Monday, January 17, 2011

Don't Call Him Daughter

Lately I can't take Westley anywhere without someone referring to "her" or "she." People seem to think my son looks (or behaves?) like a girl. And I'm surprised to realize that it's starting to bother me.


The first time anyone mistook Westley for a girl, he was three days old. And swaddled in a bright pink flannel blanket. With skulls on it.

"You don't usually see a boy in a pink blanket," the nurse explained when I corrected her pronoun usage.

"I know," I said. "I just really liked the blanket."

Which was true. I'd purchased the pink-with-skulls swaddling blanket along with a few other, more "gender-neutral" options a few weeks before Westley's birth. I was fairly sure that the little passenger I was carrying was a boy. But a pink-with-skulls swaddling blanket was too good to pass up. Besides, Rob wears pink all the time (and looks quite dashing in it, I think), and he's definitely male. I've checked.


The pink blanket causing confusion I get. But now that Westley is three - and firmly planted in the "Little Boys" department, size-wise - the color options have been narrowed down to: black, brown, gray, white, khaki, navy, medium blue, red, kelly green, and bright orange. (I find the last one kind of funny. Not one of the adult men in my life ever wears bright orange. Of course, none of the adult men in my life is a hunter or a sports fan, so there's that.) Westley wears a lot of denim, stripes, and things with a dinosaur motif. Because if you don't want your son decked out in cars, trucks, or sports, you're left with dinosaurs. Because, apparently, dinosaurs are for boys now.

To me, it's obvious that Westley is a boy. (Probably because I know he is.) So I'm always surprised when I take my neutral-and-dinosaur-clad preschooler out in the world and someone asks, "How old is she?" And what's even more surprising is that I mind when it happens!

I really don't care about - or for - the "this is for girls, that is for boys" school of thought. I really believe it doesn't matter what you wear, or what you like, or who you like, and one sex doesn't certainly doesn't "own" a particular set of colors or styles.

And still, I recently hesitated before buying Westley a purple jacket at the thrift shop. "Is this too girly?" I asked my mom.

"I don't think so. Your brother wore purple all the time."

(Never mind that he was wearing my hand-me-downs.)

And still, I'm bothered when someone mistakes Westley for a girl. Not that there's anything wrong with being a girl! It's just that...he's, uh, not.


The thing is, it certainly doesn't bother Westley in the slightest. I'm not even sure he notices what adults who aren't part of his family say. He just goes right on with his life, happily playing, enjoying his day, delighted with himself and his abilities.

Clearly, I could stand to learn a thing or two from my son.