Sometimes I think I have no idea how to raise our girl to be a woman.
Sure, I’ve witnessed my parents do so with my sisters two. But then it’s only “I have an idea how to raise a girl to be a woman.” Not our girl to be a woman of my union with Erin. Because lo this is to be the girl who will grow to cure cancer, slay vampires, bring peace to the Middle East and will one day best monetize the websites of newspapers and magazines throughout the land.
She is to be The Chosen One.
Or so I’ve built it up in my mind.
In reality, she is but one more young woman who will be brought into the world by well-educated, over-read, liberal parents who are trying to steer their daughter clear of sexist influences and give her every choice in the world…except Pink.
Last week, Erin and I were discussing colors for the nursery and I said “Anything but pink!” Because, of course, this will prevent…I don’t know.
It’s just too easy. Accepting pink as the default color for a girl is the equivalent of saying you liked The Joshua Tree when I was in high school: doing so raises far fewer questions about your personal point of view and allows you to get through a stressful situation without a bunch of weird looks.
In my mind, Pink is the pastel specter that hangs over our pregnancy. A threat far greater than any other, leading our daughter down the path of various princess-branded toys, which as everyone knows are the gateway drug to playing dumb to get boys to like her. And here thar be dragons!
A couple weeks before we learned we were having a girl, one of Erin’s relatives told us she hoped we were having a boy as she – owing largely to my fascination with all things Kryptonian – had bought us a few Superman onesies. Not missing a beat, Erin and I said our unborn child’s gender wasn’t an issue in this case as ours was a child destined to wear the shield.
Yet even Erin – a woman quite contrary – said to me at lunch last week “Our daughter might like pink and Barbies” in a tone that left unsaid the words “and that’s OK” as well as “and you might just have to suck it up and deal.”
My wife said these things after I expressed concern over exposing our daughter to – of all things – Phineas and Ferb as none of the female characters were women I’d want her to aspire to be:
* Candace – tattletale
* Isabella – boy-crazy (or Phineas-crazy, as it were)
* Mom – unobservant
* Vanessa – the child of an evil, if largely unsuccessful, mad scientist
My wife is more intelligent in these matters and reminded me that our daughter would likely want to model herself after Phineas and Ferb, the resourceful, charismatic, unstoppable heroes of the show. This brought me some measure of calm.
None of this should suggest I’m set on Turning Our Girl Into A Boy.* I want my daughter to be free to form her own identity, irrespective of the expectations of others, including – or especially – her father. After all, it’s not like I’m a typical male: I fake it pretty well but I know jack about sports, avoid dude culture at all costs and have preferred cocktails over beer since college. I’m far more Oscar Wilde than Oscar Madison.
My wish for our daughter is that she would be the human equivalent of an order in a Chinese restaurant: a little from column A and a little from Column B, becoming a well-rounded, thoughtful, multi-talented individual who’s sees nothing – even the color pink – in terms of gender and everything in terms of territory to explore at will.
* Let it be noted here that there’s an incredibly nuanced discussion to be had about gender constructs. Let it also be noted here that I’ve had a few glasses of wine and am unable to fully explore said discussion in the above but am aware of the issues surrounding it.