This morning, Nate got the baby dressed. For the first six months of Thalia’s life, telling Nate to get the baby dressed was like saying, “get out the Redskins onesie.” But now that she’s outgrown it and the weather’s too hot for the nylon Clinton Portis jersey, it’s anyone’s guess what she’ll emerge in.
He selected very adorable royal blue printed tee we had just received as a gift and a yellow pair of terry shorts. Separately, each item is fantastic. But together? When he held her up for approval, I gritted my teeth and sucked air through them, whispering, “she looks like a boy.”
It was the same tone I might have used to say “yeah, maybe letting her eat pennies isn’t a good idea,” or “I’m not so sure about letting our 12 year-old stoner neighbor babysit tomorrow night.” And yet all I was talking about were her clothes.
It was visceral. It just slipped out.
“So? She’s a girl.”
I had no good response.
“Okay, well you’re not a girl,” I said. “Does that mean you wore dresses?”
“Yep,” says Nate, always one with the contrarian answer. “I did wear a dress.”
“Not counting Halloween, smartass.”
“I did once! Because,well Kurt Kobain did…so I thought it was cool…and…”
His sentence trailed off into a giggle because even for the master of arguments, this argument was absurd. But then, so was my own point. What was my own point? I didn’t want anyone to see her wearing blue and yellow? Who, the doormen of our building? It wasn’t like we were going anywhere in this heat.
What happened to me, I wondered. I was supposed to be this post-feminist progressive mommy who buys her daughter trains to ride on and books about cars. She was going to grow up and play sports. And dig for worms. And disdain boy bands. And yet here I am, whining about “boy colors” on my little girl.
I pulled a pair of pink gingham shorts from the dresser and waved them gingerly in Nate’s direction, but he swatted them away. Yellow it was.
Even the pink shorts are on the perifery of Thalia’s wardrobe. I have shied away from ruffles and bows and and certainly those “future supermodel” tees, because the way I see it, if you’re going that route you might as well skip Music Together and sign her up for the Future Bulimics playgroup. Readers of Cool Mom Picks will not be surprised to learn that pastels and baby pinks are not our thing. Her best-worn shirt this winter was a brick-red dragon tattoo print thermal (well that, and President Poopyhead) that was often paired with a pair of bleached out jeans, so it’s not as if we’re grooming a little pageant girl here. But there’s something about seeing her dressed like a girl girl that makes me happy inside. Floral sundresses. Flouncy skirts. Peasant shirts and mini crocheted espadrilles.
Perhaps I’m overcompensating for her lack of hair. Maybe it bothers me more than it should when strangers ask how old my little boy is. Or maybe I’m just more beholden to culturally-imposed gender roles than I would have thought, considering my grade-school Ms Magazine reading habit.
Or maybe it’s a control issue. If she’s anything like her mommy, Thalia will refuse to wear anything remotely feminine starting in about four years. “But if I wear dresses, I can’t play with the boys,” I told my mother in kindergarten, beginning a near decade of tomboy fashion. If Thalia follows suit, I have a very short window in which I can deck her out in the sweet little dresses I wish I could get away with myself. After that, her drawers will be stuffed with overalls and team shirts and denim jackets with soccer balls on them. Her closet will be lined with sneakers and her “dress shoes” will be the ones without the oil stains on the suede uppers. A skirt will never graze her hips, let alone (gasp) a dress.
At least until she hits puberty. By then, a genetic predisposition to childbearin’ hips will point her towards the skirt section with due haste.