This past week I dyed my hair blue. Well, really teal and only chunks, not all of my hair. I did this for no other reason than I wanted to and I needed to do something fun for me. Being sick this long with pregnancy can get draining and getting in touch with my fun, pretty, living side seemed like a good step at the half way point of this pregnancy. I thought nothing of it, dyed my hair, snapped a few pics, and shared with friends, family, and the online world.
Two things happened that surprised me.
1. Some people were shocked, apparently they thought I was normal?
What does that even mean?
2. I was asked if this meant we were having a boy.
Hmmmm… I never saw that second one coming. The thought didn’t even occur to me, though I probably should have guessed some people would think that. I am well aware, painfully so, that our culture places a heavy emphasis on blue for boys and pink for girls but since we don’t personally buy into, encourage, or support gender specific colors at all in our family, I sometimes forget that other people do. But in our family, we all rock the colors we love just because we like them. A favorite phrase around here is “pink doesn’t have a vagina and blue doesn’t have a penis and they don’t care what you have.” We truly don’t believe that even a quick look at history or cultures reveal that color preference has any bearing on a child’s developing understanding of gender, who they are, and if they are male or female. Nor do we believe there is any reason that one’s gender has any bearing on one’s color preference. So instead of embracing what has essentially becoming a marketing gimmick designed to increase sales through “gender specific” individualized items, we just try to like what we like and be who we are. Even if that means I have blue hair. In our house, all colors are gender neutral, they are, after all, just colors. By the way, we apply the same thinking to sparkles, flowers, bows, trucks, cars, trains, music, and any other inanimate object and our daughters interact with “boy” and “girl” play things equally. We have what some would consider “girly girls” and some “tomboys;” both terms I hate since I don’t understand why they can’t just be “girls.” They are each so different, so them, that their sex seems inconsequential. Besides, this whole pink for girls, blue for boys thing is relatively new in the history of humanity. Meaning it was all made up in the last 100 years anyway. I love this article from Smithsonian.com looking at the history of assigned colors for specific sexes, specifically for baby boys and girls.
“It’s really a story of what happened to neutral clothing,” says Paoletti, who has explored the meaning of children’s clothing for 30 years. For centuries, she says, children wore dainty white dresses up to age 6. “What was once a matter of practicality—you dress your baby in white dresses and diapers; white cotton can be bleached—became a matter of ‘Oh my God, if I dress my baby in the wrong thing, they’ll grow up perverted,’ ” Paoletti says.
I have to admit, I just find that whole fear the kid will be “perverted” if they are dressed in or play with items of the “wrong” color just silly and potentially seriously damaging. The biggest problem I see with this whole ridiculous gender color thing is that much of society buys into the marketing hook line and sinker which means if you have a boy that loves pink and has a thing for sparkles he’s likely to face merciless teasing and unfortunately not just from his peers but likely from the adults in his life as well.
So far we bat for “team pink.” Which I think is a stupid way of saying we have all girls. Not thinking of the sexes as teams playing against each other in the great game of life I don’t understand this analogy nor do I quite grasp the desire for one sex over the other either way. I know it’s real and I see many times parents hoping for a boy/girl and sometimes dealing with what has been called “gender disappointment” when they discover they’re not getting what they hoped for in terms of their expected child’s sex. But I can’t even begin to identify with it. Even more confusing is the fact there are quite a few people that assume The Piano Man and I know it all too well, that we are grieved to not have a son. Worse, is that so many assume we’re having another child in an attempt to have a boy.
I’m not going to lie, this assumption angers me. Chest tightening, face flushing, royally pisses me off. In spite of telling myself these people mean well and are just curious, all I really hear is that we should somehow, for some reason be disappointed that we only have girls. That this disappointment fuels our family planning decisions, the quest for having a child with the “right” genitals justifying adding to our family. We have never considered having another child just because we wanted the other sex and we never would. Back when we were adding baby #5 I had become practiced in hiding my feelings when such stupidity flew out of insensitive people’s mouths until one day when our 4 big girls were with us and we experienced a conversation that went something like this:
Woman: “My, that’s a lot of girls, I hope dad is finally getting his boy this time.”
Me: “We’re excited to be adding another little girl to our family.”
Woman: “Oh you poor man! You’ll just have to try again, so outnumbered.”
The Piano Man: awkward laugh “I’m ok, love my girls.”
Woman: “Of course, but every man needs a son, it’s just not the same.”
We awkwardly move away, ending the conversation.
The Storyteller, then age 8, comes up to The Piano Man and sliding her hand into his says: “I’m sorry I’m not a boy daddy. I wish I was a boy so you wouldn’t be disappointed and so alone.” In a flash he held her close, looked into her eyes, and told her that woman was ridiculous. The girls proceeded to tell us how they felt like everyone felt sorry for their daddy because he must be sad to not have a boy. He assured them that he never had wanted a boy, he had only wanted them.
I never hid my feelings again. Regardless of how well intentioned they are, someone says something insensitive about how we must want a boy, and they have positioned themselves in the direct line of fire of my pink and blue fast ball of correction as to just how stupid that assumption is and how hurtful it can be to my daughters. If my daughters are present for the exchange it is possible I will be even more forceful and look for an apology directed to my 5 fabulous girls that my husband and I don’t regret in the slightest. And don’t you dare pity my husband, he’s not outnumbered, this is his amazing family and we’re all on the same team. “So screw you and your narrow minded views” might just be my ending flourish. Not exactly eloquent but pretty to the point.
We are in no way, nor have we ever been, disappointed that we have not had a boy. Nor have we ever decided to have another child in an attempt to have a boy.
Please note, I don’t look down on, judge, or think I’m better than someone that has been disappointed with not having the sex they had hoped for. Everyone’s feelings are their own and just are what they are. Given our society’s obsession with how we define the sexes, I don’t think it is surprising that some would be disappointed to not have one or the other.
For many people it is a big deal, I get that. I understand it, even if I can’t identify with it. Socially it is accepted that we’re going to at least want one of each sex and all that we associate culturally with the different sexes. Sugar and spice and everything nice = girl. Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails = boy. Yes, we think it’s bullshit but for many it’s very real. How I wish we could let go of our expectations and the marketing and just accept our children for who they are, not some narrow list of culturally defined expectations based on their sex but a rather embrace a complex range of individuality that may be influenced by their hormonal makeup without being all that is to them, their tastes, their activities, and their preferences. Male and female are biological, masculine and feminine are cultural. The range of masculine and feminine is huge, if we must pigeon hole them we need to at least recognize that the hole is so big we can’t even begin to narrowly define it. I know how damaging it can be to individuals; as a woman that has long struggled with not enjoying being “nurturing” and other typically feminine defined character traits and interests, I’ve dealt with insecurities that maybe I’m not a “real woman.” And I’m married to a man that is incredibly nurturing and not strong on many typically masculine defined character traits and interests, he’s dealt with insecurities that maybe he’s not a “real man.” I can assure you, he is most definitely a real man and he tells me that I am most assuredly a real woman.
Tomorrow we find out Sugarbaby’s sex, provided Sugarbaby cooperates during the ultrasound, and yes, we do this even though we don’t care what sex this baby is (I explain why this is important to us here.) I’ll go out on a limb and say what I think it is, knowing full well I could be wrong. Since I first suspected I was pregnant I have felt this baby is another girl. In fact, I feel I’ve known her name since I was in labor with Smunchie. Even though I’ve been correct with all 5 girls before now, I wonder often if I’m wrong and “girl” is just my default setting after having 5 girls. But I could be wrong and I would be more than fine with that. Because it doesn’t matter to me. All the big girls think girl too but they are open to having a brother, there will be no disappointment either way. If Sugarbaby is a boy I would look forward to The Piano Man and I getting to raise a counter cultural son, just like we have enjoyed raising counter cultural daughters. Another child embraced to be who they are, to buck cultural constructs defining their sex, and to enjoy discovering their unique personalities and interests. Whatever sex, Sugarbaby is going to greatly enrich our family.
See Sugarbaby’s pregnancy announcement video here.
There are people rooting for us to have a boy, I know. They want to see us have to “deal” with the shock having a boy would be after all these girls and think it would just be fun. I figure having a boy will be a lot like having a girl, particularly at first and since we don’t plan on parenting differently based on the baby’s sex but rather adjusting our parenting based on the child’s individual needs the way we see it is it’s going to be an adjustment no matter what. A wonderful adjustment, boy or girl, change is change and adding a family member is always a transition. For a long time we always said we saw ourselves as “girl people” and even before we had children, we only imagined ourselves with girls. Now I’m not even sure what that means, nor do I care since our daughters have taught us “girl” offers a huge range in personalities, interests, and actions. Given that I’ve had my girls do all the typically considered “boy” things, including a big sister talking a little sister into getting into the toilet and flushing it to see what would happen, I’m confident we’ll be fine no matter what Sugarbaby throws at us. Bring it kiddo, let’s have fun!
There is one major challenge I see if Sugarbaby is a boy: names. Other than the one boy name we’ve had in our back pocket for the past 13 years of having babies, we just don’t have a boy name we love and we never have. We joke that if Sugarbaby is a boy we’ll end up with Ophélia, Lavinia, Helena, Evangeline, Cosette, and Bob. Or maybe George. But Bob or George, there will be no fear of pink (or blue) here!
We will probably make an announcement of Sugarbaby’s sex at some point once we know but it will be a while yet. Here’s what we did for Smunchie’s: