Hi! Thanks for bearing with me during my long silence while I labored and birthed the “baby” I’ve been cooking for the last five years. Now that my dissertation is in the digital hands of the Reading Committee, I have a few spare moments. I’m chock full of things to say, but one post has been brewing longer than most, so I’ll start there.
Peanut’s health crisis and death led to a lot of medical intervention that revealed the sex of our babies many weeks ago. I’ll be the first to admit I was elated to learn both our babies were girls. My mind’s eye saw the backs of two toddlers running on the beach in linen dresses with criss crossed straps across their backs and little bloomers cinched atop chubby thighs. I swooned at the mere thought of them. Sisters! Daughters! Swoon!
R’s Nana would be thrilled to hear we were not expecting boys. We she first heard we intended to have children, she clucked her teeth and told us she hoped we wouldn’t have boys because “Boys need a father.” I reminded her that we wouldn’t have much choice in the matter, but she was undeterred. Opinion delivered, we moved on to a new topic. But I suppose I never really moved on. My internalization of that admonishment contributed to my relief upon hearing the news that both babies were female. At least our inevitable parenting fumbles wouldn’t be chalked up to incongruence between sex chromosomes. But I was also just plain excited to have girls.
My relief and excitement were soon replaced by a defensive anxiety. Shortly after learning the babies’ sex, we began entertaining questions about it. Everyone and his mother wanted to know if we were going to find out the sex. I thought they’d all want to know how we did it! But no, all curiosity honed in on our baby’s genitals. It was truly unexpected. I was so busy preparing to rebuff unwanted inquiries into the nuts and bolts of the conception that I failed to prepare for the number one question — Boy or girl? We made the rookie mistake of saying we knew the sex, but wanted to keep it a secret until the birth. NB to all expectant families: if you are going to find out the sex but don’t want to reveal it, pretend you will be surprised at the birth. Otherwise, you will be needled to death by people who claim that they cannot possibly buy something/select a shower cake/knit a sweater without knowing the sex of your baby. And I mean people are out for blood.
We caved pretty quickly. It just wasn’t worth the trouble, and at the time we were still reeling from Peanut’s death, which made us a bit more pliable. Less resistant to pressure from the outside. I made a little sign that said “It’s a girl! But she has a serious allergy to pink.” My own small protest against the wider world’s effort to define my child by her chromosomes and (likely) corresponding genitalia.
It was just the beginning. Later I would argue with my mother in the Goodwill over a $2 article of clothing that I deemed too pink. I would crumble whilst trying to register for baby items at Target, where I spotted “his and hers” toilet seats (photographic evidence below). I would catch myself wondering if a particular stroller was too boyish for a girl child. I was baited, reeled in, and tossed into the bucket with all the other new parents, floundering with less and less vigor as we resigned ourselves to our collective fate. My cousins told me it was inevitable. Fighting pink and princess was a losing battle.
And then I stumbled across this post by a friend and I realized the princess game is limited only by the lack of imagination I bring to it. My daughter’s princess can be strong, fast, and cunning. She can also be kind and thoughtful. She need not wear pink, but she needn’t be afraid to wear it either.