Friday, November 20, 2009

Almost One Year Ago Today: Pink is for Panthers

If you think you've read this before, no, you're not crazy...this is my post from November 19, 2008, reposted today for a fun little project called Flashback Friday hosted by Who Put Me in Charge of These People?. It falls on a day I'm way too busy to be bothered with an original post, so hey, I'm in. All in. Interesting side note: not much has changed in one year. Toby's talking my ear off about ninjas battling bugs at this precise moment.

Toby is playing the Wii.

To tell the truth, if he had his way, Toby would always be playing the Wii. To be completely honest, there are days when if I had my way, Toby would always be playing the Wii as well.

Because it’s so quiet right now.

When Toby is not playing the Wii, he’s talking. And when I say talking, I’m not referring to casual chatting. I mean intense, nonstop, never-taking-a-breath type of talking. About everything. And anything. Like the Smurfs, which the kids discovered lately on some sort of retro cartoon channel, and which one he is and which one I am and how he doesn’t like the cat and what is the cat’s name and why does the cat live with that bad guy and did I know that our cat is a boy but he’s not gray like that cat and now he’s going to be a baby Smurf and I am the Papa Smurf but that’s silly because I can’t be the Papa Smurf because I am a girl.

And to think this was the child for whom we forked over at least $1000 for speech therapy, worried he was never going to start talking. Ah, irony. You’re a barrel of laughs.

I’m not terribly surprised Toby is so caught up on the sex of the cat, Papa Smurf, or me, for that matter. Gender identity and how it should be defined is very big in this house these days. I’ve been in turns intrigued and horrified by the varying opinions presented on the subject, and my eyes have grown wide with incredulous dismay more than once at the blatant misinformation parlayed back and forth between 4th and 2nd grade boys. For instance, were you aware that girls can’t kick a ball? And can only giggle? Or that boys can’t sing?

In their goofier moments, Nate and Calvin imitate girls, with Toby taking in every word, of course. Almost always, their interpretation involves an imaginary phone conversation in which they discuss hair, nails, and boys in frightening cliched teen-speak. It goes something like this:

“Hello, girlfriend! Did you see my boyfriend today?”

“Oh my gosh, girl, he is so hawt.”

At this point, they place a hand exaggeratedly on one hip and bat their eyelids. (I notice they giggle a lot.)

Where are they getting this? Surely I am still the most influential female in their lives, and I haven’t batted my eyelids since, well…ever? Being the good feminist I am, I have always made a point of dispelling gender stereotypes, starting from their earliest days. “Say hi to the police woman,” I’ll suggest. Or: “That’s not a garbageman. That’s a garbage collector.” It's a tiresome practice, sure, but a necessary one, I've always maintained, in the process of raising boys. To drive home my point, I rarely wear make-up, ensure that I burn at least most dinners, and challenge them in footraces at every opportunity. If nothing else, I can say with fair certainty that I don’t make it a habit to chat on the phone about hawt boys. I mean, not within earshot, anyway.

In a somewhat surprising sidenote to this newfound awareness of gender, however, Calvin has decided he loves pink. I can’t yet determine if the color genuinely appeals to him, or if he’s trying to prove a point. (What that point might be, however, remains fuzzy.) For his own part, Toby is baffled by this development. “Pink is for girls,” he tells Calvin firmly. He may only be three, but this he knows. “Or panthers,” he adds as an afterthought. (Retro cartoon network, remember?)

Despite this sibling disapproval, I recently find myself buying more pink at Calvin’s insistence, including a pink shirt and pink pajamas which he actually pulls off quite well (must be a combination of macho strutting and his olive complexion). Calvin manages to get away with things like this. He’s a trendsetter. He falls into the category of people who can wear hats and come off looking adorable instead of dorky.

In contrast, it’s recently been proven that Nate shouldn’t be caught dead in pink. At least not full-body pink lycra. Let me explain. Last week we’re in our local ski shop, trying to find him a downhill race suit for the upcoming race season. (For those of you not indulging in the craziness that is downhill skiing, a race suit looks disturbingly similar to a wetsuit.) The only suit they have in his size is bright pink, and, needing to know if this particular style fits him, I don’t hesitate to pull it off the rack, thrust it into his arms, and point him in the direction of the fitting room.

He physically blanches. Have I mentioned that my oldest is growing up?

After promising him that I only need him to try it on for sizing purposes, and that I’ll then order it for him in a very manly shade of blue, he complies.

When I call to him from the other side of the fitting room door a few minutes later, however, he informs me in no uncertain terms that he will not be coming out. I finally convince him to open the door for me; I hear him dart across the approximate eight feet of floor space to slide the latch over, then retreat instantly to the corner of the tiny room, where I find him cowering, gangly knees drawn protectively to his chest, as though this position can actually hide the fact that he’s wearing skin-tight, florescent pink from head to foot. One glance is all I need to determine the suit is at least one size too small for him. He looks at me desperately. “I can’t get it off.”

Pitiful, pink boy.

I coax him up, and once he's standing on the built-in bench, we peel it from his tall frame together in the soft-lighted privacy of the fitting room. In one of those increasingly frequent moments when we catch each other’s eye and seem to be, just for an instant, on the same level, he smiles at me self-depreciatively. “This stays between you and me, Mom.”

“Sure honey. You and me…and the whole internet. Deal?”

To my amazement, it’s a deal...on the condition that none of the girls in his class find out. The kid must be pretty confident in his manhood, after all.
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