Friday, July 23, 2010

Playing in the Rain

When I was kid, I thought of myself as a tomboy. I'm not sure how much of that was real and how much was the feminist principles I adopted before I could spell the word feminist. Despite my self-labeling, "tomboy" didn't really describe me. I've always liked pink, and the first bicycle that was truly mine was pink with white tires and a white seat. It bothered me when the white tires got brownish through wear. On the other hand, some girly stuff drove me nuts as a kid. I hated Barbie. I just didn't really get the point of her. (Although, I did love the cardboard three-story Barbie mansion my dad got for me and my sister at a yard sale, mostly because it had this awesome plastic elevator that really went up and down). I can't remember a time when dress up was something I had a burning need to take part in. I thought She-Ra was dumb, and I loved He-Man. (To be honest, that was just because of the linguistic geekery that plagued me even as a child. If He-Man was the original, and he had a female counterpart, shouldn't her name be She-Woman? Or at least She-Femme? Or something? Ra was a meaningless syllable that did not connote any power whatsoever. And, because I'm somewhat black and white in my thinking, the lack of a reasonable name for She-Ra doomed her to the back of my closet for all eternity. She just did not pass the linguistic coolness test.)

I suspect wasn't truly a tomboy, I was just quirky. Since I liked the idea of not fitting in but still being within previously set parameters (I do love a good precedent), I thought of myself as a tomboy. It was the most accurate label I could come up with.

I've been thinking about this a great deal since we found out that LO was a boy. I've been paying attention to how little boys play and interact with each other, wondering if I'll know how to play "right." Yesterday, three little boys were outside of the library, delighted to see a deluge of rain water dripping from a poorly placed gutter on the roof. The rain had stopped, but the roof just kept delivering more and more water. The boys hesitantly put their heads under the spray, flicked their hands through the water, surrounded it, wondering what further scientific experiments they could conduct. Their mothers were talking at the front door to the library, and one admonished them. "Boys, you don't know what that water is going through up on the roof. And now it's all over your heads! Yuck!"

I felt like a cultural anthropologist. First, I wondered if I was going to be the germ-a-phobe mom who stops the watch-the-rain game. Then I wondered if I really got what the boys were doing. Would three little girls of the same age (somewhere between 7 and 9) have been as fascinated by the water? Would I have been?

When we told J's best friend that we were expecting a boy, his response surprised us. He said he was jealous. I have been thinking that perhaps it has to do with the feeling of affinity with a same sex child. Even if I didn't play tea party and princesses and dress up when I was a girl, I know how to fake it. What if LO has a world from which I'm excluded? Not that I can't fake rockets and dinosaurs--and how many dads do you see enjoying themselves with their ultra-girly daughters? But on a basic level, will I ever really understand the fascination of a torrent of water coming off a library roof?

I feel like I'm about to be initiated into a world that has, thus far, been alien to me. That of little boy-hood. I hope I like it. I hope I fit in. I hope that, even if I don't understand it, that I can have fun. I hope my kid is a little quirky.


  1. I don't think you have to worry about it so much. I think you will find ways to participate in your baby's life that doesn't have to be defined "girly" or "boyish". You guys will go on walks and examine ant trails or watch butterflies or read stories about Black Beauty or Treasure Island or play Scrabble as a family...these are neither boy or girl things, just loving family-explore the world things.

  2. Ok, so I totally get your critique of She-ra's stupid name, but I LOVED her. I can't believe you didn't. Remember when Dad bought me a subscription to her comic book/magazine? I think I thought she hot -- a hot that I wanted to be. I also dug He-Man's girlfriend in the bronze bra. I'm starting to think maybe it was metal undergarments (worn as outer garments) that really appealed to me.

    I know this isn't the main point of this post, and that it was more-or-less a parenthetical, and that the real point of the post was all deep and soul-searchy and serious I'm-about-to-be-a-mom angst, and I validate that, but it was the She-Ra discussion that really grabbed me. Go figure.

  3. I remember how much you loved She-Ra, although I had forgotten about the magazine. I even could kind of understand that whole female power aspect of She-Ra back then. The chick had a sword! I mean, given the choice I'd take her over Barbie or Rainbow Brite or Strawberry Shortcake any day. But I simply could not get over her name. Like I said, quirky and a black-and-white thinker.

    By the way, do you remember what her "By the Power of Grey Skull" line was? Was it the same?

    Also, does that mean Princess Leia in the gold bikini from Return of the Jedi was also the bees' knees?