Friday, January 24, 2014

Girly girls and tomboys

I am a girl.  Well, a former girl.  I was raised in a family of four daughters.  I wore dresses that swirled out when I spun in a circle.  I played dress-up and dolls.  All of my friends in elementary and middle school were girls.  I did not participate in sports, unless you count twirling on the gym bar, kickball in the backyard, or the occasional game of HORSE with my dad.  I read Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Trixie Belden, and my favorite movie was The Sound of Music.  I took ballet and piano lessons.  Nobody ever called me a tomboy.  I was a girly girl.

As an adult, I drink lattes and snarf down chocolate.  My absolute favorite thing to do is sit and chat.  Next comes reading, knitting, hiking, and cuddling with my kids or my husband.  I make picture books on Snapfish, obsess over Pinterest, and have to wait for my husband or kids to turn on the DVDs for me.  I can bake a cake, but not change the oil.  I wear earrings and scarves, and my favorite recent purchase is a burgundy skirt that swirls around my calves when I walk.  I overuse the word "cute." 

I also haven't shaved my legs since my junior year in college.  I wore makeup daily in high school, but somewhere in college started to only wear it when I was going out.  At the time, that meant once or twice a week; now it means a few times a year.   I don't style my hair, other than to stick it in a ponytail if I overslept and didn't wash it.  I wear ugly shoes because they don't make my feet hurt.  When colleagues start discussing who they think should appear in the movie version of "Fifty Shades of Grey," I haven't heard of any of the actors mentioned, and I still haven't read the book.  I don't care if my husband or kids dress funny.   I've never had a manicure, and I get the cheapest haircut I can find.  I wore a wine colored dress for my wedding, which took place in my parents' living room with fifteen relatives present.  Pinterest weddings seem insane to me.

I have always felt that my infertility is not that big of a deal.

Today Linden was sitting in my lap after school, and apropos of nothing announced, "There's a girl in my class who's a tomboy."

"Only one?" I not-so-innocently replied.

"I mean, Mom, most girls like girl things but she likes boy things."

"I know what a tomboy is," I responded tartly.  "I am just surprised there's only one in your whole class."

I want to sit her down for a lecture about gender roles and stereotypes.  I want to call on her to be kind to this girl who has been singled out by her peers as different.  I want to point out that at Target or any other cheap venue for toys, the toy aisles are so garishly and extravagantly color coded, while at the expensive, locally owned stores they are not.  (What does THAT say about gender and class?)  I want to quote at her an article I read today, written by a coworkers daughter--that if we like swirly skirts and talking about our feelings and eating chocolate, it is not because we are women--we are just women who happen to like those things.  And if I don't shave my legs and don't need years to recover from the disappointment of infertility--I'm not less of a woman.  I'm just a woman who doesn't worry about those particular things.  Another woman could feel the exact reverse about each of those, and still be a woman.  A woman, in fact, could be born in a man's body and still be a woman.  Or a woman could be a lesbian, or a football player, or a model, or a pilot, get the idea.  I basically wanted to rain down "Free to Be You and Me" feminism on her head. But her brother came in and wanted attention too, and the moment slipped away. 

Can I be a girly girl if I hate pink and have no skin care regime?  Can I be a feminist if I do all the dishes and count on my husband to deal with all things car related?  Does my 25 years of membership in a mountain climbing club make me a tomboy?

Well, duh, yes to all of those.  And also no, to all of them, because who wants to live in one of those little boxes?  That's what I want her to understand, I think.  You get to be You, and so does everyone else.

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