
A delicately featured woman with rocker elegance and long, platinum hair asks if I’m looking for anything in particular as she kneels down trying to coax a toddler out from under a display of chenille booties. Christina Sitkevich is a co-owner of Sugar Baby (along with Lisa Ackey), and we get to chatting as I paw through a pile of luxe silk receiving blankets trimmed with faux leopard fur. I ask her about the void that can only be filled with Black Flag onesies, and she breezily ruminates on modern women waiting further into adulthood to have kids. By that time, she explains, identities are solidified and someone who gravitates toward music and counterculture won’t simply reverse her tracks after giving birth. Reaching for one of her daughter Lilah’s errant socks, she notes, “How you dress your child is an extension of yourself.” She gives a blithe shrug and adds half-jokingly, “Dress your child like a bozo, and it reflects on you.”
My sister will later echo this sentiment, confessing, “Looking through a Pottery Barn Kids catalogue makes me want to barf.” She admits that years of seeing women her age in pastel cardigans spewing baby talk to their 6-year-olds was a strong deterrent to parenthood. She didn’t want to compromise her own identity, or, worse yet, raise a “snooty little cookie-cutter, all-American brat.” And she asserts that she’s not alone: “I think there are a lot more of the non-minivan-driving, untraditional moms out there, but no one ever addresses them.”
Vacillating between gifts for baby Sofia, I strongly consider purchasing a newborn-size “I Have a Hot Auntie” jumper. But at the last moment, I opt for a miniature T-shirt emblazoned with the crucial lesson, “M is for Metal” and fully accept the risk that it may cause my sister to suffer a joy-induced aneurysm. Christina rings up the $28 purchase, and I barely flinch at the price. I figure that if my sister waited 36 years to have a child, I could shell out a few extra bucks for a gift that truly honors what brought this child into the world: a shared love of thrasher metal.
Sugar Baby, 7523 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A.; Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (323) 969-9143.
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