Going public

One blog-reader wrote me about her family’s Halloween experience this year, and it is SUCH a great story that I asked her to be a guest blogger for today. Here is her story:

***

Last night, my 4-year-old son “went public” for the first time.  Well, that is not entirely
accurate–he dons dresses at his co-operative, play-based preschool just about every day.
Everyone there accepts that and loves him and that’s that.

But last night was a BIG deal because it was a Halloween party at the home of my husband’s colleague.  My husband is a teacher, and the guests were all teachers and coaches.  These are people that my husband truly loves and respects, and most knew nothing about our “secret” before last night.  I know this was hard for my husband.  In fact, the costume that my son wore (Snow White) was actually purchased last year.  But when my husband saw it, he “forbade” me let him wear it anyplace but home.  So we talked our boy into being something else for the parties and trick-or-treating.  I felt awful–my son was disappointed, my husband was angry with me…I felt like I couldn’t win.  And worse, my son couldn’t win.

So a year later, I felt like my convictions were stronger, and I was determined to be a
better advocate for my son, in spite of what my husband would say.  This year, my son
actually chose a Rapunzel costume, complete with a long blonde wig.  She is his favorite
princess.  But when it came party time last night, he wanted to wear last year’s Snow
White frock.  I got him dressed and my husband didn’t say a word.

When we arrived at the party with our three sons (my two older boys were dressed as
different Star Wars characters), the room erupted in a chorus of laughter…at my son.
Now, he didn’t notice, but I did and my husband did, and sadly, my older sons did too.  I
hadn’t expected this, though I’m not sure why.  I felt my mama bear claws emerge, but I
kept my defensive anger in check.  One of my husband’s co-workers asked me, “How did
you get him to do that?!”  Valid question, I guess.  He was assuming it was a joke, that we had dressed him up to make everyone laugh.  I said it was his own choice, that I would never make him wear something he didn’t want to wear.  Several others comforted me
with the “I’m sure it’s just a phase speech.”  I gave my standard response to that: “It doesn’t matter to me if it is or not.”

Most of the other kids at the party, most of whom we did not know, were cool about it.
One girl kept coming up to me and asking me, “Why is he wearing that?”  I explained again and again that he just likes princesses.  She said, “That’s weird!”  I said, “Yes, it is kind of weird, isn’t it?!”  Then I asked her if she knew any girls who liked “boy” things…her friend who was next to her said, “Yes!  I have this one friend….” and she proceeded to describe what we all call a “tomboy.”  I explained that my son liking princesses and dresses is
really the same thing.  They seemed to understand it in those terms.

I was so proud of my older sons, who so coolly defended their little brother several times during the night.  My oldest son, age 11, told another boy who was making fun of his
brother, “What’s the big deal?  Princesses are cool dude.”  It was sweet to me to hear him handle it this way, despite the fact that he was probably a little embarrassed.

At the end of the night, the winner of the costume contest was announced.  All of the
party-goers had voted for their favorite.  When the winner was named, everyone cheered.
Yes, the winner was my son, Snow White.  Whether he was chosen because everyone thought he truly had the best costume or because he was just so darn cute or because he was a joke to most everyone in the room is something I will never know.  But it didn’t matter to my son.  He was beaming as he chose his prize.  It was a memorable night for my whole family.  My husband, my older sons, and I will remember it as the first time we allowed the outside world to collide with our own little world.  And my youngest son will
remember it as the night he had the best costume at the party.

This entry was posted in Clothing, Gender complexity, Holidays, Parenting, Princesses, Stereotypes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Going public

  1. Nicola says:

    so beautiful! My 6 year old has got his halloween witch costume all ready for trick or treating tomorrow in London :)

  2. Christie says:

    What a great story! :)

  3. Sarah says:

    I love it. Thank you so much for sharing!

  4. jouljet says:

    This is beautiful. Well done for letting him be himself! To all the family.

  5. Alicia929@gmail.com says:

    Yay for you! My son has dressed as a female character for Halloween for the past four years. He’s been one of the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” Sarah Palin, Catwoman – any number of great female characters. This year, he was a “sexy girl teacher.” He has long, long, LONG wavy hair, and he always looks gorgeous.

    I get the “maybe it’s a phase” speech as well. In fact, I’ve been getting that for years about their (I have two sons) homosexuality – “Maybe he (they) will grow out of it.”

    My response? “Whatever.”

  6. Jim Dunlop says:

    That’s a very encouraging story. I especially love the tomboy analogy. It really IS the same thing, isn’t it? And while that has become much more mainstream, I long to see the day when the opposite is also true.

    What most “mainstream” people, men especially, fail to realize, is that it takes a HUGE brass set to have the chutzpah to break the norm and come out as different. It takes a level of strength that most people can’t even begin to imagine! And that is precisely why the norm is… the “norm.” It allows people to be comfortable. It ensures that no one (especially someone who lacks courage) feels awkward. But mad props for trying to fight that! People MUST be made to feel awkward and uncomfortable, because it’s only by pushing those comfort limits that we can see progress. Unless we challenge others about their baseless assumptions and comfortable, conformist outlook, we cannot have innovation and we cannot evolve and move forward as a society.

    • DAChecker says:

      The norm is meaningless, cuz there is no normal thing in the entire universe. “… have the chutzpah to break the norm and come out as different.” Nope, those people who think the “norm” has some objective value and everyone has to obey it are the ones with the chutzpah. Therefore the macho is the pussy not the skirt wearing man, because he sails alongside the easy shores of conformity as he is the exegeration of the current male stereotype.

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