My kid’s complete obsession with princesses has not been a phase. It’s grown exponentially since he was 2. Anything with girls and pink and sparkles grabs his attention…from Strawberry Shortcake (shoot me, now) to My Little Pony (trample me, now.)
Is this a genetic thing for kids (boys and girls)? An as-yet-undiscovered “pink frills” gene?
And my kid’s passionate expression is impressively creative: blankies become boas, sweat pants are inverted around his head to become two braids cascading down his shoulders, skirts turn into a fierce blow-out.
My son is Little Edie with a skirt-turned-turban on his damn head.
Sometimes I want to shout “Just Be A Normal Boy!”
(Don’t worry. I stop myself.)
Instead, I vent to you, here; and the monstrosity of my intolerant thoughts becomes abundantly clear…for the entire internet, instead of just for my kid. I’m sure there’ll be no repercussions, whatsoever.
But I realize my problem with his choices is my own latent self-loathing.
The truth is: he’s doing what I wanted to do as a kid…twirl in beach towels-as-dresses. If I’d been creative enough to put t-shirts on my head, I’d have absolutely done so. (As it was, using a hooded jacket as a pony-tail sufficed.)
My parents were great and supportive and never chastised me for my interests. However, I knew pretty young that they were not cool with me portraying “Princess Leia” or “Daisy Duke”.
If I heard once, I heard a million times: “Someday people won’t be laughing with you, they’ll be laughing at you.”
But their words didn’t deter me from wanting to be “Princess Leia”; I just hid it from them.
So I watch my son perpetually casting himself as “Princess Tiana” or “Scarlett Overkill” (from Minions), or Batgirl and I seethe…with self-loathing. Sometimes I sneer and roll my eyes to myself. I twist a dishtowel until my hands turn white and I grit my teeth and pump my arms in excruciating frustration.
But I say nothing. I never shame him for his choices.
I’ve let the occasional “Strawberry Shortcake is stupid” accidentally slip from my muttering lips. But gawd bless my little son for pushing back and saying, “No! Don’t yuck my yum! Strawberry Shortcake IS. NOT. STUPID.”
He schools me.
I deserve it.
Let the paranoia and shame go. So what? You liked being Princess Leia in 1982. And it proved rough for the next, oh…twenty hears. Yeah, my parents were right: people did laugh. And that fostered within me a paranoia that someone ANYONE EVERYONE would know it and mock me.
I had no tools to own it, defend myself, or fight back, because I’d always been taught that eventually my choices would come back to haunt me. Not: be your best self and let’s celebrate expression! Instead: this isn’t ok for the world. So let’s stop.
My paranoia propelled me to flee anything remotely gay. I tried desperately to distract friends, roommates, co-performers, rowing teammates, fraternity brothers (it was just a brief few months, don’t judge) that I never wanted to pretend to be a girl. Nope. Not me. Maybe that other kid. But I hate girly stuff. Hate it. Girl stuff is stupid.
(Ironically, I was a musical theatre actor the entire time. Thank goodness I didn’t run from that. Because Mom supported it. So I felt safe.)
As I’ve “come out” in previous posts, I don’t think I’m 100% gay, nor do I think I was technically closeted. What I definitely was, was paranoid…all the time. Because I didn’t feel safe being me.
As an adult, it feels good to let that go. (Sorta? Hopefully?)
But that paranoia of outside judgment still informs how I protect my kid.
So I want to scream, “Just be a normal boy!”
But I don’t.
And he’s dealing with it better than I am. Frankly, there’s nothing to “deal” with. He knows that boys can wear dresses and there might be some people who think it’s strange but who cares? He likes it. So be it.
Daddy needs to CTFD.
“Go for it, buddy. You use that disgusting dog pull toy as an ‘Elsa’ braid. I love it and I love you for it.”