I told my friend Michelle about dance class last night and she nodded her head knowingly. She grew up in a small Iowa town about thirty miles from West Liberty.
"I wasn't sure if she was serious," I told Michelle, about the mother I overheard saying she would beat her daughter.
"Of course not," Michelle shook her head. According to her, it's all just talk with those sorts of moms. She said she knows them, grew up with those kinds of moms. That's how they know to parent. She herself is very kind to her children, chuckling with her son in a non-judgmental way when he comes looking for a third or fourth piece of gum after swallowing the others at the school carnival last week.
Michelle says she can probably guess how the hard-talking dance Mom looked. I described her: "She had permed, frosted hair that was short on top and came out in a triangle shape around her face."
"There you go. There you go," said Michelle, as if this explained everything. She added, "And I bet she had white canvas shoes."
Apparently, this sort of parenting occurs in a particular subculture of the Midwest. In the rural, less literate parts of Iowa, for sure. Of course there are exceptions to the stereotype, but the mean-talking seems to go along with particular mannerisms, fashion, educational achievement, and economic status.