So the older kid seems to have finally brought something home from school other than a virus intent on crippling our household for several more weeks of this ever-morphing malaise that's kept us sighing and blowing into hankies like lovelorn, syphilitic fops: now she's brought home all kinds of annoying gender issues, too. For the first semester of the school year, her class was all girls, and I guess they spent their time quietly cooking and sewing and walking across the room with books on their heads. But about two months ago, her class received a hot beef injection in the form of three strapping male toddlers, one of whom is still in diapers (Juniper told me this with a hint of scandal). Now she won't wear the cowboy outfit I found at Value World because, "Duh, Pops, cowboys are BOYS." She won't play with toy cars anymore, not even her beloved die-cast Wienermobile. And I'm no longer fit to do her hair in the morning, because I don't do it "girly" enough.
I fully expected that one day my daughter would come home from school with all kinds of annoying gender issues, but I thought that day would come in 2024 when she's had half a semester's worth of an introductory women's studies course and my grizzled fatherly ass will say over Thanksgiving dinner, "I'm not paying $300,000 a year for some graduate student who doesn't bleach her mustache to teach you that all men are evil. Most are, of course, but not all." Now that her preschool classroom has gone coed, boys are gross and she doesn't want anything to do with them. Her brother and I are tolerable exceptions. She still can't walk into a room where her brother is sitting without running over to give him a kiss and a hug.
Her conception of gender and clothing has also become totally out of whack. Jeans? "Boy clothes." T-shirts? "Boy clothes." Sweaters? "Too boy-ee." It certainly doesn't help that since we found out #2 would be a boy, my thrift store eye has widened towards clothes she can wear now that he will also be able to wear later, i.e. a lot of "boy-ee clothes." When I ask her what "girl clothes" are, her answer is succinct and unequivocal: pink dresses. Upon further interrogation, it turns out pink skirts are also acceptable.
My wife just lets her wear the one damn pink dress she owns over and over again. "Why fight it?" Wood says in her typical laissez-faire manner. She lets the kid dress herself, and Juniper inevitably chooses some garish combination of pink and purple. "Great," I say. "She looks like a box of Grape/Strawberry Nerds." Wood just shrugs her shoulders.
See, I have always been the one who dresses the kid. I'm the one who buys all her clothes. I have much more at stake in this battle. For the longest time, simply giving her a choice between two outfits was all the control she needed. Now, when I dress her before school she's inevitably upside-down and screaming hexes at me while I stretch some piece of fabric dyed a PRIMARY COLOR over her tiny torso. And you can forget about brown. If I go anywhere near a piece of brown clothing she screams "Brown is a boy color!" and assumes a defensive kung fu stance. It turns out that red, blue, yellow, green, black, and orange are boy colors too. When I ask "what is a girl color" and she says "pink," I tell her I used to wear pink shirts when I worked in San Francisco. She then looks at me as though she has serious doubts about the truthfulness of my purported sexual orientation. "Some boys wear skirts, too," I say, but she just laughs. "Silly Dada," she says.
Instead of letting her grow out of this, I seem intent on proving that I can be more stubborn than her. The fact is, I don't like my daughter thinking there's something she can't do---or wear--- just because she's a girl. One of the most annoying things about having a parent who's a lawyer is that lawyers always think they can convince you to change your mind if they just show you enough evidence. So I show her a picture of a young Katherine Hepburn in a pantsuit. "That's Katherine Hepburn," I say, though apparently this means nothing to her. I put Annie Hall in the DVD player. "Look, Juney, that's Diane Keaton. See how she's wearing that boy tie and boy vest and how she still looks girly? She's so girly that annoying little guy with the glasses falls in love with her somewhere in the middle of all that whining. . ." Finally I say, "Look at your Mama. She's a girl, and she wears jeans almost every day. And t-shirts too." Juniper mulls over this damning evidence.
"I'll wear boy clothes like that sometimes when I'm older."
For the St. Patrick's Day parade this past weekend, we battled for fifteen minutes until I told her the leprechauns wouldn't talk to her if she's wearing a filthy pink dress and not a green one. The thought of missing out on a conversation with some wee fairy folk was too much to bear, so she relented and let me put a green dress on her. When we arrived at the parade, I couldn't believe my good fortune. Everywhere you looked, there were prime examples of that certain type of douchebag who loves celebrating his Celtic ancestry by drinking heavily while wearing a kilt. "Look Juney, look at all those BOYS wearing SKIRTS!"
She was clearly crushed. Everywhere she looked, there was evidence that boys, indeed, wear skirts. I almost felt bad for her, but then out of the corner of my eye I saw the one piece of evidence I needed to deliver the coup de grâce. "Look Juney," I shouted, pointing at a fat guy wearing rollerblades and peeing on an abandoned building. "Utilikilt!"