A Missed Opportunity?

Today our family went to a popular independent restaurant for brunch. At one point, our very enthusiastic server said to Noah “Nice curls buddy! They’re going to be a pain in the butt for the rest of your life!” I kindly responded that I was pretty sure the grass is always greener on the other side, because I feel like having completely straight hair is sometimes a big, fat pain in the butt. She followed up by saying that it was even harder having two parents with straight hair who didn’t know what to do with curls…so they cut it off short. And then adds in “Yeah, it was no fun because everyone just thought I was a boy in a dress” and walks off. Mind you, she’s saying this to a not always so feminine woman with short hair and a skirt. ;o)

More often than not, when these moments arise, I take the time to politely respond back in a manner that let’s them (and Noah) know that boys in dresses are actually quite awesome, as are girls that look like “boys”. At that moment, however, I was exhausted, hungry and just plain not in the mood. She was busy, we were having a family meal and it just wasn’t a moment to open up a discussion about gender issues. I did make the comment at our table, to the family, that there’s obviously nothing wrong with boys in dresses. When comments like this are made to or around you and your little ones in public, how do you respond? I feel like it is my job to respond to comments like this (especially around Noah), and put a positive message out there that we really needn’t adhere to societal pressures to be “girly” girls and “manly” men. I’d love to hear about other experiences and open doors for discussion!

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This entry was published on 4 August 2012 at 5:38 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

14 thoughts on “A Missed Opportunity?

  1. Well it’s not exactly the same issue, but it brings to mind two things that happen to us ALL THE TIME when we are out and about. At least once a day, someone says to or about Noah, LOOK AT THOSE GORGEOUS CURLS! (Or, He has gorgeous hair! Or, He is so gorgeous!) Without fail, my also gorgeous (but straight-brown-haired girl) is standing right by hearing this, with nary a comment directed to or about her gorgeousness, or her stunning chestnut locks. So it bothers me on two levels: 1) I *so* do not want so much attention drawn to any physical attribute of either one of my kids because it teaches them that your physical appearance is in some way more important than other things about you, and 2) I think it sucks for Brynn to constantly hear all of this adoration for her brother while being, in most cases, ignored. I don’t even know what message that is sending to her, but I’m sure it’s not very fun. My response is usually something like, “Yes, I am lucky to have two kids who are beautiful on the inside and out!” But it’s like, really people? UGH.

    • Oh, Amy…that’s awful! Brynn is such an amazing kid, inside and out. To think that people don’t think about how their words affect little ones…ugh. I don’t mind when people tell me how beautiful Noah is when he’s not around but I don’t want him to hear it too much and rely on that to get him through life! Usually, though, if someone interacts with him long enough they are commenting on his personality long before his looks. :O) I think you have found the perfect response to the comments you get, mama!

  2. We live in the midwest, and get exposed to a LOT of old-fashioned, sexist attitude. I view it as my job, too, to point out that not everybody feels that way. I can tell my poor boy has really internalized a lot of the social message, though–he won’t wear pink or set foot in the “girl” aisles at the store. Considering his favorite color was pink till he was about 5, it makes me very sad.

    • Oh, that’s so sad to hear! We are in the Midwest, as well. Oddly enough, we have a ridiculously strong community of people who support Noah in who he is as an individual and in that we are lucky. I think that it is inherent in his genes to enjoy being different and I think that has taken him a long way, too. It kills me to hear of little ones tucking their interests away into a “closet” because of our society.

  3. Noah looks great! I super love the dress. =)

  4. dtaggert on said:

    Encountering homophobia, however innocently expressed, is always a shock, especially when dealing with supposedly ‘intelligent’ people, I encountered this 3 years ago, when I was apartment hunting. I don’t work; I volunteer for PFLAG (among other worthy causes), so when a prospective landlord would ask me where I was employed, I’d tell them. ‘PFLAG?’, they’d ask, bewildered. ‘Yes, Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays’, I’d answer. ‘Um, let me talk to my wife & I’ll call you back.’ they’d reply. This wasn’t isolated. 9 out of 10 people I had this reaction!

    While I’m grateful they did that, as I’d never want to live anywhere with a homophobic landlord, it’s very depressing that supposedly college-educated people, presumably in the top 5% of this country’s income brackets, could still feel this way. It’s disheartening in the extreme, especially in a supposedly gay-friendly east-coast

    • It’s HORRIBLE that people are even able to get away with such discrimination still. I always think about what it would be like living somewhere else but, quite frankly, for living in the Midwest we kind of have it made. The thought of forcing Noah to rebuild a supportive community does not sound appealing to me at all, no matter how much the mountains still call to me! I think that building the confidence in our youth, to be who they want to be and be proud of it, will only bring us closer to a more accepting world. As a side note, thanks for the work that you do with PFLAG!

  5. dtaggert on said:

    Encountering homophobia, however innocently expressed, is always a shock, especially when dealing with supposedly ‘intelligent’ people, I encountered this 3 years ago, when I was apartment hunting. I don’t work; I volunteer for PFLAG (among other worthy causes), so when a prospective landlord would ask me where I was employed, I’d tell them. ‘PFLAG?’, they’d ask, bewildered. ‘Yes, Parents & Friends of Lesbians & Gays’, I’d answer. ‘Um, let me talk to my wife & I’ll call you back.’ they’d reply. This wasn’t isolated. 9 out of 10 people I had this reaction!

    While I’m grateful they did that, as I’d never want to live anywhere with a homophobic landlord, it’s very depressing that supposedly college-educated people, presumably in the top 5% of this country’s income brackets, could still feel this way. It’s disheartening in the extreme, especially in a supposedly gay-friendly east-coast urban area.

  6. Oh speaking of midwest attitudes/assumptions and hair: My Noah has shoulder-length hair, so of course *everyone* assumes he’s a girl. In Kentuckiana, if you don’t have a buzz cut, you’re a girl. : \

    • My Noah has always been assumed to be a girl, even if he’s wearing all black. Because blonde curls and blue eyes couldn’t possibly be boy traits! It is, indeed, frustrating.

  7. Conversely, if you’re a girl with a buzz cut, guys in pickup trucks feel compelled to shout “Dyke!” from their windows as they drive past while throwing their drink cups at you. Gotta love living in the midwest.

  8. Gender stereotypes are something we’ll have to deal with for a while longer I’m afraid, but I was raised with short hair because my mom had short hair and just didn’t want to deal with caring for long hair on her child. I wanted long hair. I was never limited in what activities I took part in, sports, dance, 4-H, Campfire, etc. so I do not feel I missed out there at all. However, I was often mistaken for a boy and my best friend growing up was very girly so I think in a way it impacted my psyche (yay! northern Indiana) and I spent most of high school and college trying to prove I was a woman in rather mentally self-destructive ways. It’s not always something you can put your finger on, sometimes you have to look back and say “oh, that’s why I reacted the way that I did.” I now have long hair & all I have to do is wash, brush & go, so I don’t really understand what the fundamental issue was to begin with.

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