Thursday, January 3, 2008

My Girlie-girl

My daughter, the Princess, is a girlie-girl.

I am not and never was.

I have decided, based solely on my personal family experience, that the girlie-girl gene skips generations, since my grandmother was not a girlie-girl, but my mother was.

What to do with a princess? Yesterday, she wanted to paint her 6-year-old nails and cover her face with sparkly pink powder from a makeup kit she received for her birthday from my brother's MIL. I should have thrown the damned thing out. Her dream gift from Nana for the recent holiday was a "deluxe" Sleeping Beauty dress. She wanted a girl-day while we were visiting, including lunch at her favorite restaurant, which she calls The Elephant Party, and a showing of the treacly Disney movie, "Enchanted."

I am having to reevaluate my contempt for all things "feminine," and it sucks most heinously.

During my formative years, there was a school of thought that put forth the hypothesis that girls and boys were, except for the obvious physical differences, exactly the same. Girls learned stereotypical girl-behaviors and boys learned stereotypical boy-behaviors. If we could only teach them differently, there would soon be a generation of children all playing with all the toys and dressing up as the same super-heros and cowboys (there was little support, even at that time, for boys dressing up as princesses). I had on double-LP, and have purchased on DVD more recently, Free To Be, You And Me, a musical compendium produced by Marlo Thomas (formerly That Girl on TV, now spokesman for St. Jude's Children's Hospital) with such voices as Alan Alda, Rosie Greer, and Carol Channing performing gender-role-ridiculing songs, poems, and stories. One of my favorites was "William's Doll," in which a boy, who kept on asking for a doll, while his parents kept on giving him footballs and other accoutrements of boyhood. His grandma finally gave him a doll and explained to his baffled parents that William would be a father someday and needed to learn how to care for his child. I now wonder why the story illustrating a BOY emulating non-boy behavior was more impelling to my young mind than the tales of girls striding confidently out into this men's world were. Maybe it was because William's outcome was much less likely in the real world than the other. I always liked fantasy. I'll admit that I did and still do love Sheldon Harnick's poem, "Housework," rendered in Carol Channing's gravelly voice, was also a favorite.

Before I misrepresent myself as some feminist role-model, let me first add that I am a happily married, misanthropic stay-at-home-mom with no desire for a career to speak of. I am too lazy to be an activist of any sort. I refuse to wear shoes other than flats, preferably flip-flops in summer and sneakers in winter. I wear makeup occasionally. I grow a winter pelt between 10/1 and 5/31 every year, but shave during the summer. Hypocracy, thy name is Maleficent.

Still, I don't feel forced, though I probably AM, since I would feel WRONG (why?) to go swimming with hairy legs, into any of these things, and I don't want my daughter to be forced either. I should never have turned on the TV in front of her, and should have kept her hermetically sealed in the house. Not that it's possible. Nigel says we can't shelter her from the real world, but when her role-models are not us, but are the ridiculous girlie-girls out there in megacorporatiobuybuybuyland, it's difficult not to second-guess myself.

Some studies indicate that there may be some truth to the belief that boys and girls have innate behavioral differences - that there IS a girlie-girl gene. I would like to believe that this is NOT at all true. Some deep, very deep, abyssally deep desire for it to NOT be true forces me to try to turn the Princess away from her girlie-girl ways, to encourage my boys to coddle their baby-dolls (for which they begged, but on which they spend much time performing karate moves), and to teach critical thinking skills to all three.

Bottom line: It's hard to compete with the crap available to girls. There is definitely a back-lash in our country against feminism. It is difficult to set an example when I have so many contradictory behaviors and beliefs myself. Ugh.

My inner misanthrope says, "I am what I am and fuck you if you don't like it."

More confusion to follow, I'm sure.

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