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So…Now I Confess…

While my blog is often about my personal/public therapy, it’s now truly my own confession time.

I started blogging to sell stuff.

I know, I know. Once again, I’m a monster. Worse than when I went hoarse yelling at my youngest due to his #tearlesscrying.

But lemme explain:

A few years ago I founded a company making “baby gear for stylish dads”.

See, when I was expecting my first son, I wanted a really nice diaper bag. Something super stylish, super masculine, and not necessarily inexpensive. I was thinking, “I’m cool with paying $250 for a bag that states, ‘I’m a proud dad and I’ve got style.’”

Shockingly, I couldn’t find anything like it.

So I had a kid, got a dumpy bag, became permanently sleep-deprived, got some gray hairs, had another kid, became ten times more overwhelmed and under-rested, and then decided, “I think I’ll start a company making stylish baby gear for dads. I’ve never been a business person, I studied international affairs and philosophy 87 years ago in college, and I’m just an actor.”

What could go wrong?

But I’m certain waaaaaay dumber people than I have figured this out.

So I founded the company, designed a bag and got several steps into the process (don’t worry: I’ll fill in the details, later) when I spoke with married friends, both of whom had graduated from the Harvard Business School. It’s not like I had an inferiority complex due to their Ivy League pedigree (yes I did), but their opinions of my venture really mattered.

I visited these friends at a summer cabin they own in Vermont and it was while we sat around their campfire eating s’mores and waving away smoke when I regaled them with my entrepreneurial story to that point.

They both agreed, “This idea is great. You need to start blogging.”

I was like, “Sweet! Wait. Huh?”

They quickly schooled me on the ways of blogging and building a clientele and marketing and whatnot and eventually I sorta got it: tell relatable stories and there’s your audience.

So I set out to blog. That was the genesis of this trove of half-assed, inconsistent, missives.

The idea was to alternate (weekly) with posts flipping between fatherhood and fashion. That was laughable since fashion is not actually my thing. Undoubtedly I like nice clothes and looking turned out, but my rather vanilla J.Crew personal style is nothing to blog about.

Still – I was venturing into the world of fashion and I don’t dress poorly. So…why not?

I also reached out to network with fashion and dad bloggers across the webisphere. A few immediately said, “Let’s have lunch. My blogging consultation fee is $____.”

That I was not interested in. Paying someone to advise me on blogging felt dirty; like paying for a Donald Trump webinar on “making money in your sleep and from your room.”

One fashion blogger, however, met me for drinks. He tapped around my nascent site and said, “You have to stop writing about your idea right now.”

To that point, I’d shared my idea for a diaper bag in six posts. First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Sixth. (I’d love it if you clicked on all these and shared it with all your friends and bought three bags, while you’re at it. But don’t worry – I’ll re-write them all, then we can fact-check and check my memory since I’m doing all the work over. Because content. )

I was scared to do so, but I figured I needed to go public, at some point. And I figured I’d document my entrepreneurial journey along the way.

“No, dude. No, no, no. It’s probably going to take much longer than you expect. And in the meantime, someone else will take your idea.”

I’m a trusting Coloradan. Not that Coloradans don’t get screwed or have ideas stolen, but I just trust people.

But this fashion blogger made perfect sense.

So I stopped. And I doubled down on writing about my kids, my life in New York, my increasingly whiny younger son, and vented on some topics about which I probably had no business venting.

It’s been a long road. Four years of product development. I have a lot of stories.

And I finally have a product. I can officially announce that the first series of my diaper bag is available at Barney’s on Madison Avenue in NYC and online at Barney’s and my own website, ecknox.com.

(The “E” and “C” are for my sons’ names, “Knox” is my middle name.)

And now, I finally get to fulfill the original intent of my blog…to sell stuff. Sorry. Don’t worry – I’m not expecting you to buy a bag. But I’d love it if you mentioned to any man (or woman! – no discrimination in this company.)

Or heck, message me on this page and let me know you’d like to buy one, and I can definitely hook you up with a hefty “friends ‘n family” discount. For reals. I know a guy.

But what might hopefully interest you is me documenting my journey.

After all, I went from an idea to a brainstorming session on a napkin (no joke) to landing a bag at Barney’s.

Yeah. I’m proud. I hope you’ll read my story.

(Don’t worry. There’ll be plenty of complaining about my kids along the way.)

Love,

Gavin

 

Oh! If you’d follow me on Instagram, I’d sure love that!

@E.C.Knox

@daddycopinginstyle

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Guys: we are gross.

Guys – we are so gross. For reals. I mean – I’m in a house of two gay dads, two little boys (one rather gender nonconforming) and a slightly incontinent female dog.

And I swear that dog is cleaner and smells less than the rest of us.

For example – note the above picture. That is the tiny flat part of the base of our toilet where the bolt attaches the john to the floor. Somehow, even though both kids are potty-trained and have a good enough aim, within five days, that part of the toilet is caked in…um…urine. Without fail.

I swear to you – I clean this weekly.

Until becoming a father of two “standing-up-pissers” I have never, EVER regularly (or ever) cleaned that part of a toilet. Admittedly, I lived in college apartments that could’ve violated health codes, I thought that was more about our kitchen cleanliness, rather than our bad pee-pee projection.

Seriously – what is our deal in the bathroom, guys? I read somewhere, once, that mens’ urine can splash up to eight feet.

I’m not a clean-freak, by any stretch. But: gag.

During my early NYC days waiting tables, I had a hilarious manager who cracked us up, saying, “Men, I do not know what you do in those bathrooms. But even the entitled wall street tycoons render our bathroom a nuclear waste site.”

She was right. Our restaurant was a $30/plate kinda place. And the bathrooms were regularly a million-dollar stench.

(The manager read somewhere that a coffee mug of espresso beans could absorb some beans. She placed those under the toilet. The first night she did so, someone complained. Eye roll.)

Bathroom cleanliness has become a minor issue at my kiddo’s school. Luckily, it’s not a bathroom “issue” for my gender-bender. You might recall he solved his own problem of “which bathroom to go to” by proactively asking if he could pee in the unmarked stalls on the kindergarten floor. (So proud of him for solving that issue, himself.)

Anyway, there’s been a convo amongst a few parents about having un-labeled bathrooms.

(If you have strong feelings about separating boys and girls in bathrooms, you might just want to check out, now.)

Seems to me, especially pre-puberty, a lot of the boys would have a lot to learn from the girls in the bathroom. I mean, let’s face it: girls are not “immune” from raising hell in the bathroom, but…how many of you lady-readers recall seeing boogers all over your elementary school bathrooms?

I distinctly remember being semi-traumatized by our elementary school bathrooms – there were no doors on the stalls. I mean…pooping in front of the fifth graders when you’re in third grade was definitely a precursor to lifelong therapy. But why were there no stall doors? Cuz the boys were maniacs, that’s why!

I heard through my school’s bathroom-discussion-grapevine that several kindergarten girls contracted urinary track infections, last year. Reason being they avoided the nasty boys-peed-upon stalls.

I’m not well-versed in 5-yo urinary track infection derivation, but I’d be pissed if I had a daughter in that situation. Pun intended.

But still – what about a real bathroom-awareness campaign? Yeast infections notwithstanding (no small deal, I’m aware), with all-gendered bathrooms, perhaps the teachers (and parents – duh) could raise the bar by demanding better aim and behavior in the bathroom. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?- a school-wide campaign that shames the boys into being cleaner? Progress, people. That’d be progress.

In the midst of a school yard discussion, one woman said, “but what about the fifth grade girls who might be getting their periods?”

And one bold mother said, “You know? I’d appreciate it if my daughter weren’t treated like a disgusting, unsanitary handmaid in a red robe and white habit when she’s menstruating. Why can’t the boys be expected to mature, a bit, and accept this important part of life without thinking my daughter is disgusting?”

Huh. Strong point. Very strong point.

Heck, sometimes we all need privacy in a bathroom. And there’s a lot to be said for kids crying in private or pooping in private or just having a moment of privacy. I suppose I’m a big advocate of the “everybody” bathrooms that have the European floor-to-ceiling private stalls. That gives privacy.

But just imagine the boogers and toilet paper vandalism and graffiti. Sigh.

Ugh. We’re just disgusting animals, all of us. (But mostly the guys.)

Excuse me. I need to go scrub the dried urine off the white toilet. Who knows what’s caked onto our metallic tile floor.

Gag.

Just Trying to be One of the Ladies

So I’ve re-joined the gym. For a few years I was the “I’ll-stay-in-shape-by-doing a-marathon,” which meant running intensely for three months of the year and eating and drinking my face off the other 9 months.

After the marathon I’d buy a few groupons to a crossfit gym or a kettlebell class and use about 30% of the groupon…exactly the way they hope we will function.

This year, I just thought – rather than waste most of my money, I’d join the neighborhood cheap-ass gym nearest my apartment.

And actually? – it works. The lighting isn’t sexy, the towel service isn’t fluffy, but it’s fine.

So I’ve been taking classes because I just want people to tell me what to do. I’m no longer 25 and hoping to be an underwear model (which was always a pipe dream. I don’t have the wherewithal to live on celery sticks and Emergen-C over ice). Now, I just wanna maintain some leanness. So I’m all about having someone else boss me around.

For the past few months (even before New Year’s…this ain’t some fly-by-night new year resolution that’s gonna be abandoned) I’ve been boxing, spinning and “total body conditioning”.

You know those – the ones filled with women…so men think they’re too tough for them?

Yeah, those.

Every. Single. Time. I’ve walked in arrogantly thinking I was too brutish for the class. And Every. Single. Time. I’ve had my ass (and shoulders and abs and glutes and quads and biceps) handed to me on a dirty yoga mat.

Every single one of my dozen “this’ll be cake since it’s really for ladies” classes has gone something like this:

*** I walk in, assess the room. ***

Hm. Four middle-aged women. All older than me. They must be so intimidated, me who’s gonna come in and ruin their mojo cuz I’m gonna be so much stronger than they are. Wait. Are they older than me?

I glance in the mirror.

Never mind. I’m older. They’re still impressed I’m here. Cuz dudes don’t take these classes. Wait. That’s the teacher? What is she? Like 95? This is not sexy Equinox with a toned 27-yo model body. It’s gonna be jazzercise from the 80’s. Ugh. Wasting my time.

*** Warm up w step-touches, a few grapevines, and step-touches in a circle.***

What is this – a nursing home exercise class? This is embarrassing. The men lifting actual weights outside this studio must be judging me getting my Jane Fonda on. I’m sure they’re not thinking about their own insecurities and checking their body image issues in the mirrors.

***Lunges with weights.***

Lunges with bicep curls? Ok. At least we’re doing two things at once. Should I pick up my medium weights or my heavy weights? Well, these ladies are using mini-weights. I don’t want to seem too arrogant. I’ll do the medium weights.

*** And very quickly… ***

Wow. This is getting hard. At least we’re almost done.

***We weren’t almost done. We were on the first of 147 sets***

Ohmigod. I’m the only one wincing. This instructor has great form. Good for her. Wait, I just gave her a “good for her” sympathy thumbs-up, but she doesn’t need sympathy. This must be the big push at the beginning, though. And my legs are always the quickest to tire. Must be because I’ve got strong ones. We must be almost done.

*** “And another few sets, girls! Oh! And gentleman!” ***

Thanks for the shout out. I need to step it up. Stop looking tired. Wait. Another set? Ohmigod. When will this fresh hell be over? Let’s get to the arm workout. Then it’ll be easy for me. Keep…your…form…come on. Almost done. Come on…

*** We finish the lunges. My legs are quivering. ***

Oh, thank God.

Meanwhile, I’m totally judging the teacher’s choice of 90’s music boy band music…which I secretly love and know all the lyrics. Well, those leg sets were tough, but I’m sure the rest of the class will be easy and a waste of my time.

*** 798 shoulder presses combined with squats and standing-side leg-lifts ***

Come ON, Me! Keep your shoulders up. Wait, is this the Backstreet Boys? Or N’Sync? Wait. Do I like this song? Or do I LOVE it? It’d be a hell of a lot better if I could put these weights down. I’ve skipped, like, half this set. I’m skipping steps. Wait. Are they watching me? Are all these ladies who are doing their 478th leg lift looking at me? Stop being so narcissistic. They aren’t watching. They don’t care. Stop being such a man, dude – thinking they’re all watching; thinking they care that a man invaded the class. No one’s watching me, now…I hope. Because I’ve just collapsed and I’m skipping half these leg holds.

*** Push-ups. ***

Oh, good. Now I’ll regain my dignity.

*** Six push-ups, later…***

Ohmigod. Is this some sick kind of voodoo magic this unicorn-of-an-instructor is pulling? I can usually do 30 push-ups with no problem. But I’m collapsing at seven. I bet the women are all doing knee-push-ups.

*** I look around. They’re not doing knee push-ups. ***

I think I’m already done. Surely they’re all done. Wait, – one-legged push-ups? What’s going ON? And I have to do it again on the other side?

*** OK, ladies – and gentleman- now more arms. You might want to pick up a heavier weight. ***

I audibly laugh. She winks at me.

Oh, yeah. I bet she’s already like, “I knew you’d be dying, by now, kiddo…you and your arrogant, yet fragile, ego. I’ve seen it all, before.”

*** Time for abs ***

By now, I’ve reoriented my goal…just make it through half of these sets. Abs always suck in classes like this.

Yep, they sucked. I did about 30% of the abs. The instructor has done every single move all while coaching us through her Britney Spears microphone.

I need to re-tool my New Year goals: to merely keep up with the badass women in my “only-for-ladies” class.

 

From Fear to #MeToo and Back Again

I’m fascinated by the ongoing societal discussion of sexual harassment and worldwide reckoning with the thousands-year exploitation of women.

The movement makes me think about a badass dear friend of mine, Charlotte, who talks about the dawning of the age of Aquarius (unrelated to the song) and who’s personal mission is to reunite people with their inner divinity.

I’m not well-versed in astrology, new age intellectualism, or vortexes. But I do believe there is a deep energy force that connects humans to each other and to nature, and is what orchestrates the harmony with our Mother Earth (however unharmonious we humans try to make it.) Call this energy what you will. I’m fine with calling it God.

So Charlotte is the leader (she hates that term but I’m proud to call her that) of an ever-expanding “circle of women”. They believe in the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine (which are vastly different from the notion of gender roles) and seek to harness the power (or divinity) within human beings to reformulate a more peaceful, energy-focused, divine world that’s less fucked up by humans and the institutions that screwed it all up for us: government, church, corporations.

Or, if you will, organizations constructed by men.

All of these institutions are elements of un-divine masculinity: a perverted basis of power, competition, destruction and war that didn’t always dictate humankind.

For example, Charlotte talks about how Europe in the “Dark” Ages was actually much more matriarchal and not “dark”, at all. The women had deep knowledge of nature, plant remedies, and energy forces. Society was egalitarian and symbiotic. There wasn’t ownership of land by individuals since villages had to work together to survive. And women were leaders in their communities.

Sure, there were invading Huns, pestilence, and life was about survival, with much less pleasure. But what we call the “Dark Ages” wasn’t a time of universal suffering; it just happens not to be an era defined by conquer, control, competition, ambition, and domination. Life in fiefdoms was marked by fewer historic milestones, so the men writing the history books considered it a dark time. But “normal” life was not “dark.”

But then societal institutions (church, government, and “companies”…meaning private ownership of stuff) became fearful that they couldn’t keep control. So they move to repress. And these organizations run by men certainly couldn’t have women’s input. They were afraid of losing their grip on power, so these organizations acted as tyrants and demagogues, harnessing power and competing to be top dog.

Bringing that closer to home, “masculinity” (power, competition, domination, war) has screwed up society and men. This last-couple-millennia age of war (as opposed to that of Aquarius) has meant a distorted notion of masculinity has screwed up men, our notion of manhood, and gender roles.

And we men are so very screwed up. We have impenetrable emotional walls, we are afraid of showing vulnerability or proclivities other than the mainstream. In general, we lack the intimate friendships that bond women to each other. We focus on competition instead of mental health, domination instead of mutual benefits, defensiveness instead of openness.

And we are afraid. So very afraid – of not being the strongest, the fastest, the smartest, the richest, the manliest, the most virile and most respected. We fear NOT being top dog.

But what does being the top dog get us? – things that really matter in life?

We have manipulated our worlds into that of power and conquest – leading us directly to the scandals du jour of rampant sexual harassment. Instead of sex being a mutual bond, it’s about domination and conquest.

And I believe that’s directly related to sexual harassment. We have unhealthy perspectives of sex and sexuality that have been bastardized by the institutions that control society and norms and laws…those aforementioned institutions meant to control society and created by, yes: men.

(Andrew Sullivan has written a myopic account, recently, talking about the different genetic programming between men and women and that men are programmed to compete and dominate. I don’t dispute that. And he points out that gay men are a microcosm of competition and domination without women’s influence and basically, “It’s just fine.” I’d argue that, sure, men and women are genetically programmed to act differently and that men are naturally more competitive and seek dominance. However, it can be combined with respect and self-control. Healthy approaches to sex and being in tune with one’s own ego doesn’t mean undermining our genetic predisposition. Come on, Andy. You can’t excuse unwanted groping as being acceptable because of genetic programming…for women or men, gay or straight.)

But I digress.

I used to think the “Age of Aquarius” was hippy mumbo-jumbo. But, maybe we are finally turning a corner from an age of destruction toward an age of, I dunno…construction? You wouldn’t think so with the saber-rattling of international leaders. But let’s think big picture – 51% of the world population is acquiring more influence and proving more than adept in leadership positions. For the first time, possibly in history, societies are legislating parity.

We know we need to collaborate to save the delicate world that sustains our existence.

We know we are economically interdependent and need to wage cooperation, not war.

This dawning age of cooperation is a marathon, not a sprint. It might take decades (or centuries) to establish. But war makes less sense. Domination and selfish competition make less sense.

Is #MeToo leading us closer to Aquarius where men can re-discover the “sacred masculine” (without fear “compromising” a 2018 sense of “masculinity”) and women can settle into the “sacred feminine” (or men can embrace their inner femininity without fear and vice-versa for women?)

The new possibilities are limitless in a world with less fear.

What a world that could be…

I Waited for Two Hours. What was the Point?

Here’s a conversation I had with myself while waiting in sub-freezing temperatures for two hours to spend about five minutes in an art exhibit. I had some real epiphanies about parenting and art…

9:40, not bad. Surely that chalked sign on the sidewalk can’t be accurate: ’90 minute wait from this point.’ Yeah, right. It can’t seriously take that long to see this Japanese artist. Wait, what is this exhibit, again?

I dunno. I just saw it on Instagram and read about it in the Times, a few months ago. So…I’m here because the Times and some people on IG told you to come?

More or less.

So we are posers. Just wanting to see things cuz other people are doing it?

I guess. Isn’t everybody?

Especially in New York.

Seriously – except for the 1% of artistic elite (and who are those people, anyway?) aren’t we all just seeing stuff cuz other people tell us to?

Do you think we’ll get in and think it’s stupid?

I mean, duh. It’s some 90 year-old woman’s paintings of polkadots.

Seriously – like, our six year-old could almost do the exact same thing.

Right.

How much time has passed?

Three and a half minutes.

Jesus H. I’m freezing. Thank goodness for this coffee to warm my hands.

For now.

Seriously.

<20 seconds of silence passes in the freezing cold>

Two hours in the bitter cold just to say we did it? Is this worth it? This is when New York sucks. There’s just too much demand.

I know. The crowds screw it up for everyone.

But we still play the game. You just do these things to say “I was there”?

Uh-huh.

The Gates?

Right.

That play you had to see in three parts and some people saw it all in one day.

Right. I missed that. Coast of Utopia?

Something like that.

Hamilton.

At the Public.

Right. Pre-Broadway.

That photographic exhibition on the old White Star Lines pier ten years ago?

Right. With the over-sized sepia photography of elephants and kids underwater.

Oh, yeah. That was…random. But it felt cool to have seen it.

And brag that you were there.

Right.

But now? We’re standing in line for 2 hours…

Please don’t let it be that long…

And we will be in this room for a couple minutes, at the most.

Wait, what?

Yeah, they don’t let you linger more than 30 seconds in the three rooms. There’s just too much demand.

Ohmigod, this is bullshit.

Thank god the kids aren’t here.

Seriously. And then in those 30 seconds, we’re just gonna have our phones out Insta-bragging about the experience. Shouldn’t we put phones away and just be in the moment?

Are you fucking kidding? Then there’s no proof we were there. If it doesn’t happen on Instagram….

I know. But this is art and it’s fleeting. Maybe we should go all 19th-century?

Hell, no.

I kinda think you shouldn’t photograph churches or sunsets. Photos never do it justice.

Um, 1986 called. It wants its photographic pretension back. Are you kidding me? This is why we’re here! Pretension! Shouldn’t we be too good for instagram?

I suppose. This kinda thing drives me crazy, though. Reminds me of my mom. She drug me around to museums and always took 6 hours to read every panel about harbor seal genus or random Dutch painters who weren’t even in the same epoch as Von Gogh. It was awful. I hated museums.

But you remember going, right?

I guess.

And were you the most worldly 4th grader having schlepped through the Air and Space Museum for six hours?

Um, maybe? Was it worth it? Wouldn’t I still have been smart’ish without suffering through four hours in an art museum that no 10-year-old could care about?

Who could say?

What if I had my kids, here? They’d just whine and say they wanna go and I’d just be herding cats and telling them, “don’t touch that. Don’t touch that. Stop running. Don’t touch anything. Calm the fuck down.”

Right.

So what would be the point?

They’d remember it like you remember suffering through the Air and Space Museum.

Is that why we do this? We bring on the sadist and the masochistic cultural suffering to brag we were there and hope our kids will have a faint memory of having done it…just so we all get social ladder points for saying, “I was there.”

Maybe.

Couldn’t we just see it in a book? Instead of waiting for 2 hours in 27 degree weather? How long’s it been? An hour?

Fourteen minutes.

I can’t feel my feet and my coffee’s gone.

Luckily it’s not snowing.

Yet.

So then we will get inside and just video the entire thing and our pictures of ourselves will be in mirrors with our own reflections. How’s that an artistic experience?

I’m not sure.

Shouldn’t it be a pure experience? Something zen-like?

Like through the eyes of kids?

Right. Un-besmirched by technology.

Sure. But, I dunno. It’s 2017. You’ll have recorded it.

Will I ever watch the video again? Sure as shit no one else wants to watch it.

What’s a “pure” artistic experience, anyway? Who can quantify that?

I suppose just being silent with the art.

Sure. Silence is golden. But we’re limited to 30 seconds. It’s not like you can commune with any of this polkadot nonsense.

Right.

How do you ever achieve zen –like appreciation of anything? A sunset, a church, a piece of art?

I dunno. Just…try to enjoy it.

Huh.

…..

Has it been an hour, yet?

Twenty three minutes.

Ohmigod. I’m really questioning this.

It’ll be great. Just…enjoy the moment.

That’s it?

I mean, shit. It’s just polkadots. Are you supposed to get greater meaning out of life from polkadots?

And tiny, repetitive eyeballs painted by an OCD 90 year-old woman.

Right, that. Is that really art?

Well, it’s silly. And whimsical. And that’s fun, isn’t it? In the age of…

Right. Trump.

See? Don’t we need more colorful eyeballs and polkadots to take us out of our every day?

I guess that could be enough.

Sometimes it just needs to be. Smile at the polkadots, even with your phone in your hand. Enjoy it.

Yeah, I suppose even Van Gogh would say that.

Eh, probably not. He’d have already become pretentious and over-analytical.

But for the rest of us…just…enjoy it.

I’ll try. Makes sense.

……

How long, now?

Thirty-one minutes.

Why am I sweating so badly in my pits? Always in the cold, if I just stand here, my pits are over-active. Are they confused?

I can’t answer that for you.

….

So this’ll be worth it?

Sure it will. You’ll remember the suffering, you’ll remember the polkadots, and you’ll remember how you smiled through it.

And I guess that pulls us out of our everyday muddling through Trumpian times.

That should be enough.

It has to be.

And we can brag “we were there.”

Exactly.

And that’s the point of art?

Sometimes. Why not? A memorable blip on our generally boring existence?

Fair point.

…….

How much time, now?

Forty-one minutes.

*Shameless product placement. @E.C.Knox (insert winking emoji, here)

#MeToo and Douchebaggery

I’m late to the #MeToo conversation surrounding sexual harassment, but I’ve encountered fewer men weighing in than I’d expect. I know this is a time when men should often just shut up and listen. (Bad timing for some man-splaining?)

But I also think dads and sons and brothers should be part of the conversation.

This isn’t the time for anyone to ask, “but this all happened so long ago. Why bring it up, now?” (Because it still matters. Even you, Keillor.)

This isn’t the time for postulating, “Yeah, it was bad, but should it really ruin someone’s life?” (Well, Spacey, maybe you should’ve thought about that before thinking with your groin. You weren’t 13. You were in your 20’s. You knew better.)

Women: I’ll probably put my foot in my mouth wading into this delicate issue. So maybe I should just be speaking to the menfolk.

But I have to say: I’m loving this.

I love this zero-tolerance-for-douche-baggery moment we’re witnessing. And I hope it changes our culture for the good.

Several female friends of mine have voiced their cynicism that “nothing’s gonna change. We have so far to go.”

But that was before Lauer and Keillor and Simmons.

I’m so pissed at the people I admire – Franken and Keillor. Do I think their transgressions are as “serious” as Weinstein, Moore or Lauer? Not really. There’s a difference between stupidity and sickness.

But it’s all under the same umbrella of objectifying and exploiting women.

Being a member of the non-douchebag elite, (of which I think a majority of my fellow men are card-carrying members), I’m glad pigs are going down.

I’m happy that the shit that riseth to the top masquerading as cream is being scooped out and exposed.

And I hope there’s more of them, because that’ll cull positions that should go to more women and more men who aren’t entitled douchebags.

And it’ll teach our sons they can’t be creeps and our daughters that they don’t have to tolerate creepiness.

I’m happy that even Franken is on notice for thinking it’s “okay” for him to even joke about harassing a sleeping woman; because that was first-rate douchebaggery.

If a few people (beloved or not) have to take the fall to make society an egalitarian place where women do not feel objectified or exploited or belittled or unsafe, then that’s ok.

NO MATTER THE AMOUNT OF PEOPLE WHO GO DOWN.

Because a systemic cultural sickness that has allowed sexual harassment to be excused for (thousands of) years is worth changing; no matter the sacrifices made or how many supposed role models are scandalized in the process.

For all the Louis C.K.’s and Roy Moore’s that go down (please may Moore go down, Alabama voters, please), someone more talented and less likely to have sexually harassed someone else will replace them.

And that makes the world a better place.

It may be lots and lots of women filling those shoes.

And that’s a good thing.

All you have to do is not be a douchebag. It’s simple.

Dresses. They’re all good.

I feel like I owe everyone an update on school and dresses and my own state of self-inflicted insanity.

My oldest has worn dresses/skirts/tutus every single day to first grade, and big surprise – it’s a complete non-issue. Getting over that first day was a hurdle, y’all. But just for my partner and me. My kid wasn’t nervous or self-conscious at all. He’s thrived, clothing has been a non-issue, he doesn’t seem to have been twirling down hallways or distracted by his flowing clothing (which was a concern for us) and he hardly talks about it.

He pushes my buttons, that’s for sure. Occasionally he’s put together unbearable combinations of long skirt with a tutu over it and sparkly sweater vest over a tie-dyed t-shirt. Talk about looking like a drunk, homeless Dolly Parton rustling through a box of discarded Goodwill hand-me-downs. The couple of times this has happened and he asks me “can I wear this?” and I have the wherewithal to stop my eye roll and say, “Sure,” he changes and tones it all down. Even he knows it’s too much.

The first day of school there was no issue he wanted to share with us. The next morning I walked with him, hand-in-hand, and said, “Did anyone say you had a nice tutu?”

“One boy said in the bathroom, ‘Don’t call him a girl! Don’t call him a girl! He’s a boy who likes to wear dresses.’”

I bristled. I couldn’t glean the context and I immediately got defensive that this was a bad situation. But I asked, “How’d that make you feel?”

“Good. He was my friend.”

(Oh. Gavin: check your defenses. I need to tell myself that one hundred times/day.)

Apparently some kid might’ve said “boys can’t wear dresses,” at another time on day one, because my kid went on to say, “And another girl said, ‘don’t say that. Anyone can wear whatever they want.’”

“Wow,” I said. “I like that girl.”

“Me, too. She’s my new friend.”

Sigh.

Previous to the start of school, our son asked at bedtime, “Which bathroom do I use?”

I was not prepared for that, though I should’ve been. In first grade, my son will be on the school’s 3rd floor with gender-segregated bathrooms. I completely dodged that question because I had no real answer. But by day two of school, he’d solved his own problem.

One breakfast, he mischieviously (and elatedly) told me, “My teacher let me take the girls’ bathroom pass, today.”

“Oh. How did that happen?”

“I asked to go potty and she said, ‘do you want the boys’ pass or the girls’ pass?’ So I got the girls’ pass.”

We’re entering a whole new world.

On week two, our teacher requested a conference, “Not that anything is wrong. All’s been fine. I just to make sure we’re on the same page.”

During our teacher conference, the teacher basically asked, “Do you want me to correct your son when the class confuses pronouns? Because they basically think he’s a girl, right now.”

My partner and I looked at each other. This would’ve elicited an immediate negative response a year ago – probably from both of us. But this time, we shrugged.

Whaddyagonnado?

We talked about the bathroom issue and the teacher told me, “Your son has asserted what makes him feel comfortable and he asked to go to the kindergarten floor where the bathrooms aren’t segregated. In that bathroom, there’s one stall not marked for girls or boys. He uses that one.”

I started to cry.

This process is often frustrating. I’m sick of my son’s entire focus being sparkles, glitter, pink, Barbie, princess, twirly, tiaras. (But I’d be annoyed with that if I had a daughter, too. It’s just so all-consuming.)

But I’m relieved, grateful, proud and thrilled that my kiddo knows how to take care of himself and assert his desires and is grown up enough to say, “I’m just gonna be my awesome self and sold my own problems.”

That’s definitely what he’s doing – being his awesome self.

Phew.

See? I told you there was never anything to worry about.

(Eye roll.)

Taking the Plunge

Well, here’s a lovely dilemma filed under “I never imagined having these conversations”:

My partner and I have decided we need to be the grown-ups and not be so fearful for our son. Gathering wisdom from innumerable sources, we think it’s best to let our little gender-nonconformist break the ice and wear some skirts to school.

My rationale comes from three arguments:

  1. What’s most important is he love himself and not feel his self-expression is anything shameful to be hidden.
  2. That he knows we always, always, always have his back and love him, unconditionally.
  3. There will be haters everywhere in life, no matter if he dresses in skirts or roots for the Yankees or has a funny walk. The sooner he knows issues 1&2 will help us all deal with the consequences of #3 and we can choose, together, how to address it all.

Also? We aren’t making history, here. Boys from Arkansas to Arizona are already going to school in dresses. We need to calm the F down.

But as we’ve done a bit of back-to-school shopping (yes, we don’t go back until Sept 7th, so we aren’t back in school, yet), I’ve found myself still trying to control the situation. And here’s the rub of this blog entry.

My son is preternaturally drawn to all things pink/sparkles/Barbie.

Now, it’s one thing for a boy to take a stand and rock a kilt with combat boots and an ironic “Brony” t-shirt*. But there’s nothing ironic about my son’s love for all things pink/sparkles/Barbie. He would wear a polyester pink princess dress to school, replete with chincy plastic princess kitten heels, if we let him.

But that’s where I gotta put my foot down.

“Buddy, I know a little something about style, even though you think all I wear is jeans and t-shirts. And, well, that’s true. But trust me – I know what’s cool, and I can help you look awesome rocking a dark skirt and ‘Brony’ t-shirt.”

He actually trusts me (for better or worse) in this approach.

I don’t know if he’s just humoring me and thrilled that we’ve relented (somewhat) with our blessing to wear skirts twice a week to school.

But it’s begun a discussion of what’s “cool” and “funky” in our household.

And, like the ever-wavering cliché Libra that I am, I immediately question my own judgment.

I don’t want my child to become a slave of what’s “cool” or “funky”.

But seriously – won’t life be easier if I guide him down the path of cultural taste, rather than leave him to dress himself like a bird adorning his nest with tinsel and sparkly trash? Or the crab in Moana?

Is it wrong to influence his fashion sense with strong suggestions (as in: I buy it, so I decide) of what he can and can’t wear?

The psychology of fashion is very interesting to me – not the slaves of trends and capitalistic consumerism, but really the psychology of dressing yourself to feel empowered and attractive with wardrobe that commands respect and admiration.

And who am I to say pink/sparkle/Barbie isn’t respectful or strong or admirable?

 

Anyway, I’ve created a monster – in myself. But for the moment, despite my seemingly debilitating insecurity in my own parenting decisions, herein, I feel fine guiding my son toward “rocking” a skirt, rather than “donning” a dress.

Because let’s face it ; life’s easier for the cool.

I hate myself for writing that.

Oh, and as for taking the plunge with skirts at school? Yeah. Here we go. Wish us luck. Any suggestions? Fashionista, emotional or otherwise? Indubitably, I’ll be reporting back.

* “Bros” who dig “My Little Pony”. Yes. It’s a thing.

Well…It Finally Happened

It finally happened. My son was publicly shamed for wearing a dress. And my fatherly instincts screamed with leonine ferocity inside my head, but the diplomacy of a damn Israeli-Palestinian negotiator without.

I took my kids to France, again, for a few weeks, this summer. I figured the cost of the trip was less than paying for 2 kids’ camp in New York City; plus, I used the last of my AmEx miles to pay for the flights.

Anyway.

My gender non-conforming son wore a dress every single day, except when he squeezed himself into his 4yo cousin’s pink bathing-suit-with-attached-tutu. And it was all fine. His new short haircut (see here) drew some double-takes, but, overall, it was fine.

Until one night toward the end of our trip.

I went to a restaurant with another dad and his son, and my kiddo was decked out in his Trolls “t-shirt-attached-to-flouncy-dress”. We were along the banks of a EuroDisney movie set replete with medieval castle backdrop and window boxes exploding with flowers.

My kid saw the quai (is there an English equivalent of “quai?”…or just the stone walkway along the river?) as a stage, so he began his fake tap-dancing.

My other son even played along as the conductor. It was cute.

Until two girls around 9 and 12 years old arrived.

They stared.

Then they started conferring with each other.

Then they started laughing overtly.

My son stopped dancing, and I could see his confidence wane as he insecurely tried to talk with them.

From my vantage point, 20 feet away, I think they asked his name and he tried to respond.

And the laughing continued.

My soul withered. But I found the opportunity to approach the group to chide my younger son for throwing too many rocks into the river. (Poor kid. I literally used him for criticism to find a way to protect his older brother.)

We spoke in English, then I asked my older son in French, “You OK?” and the girls right away turned to me asking in French:

“What are their names?”

I told them.

“And is that one a boy or a girl?”

I took a breath and said the first thing that came to mind: “Well, sometimes he feels like a boy, sometimes he feels like a girl.”

The younger girl pounced.

“Boys can’t wear dresses.”

“Why not?” I calmly countered. “Sometimes it just makes him feel good. Like you feel good in the dress you’re wearing.”

The older sister then chimed in, “Yeah, like girls get to wear boy clothes.”

The younger sister wasn’t having it. “But boys aren’t supposed to wear dresses.”

“Well, this one likes to, sometimes,” I responded.

Both girls contemplated this.

I looked back at my son. Despite my relief at having diffused the situation and starting a dialogue with these girls, my heart broke, again. I could see my son, normally exuberant and often annoyingly vivacious, sitting on the curb, his light extinguished. He’d crossed his legs and was doubled-up on himself and sat staring at the ground. He couldn’t exactly understand, and yet, he understood completely.

We’ve discussed his choices and potential reactions, and I’ve coached him in responding a hundred times. He knows his choices are “unconventional” and he knows to say, at the very least, “I’m a boy, I like dresses, what’s the big deal?”

But he doesn’t know how to say that in French, and til that moment (to my knowledge) he’d never faced overt mocking, before. Ever.

“You OK, buddy?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he responded.

Was he really? Was he, at the innocent age of five, already protecting his father from heartbreak? – so that I wouldn’t’ be able to use this as a teaching moment? Did he already want to avoid me having to say, “this is just what’s going to happen?” Was he already protecting my heart form his own heartbreak?

Or was he actually fine?

Listen, half-dozen readers, I assure you: he wasn’t fine. His body language was ten times more foreign than the language with which I was trying to imbue him during two weeks in France.

But I also know: it’s ok. It was a teachable moment, even if I didn’t get all lecture-y afterward. We let it go. He let it go. I let it go.

The younger sister did not let it go, though. She ran right into the restaurant and announced to her family “the little boy out there is wearing a dress!”

The family was already on their way out of the restaurant, and they avoided looking at me and (I think) avoided looking directly at my sons.

And even though I wanted to scream at the little girls (and their family), “MY SON MIGHT BE IN A DRESS BUT Y’ALL BRING SHAME TO THE FRENCH CULTURE BY…”

Aaaand that’s where I need to censor my judgment of this family that…well…didn’t embody the clichés of French sophistication.

I’d like to avoid total cyber disembowelment.

Suffice to say, that family had some superficial attributes worthy of public embarrassment beyond the merely tacky dresses those girls were pret-a-porting.

But nope.

I kept my mouth shut and tried not to over-think it.

Which is my other takeaway from all these situations and my “advice” to everyone around me – try not to over think it. He’s a little boy who likes to wear dresses. What’s the big deal?

Sigh.

I try to say that to myself every single day.

Inside the Mind of a Gender Creative Boy

May all of our kids be this self-aware and expressive when they are 10 years old.

Raising My Rainbow

I hear from a lot of adults raising gender expansive four and five year olds. The adults are typically stressed, confused, lonely and scared. I get it. I’ve been there. Ages four and five were the toughest for us in terms of parenting a gender expansive child. I tell families that it gets better once the child can communicate his/her thoughts and feelings. Like, now, with C.J. being 10 years old and getting ready to start fifth grade, if I have a question about him, I can ask him and he can answer. I asked C.J. what he remembers thinking and feeling when he was four and five years old and I wrote it all down. I’m hoping that sharing C.J.’s memories below might help families currently wondering and/or struggling. xoxo, Lori

(By: C.J., age 10, August 2017)

When I was two years old I kind of liked cars and…

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