I think it's super fun to mess with and question the newly forming perceptions of gender that children are developing. I've learned that despite their short time on this earth, they have extremely strict ideas about what a man looks like and what a woman looks like.
Most stories about children and my gender are a boring story like this:
Child: Are you a boy or a girl?
And then they either they are totally freaked out and walk away or they venture a guess. Usually girl. Because actualllllllly, they do know my gender, they just are confused by my aesthetic choices.
Anyhow, this my favorite child confusion story. It happened when I was at a big marching band festival in Boston, Massachusettes called Honk! I was there with the radical marching band I play sax with and a kid (Oscar) of one of the low brass players was there with us. Some people enjoy entertaining Oscar and got him into pretending he was a Zombie. Our interaction went like this:
Oscar: Rwarrr, I'm a Zombie who eats brains!!
Me: I'm so scared, don't eat my brains! (Ugh, I never know how to play with kids)
Oscar: But don't worry, I only eat girl brains!
And that's how I still have my brains today. Look how happy I am about that.
I don't know how to play with kids either. It's all sarcasm over their heads or baby talk thats like 5 years too young for their appropriate cognitive level.ReplyDelete
Oh, you do great with kids. The really key thing is to not condescend to 'em, and you don't do that.ReplyDelete
With Oscar, it's interesting, because other children (and, too often, adults) often get really anxious about his gender, just because he has longish hair and sometimes wears non-gender normative color schemes and generally isn't into alpha boy stuff like sports and guns. Somehow, it doesn't phase him at all. I'm sure he can read their anxiety. Jen and I once had to back off a pack of older mean girls (Eight or ten year olds or thereabouts) who had surrounded him on the schoolyard and were interrogating him about his fashion choices (pink hearts that day). Thankfully he was oblivious to their meanness. I took him to North Carolina once and every adult we encountered was tripping over themselves trying to figure it out. They'd stutter for about ten minutes. "H-h-h-sh-sh-sh..." And sometimes I'd let 'em flail for awhile before offering them a smiling "Oh, he."
People who work with kids professionally have told me that gender definition actually tends to peak in children at around five -- hence the princesses and soldiers stuff. Many kids have this intense need to project gender at a very young age, and ambiguity really throws 'em for a loop. I guess it's where they start building an identity.
Whoa! It had never occurred to me that you were having you gender confused by a kid that confuses people with his gender all the time! That is the most adorable paradox in human history. Lauren when is your intense need to project your gender phase gonna start?ReplyDelete
I babysat a 4-year-old dragon-obsessed little girl a couple of weeks ago. Our exchange still makes me giggle...ReplyDelete
Her: What's your favorite color?
Her: (long pause as she looks at me quizzically) But.....are you a boy or a girl?
Me: I'm a girl.
Her: But...girls can't like orange!
Me: Sure, they can! You can like whatever you want! You like dragons and some people might say that only boys can like dragons.
Her: (quiet and thoughtful for a long time) Maybe I am a boy...