This Old Mom - Eff Gender Neutrality

Eff Gender Neutrality

Posted: January 7, 2016

Now I’m no Camille Paglia, but in what America are stick-on fingernails an educational toy? For girls?
Wouldn’t they inherently be more educational for boys?

Is the America where nail stickers are an educational toy for girls the same America where a 12 year old boy is murdered for pointing a toy gun is not considered a crime? Am I stretching this analogy too far? Is this even an analogy?

Sometimes being a parent can be very uncomfortable. Actually, that was stupid. Most of parenting is fucking unbearable.

The hardest part for me about parenting is having witnesses.

I don’t know what I was thinking, but apparently I thought no one would be watching me fall all over the ice while trying to help someone else put their pants on.

You hope for a transcendental experience of love, commitment, growth and expanding your understanding of yourself through nurturing another human so thoroughly that you cannot be happy if they are not happy. You don’t expect other people will be a large part of your parenting problem.

You sorta bank on your kid occasionally being the last-nerve-tapdancing PITA of the century. You even brace yourself for others somberly informing you when your kid’s a first class DICK… but you don’t always know what to do with the assumptions of strangers or other kids who’s gender is obvious on first glance.

Hey, we’ve listened to YOU and improved this product. The choking hazard used to say for “Not for girls for any age, because they never shut up.”

This Old Mom - Eff Gender NeutralityMe being me- which is to say, an Irish Catholic German Jew with more than a touch of guilt-ridden enabler, topped by a kneejerk reflex to beg for forgiveness (many assume I’m Canadian based on my predisposition to apologize)– I grew up ignorant about defending my OWN gender, when gender definition really fucking exploded. The 60s and 70s brought

In 1968, the summer of love, when girls and BOYS had flowers in their long flowy hair, I was six and looked like Mark 5, Speed Racer. Or the youngest kid in Eight is Enough.

Since my hair was pathetic, fine and limp, my mother refused to let me grow it out. I will admit I rocked the shit out of my Dorothy Hamill but all I wanted was to be Valerie Bertinelli, Kay Lenz, any Brady. I just wanted long hair. I even thought Tatum O’Neal’s hair in Paper Moon was luxurious compared to my Eight is Enough hairdo.
This Old Mom - Eff Gender Neutrality
Anyway, thanks to puberty fucking off until I was 14, everyone thought I was a boy until I was at least 16. And because I was polite and Catholic or Jewish and self-loathing, I didn’t correct anyone. Ever. A few surprising dates resulted…

This Old Mom - Eff Gender NeutralityMe as a college freshman. I was 18! Appears I didn’t bother trying to look like a girl. Since I’m allergic to confrontation, I must have decided that if others thought I was a boy, who was I to correct them?

History being a total narcissistic, absent-minded asshole who keeps telling the same story over and over, now Grace has short hair. More on that here. She’s called ‘Son’ only a little oftener than I’m called ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Crazy Old Bitch’.

And I let it slide because:

1. They’re just people. Doing their fucking jobs. Do they really need me correcting them while they’re just trying to not hate themselves for working in customer service?

2. If I correct them, that means I have to then take care of them when they apologize or inevitably start acting like my new best friend.

3. If I correct them, I’m making them feel bad about their assumptions and overall life choices.

4. I’m banking Grace won’t remember anything that happens before she turns 4, so for another month, let it ride!

5. I eschew confrontation.

6. Conversation with strangers is okay as long as it’s one-sided.

7. Why engage in spirited debate or even mildly engaging conversation with strangers or anyone if you don’t have to, right?


If my kid’s sense of self is determined by everyone else– and since I don’t correct anyone— then maybe she doesn’t know who she is because I don’t speak up. And yet again, like with her hair, my kid was struggling and it was ALL MY FAULT.

After this happened, I realized I was going to have to become very very uncomfortable with strangers.

I feel a list coming on.

When Am I Okay Correcting Others?

1. I correct people when they ask if I’m her grandmother. I say, “Nah, I’m just her really old mom.” Because it reinforces my brand and makes people uncomfortable at the same time.

2. I correct people when they think her black parents have somehow mistakenly left her near me. (Happens a lot in airports and train stations. And Chuck E. Cheese.)

3. I pathologically correct her father about absolutely everything he says, does and assumes. So why am I letting the Goodwill Donation guy slide?

4. If I don’t correct people on her gender, then I’m not helping her believe who she is.

To fully illustrate how scared of standing up to humanity I have been: in my 20s I hostessed in a ‘hot’ restaurant. An arrogant fuck came in with some dish he was hoping to fuck, then fuck over at a later juncture. When he gave me his Amex card to pay the bill, (it was the 80s, so I had to get an approval code via Pony Express). His card was rejected. Not only that, Amex demanded I call them. Since it was the 80s, an actual human being answered the phone – and this human told me to confiscate this awful asshole’s American Express card. And I couldn’t do it. I let him skate.

So, on New Year’s Day 2016, I ovaried up and started defending Grace’s gender.

A really nice waitress asked us what our little mister was having for lunch. I concentrated really hard on keeping my voice as monotone as Condoleeza Rice.

ME: She will have the Mac N’ Cheese, please.

The waitress eyeballed me, silently searching for irony, but receiving none, moved on.

Since I’m still me– I abruptly followed Waitress to the kitchen and cried as I explained I was gender-defending and sorry if I made her feel bad. After enduring an unsolicited, warm deep hug, all I knew was at least Waitress felt better.

The second time it was easier. I still followed the Server, apologized and endured another prolonged and meaningful hug, but with a drinks tray between us.

It started getting easier for me. And Grace stopped asking me if she’s a boy or a girl. In fact, she smiled the other day when a boy said,

BOY: You’re a girl but mostly boy, right?

And Grace never broke her smile.

GRACE: No, silly. I’m a girl.

So, I’m okay being uncomfortable because, for right now, I am her voice. For only a little while, I speak for shim. Sorry. Whoever she ultimately is, I am her activist. I am her human. One last list? Why not.

What did I learn?

1. I regret being more comfortable with her confusion rather than disturbing someone else’s cozy assumption, based on hair length and pants color.

2. I’m ashamed it’s taken me this long to figure out who gets to be uncomfortable in this equation. Answer: Anyone who isn’t my kid.

3. Until Grace decides who she is and what her fight (or fights) will be, Ima fight for her, until she is precisely who she was born to become.

Get a gander o’ herself. One humonguous mullet and I still had two boyfriends at the same time. Go figure.

This Old Mom - Eff Gender Neutrality

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