Last weekend, post shave, DKM and her mom and I were in the mall food court, grabbing some much needed food. I don’t remember how the subject came up (because my brain is basically swiss cheese at this stage of my life) but we were talking about the last time we’d worn dresses.
I had to admit…it’s been so long since I’ve worn a dress that if I were to put one on now, I would feel like a cross-dresser.
Later on I thought about that; it’s not just now. I clearly remember feeling like it was all kinds of wrong any time I had to wear a dress. I loathe dresses. I always have. It’s not a feeling that crept up on me with age and lack of wearing. Dresses were a major point of contention between my mother and I when I was little. I hated them, and it pissed her off to no end.
For a short time in 4th grade she instituted the Morning Dress Rule. I had to, no matter what I wanted, put on a dress in the morning for school, and I could change into pants at lunch before going back in the afternoon (yep, in Munich we were able to go home for lunch if we lived close enough to walk. I don’t see that happening now.)
I also know what she was afraid of; THAT was not what a kid should become, not in the late 60s and early 70s. All the things I hated—dresses, girly toys, anything frilly or pink or feminine—those all surely pointed to one thing, and apparently by forcing me into clothing that I despised, THAT was going to be corrected.
We can roll our eyes at the idea now, but I’m sure it made sense 40-45 years ago.
I was a hard-core tomboy, sure, but I was not THAT even though she couldn’t see it then.
And now I wonder: if such a huge issue had not been made of my preferences in clothing and toys and even colors, what would I like now?
There was a tipping point once puberty reared its ugly head and I was solidly into my early teen years. We were getting ready to move from Texas to California and it was suggested to me that “this would be a good time to change. You know, wear dresses and be more feminine. It’ll be easier because no one will know what you were like before.”
Surprisingly, it didn’t come from my mother, but she was on board with the idea.
Any inkling I might have had about it died with that. My (admittedly hurt) gut reaction was to wonder—out loud—what was so wrong with me that I needed to change? Why would I want to change? There was nothing wrong with me.
And there wasn’t. But I was just stubborn enough to decide that was it; I was going to be me and not give consideration to anything different. I didn’t have to be good enough for anyone else, because I was good enough for me.
My mother stopped pressing the matter by the time I was 15 or so, probably because it was clear I wasn’t turning into her worst fear, but I wonder now if left to my own choices, would I have gotten over my hatred of girly things and embraced at least a few of them?
I’ll never know, but I’ll probably always wonder.
I clearly got over my hate of things pink, though it still surprises some people to find out I don’t much care for it. Hot pink, I love it; pink-pink…no. Hell no.
I don’t even own a dress now; don’t expect me to, no matter what the event. I still mostly shop in the men’s department but not because of some weird loathing of women’s clothes; pants with useable pockets are rarely made for women, shirts are too short for women with any torso height, and most of them are—by design—clingy and face it, I don’t have the body for anything clingy. If I did, I would rock that chit so hard.
I am most comfortable in shorts and a t-shirt, probably always will be.
My point? It’s not that my mother dropped the ball, so heap pity upon poor me. No, she coped as best she could with a stubborn kid whose tastes frightened her. It’s also not that I wish I were different. I’m fine with me; other people might not be, but that’s not my problem.
My point…let your kids be who they are. Don’t presume anything based on the clothes they want and the toys they play with. Let them explore without pressure to choose one thing over another. Give them the grace to know they can be whoever they think they are, and the freedom to change that without feeling judged.
And if they wind being something other than what you expected or hoped for, freaking embrace that shit, because life is hard enough as it is and not giving a damn about the little things makes it just a bit easier.
I will never know if I would have been any different if I hadn’t felt like I was expected to change the person I fundamentally was; there’s a whole other can of worms there I haven’t yet opened up to peek at, but the crux of it is that I spent a lot of years railing against what someone else wanted, even after she no longer wanted it.
Take a good look at your kid.
She’s fine just as she is, whether she’s pretending to be a princess or Ironman. He’s fine even if he wants those pink shoes and a tutu. Those choices don’t mean anything beyond this is what I like right now.
And even if they do, so what? You had a kid, not a promise.
You will love them no matter what.
Thumper’s unsolicited advice for the day.