Monday, June 16, 2014

Ma'am, did you know that haircut makes you look like a man?

Wild hair flying around as he giggled uncontrollably, my 3 year old son flung himself along the monkey bars. As he reached the end, his hand slipped and he predictably fell to the ground in a heap. He sat there, gathering himself, when suddenly, several women rush over to him and begin touching him and talking to him.

"Little girl! LITTLE GIRL, ARE YOU OK?" One lady leans forward into his face, pokes his arm. "Hey, are you hurt? Where's your mom?"

He has already made eye contact with me, silently pleading for help as I'm rushing now, since the greater issue isn't the fall, but the interaction. I quickly stand by his side, ask him if he's okay, and then encourage him to speak clearly to the people around him.

See, he really dislikes being touched and yelled at by other people, especially people he doesn't know. But, he especially doesn't like being called a girl. It's nothing to raise your feminine hackles over...he has no concept of one sex being better or worse, nor is he prevented from playing and acting in whatever fashion he desires. He is simply in that clarity stage, where he is adamantly a boy.

Of course, a lot of passion in this stage is probably fueled from similar incidents. He wants long hair and he likes glitter shoes, two things only girls are allowed to wear judging by the slew of constant comments that follow him around.

The most common phrase out of his mouth when it comes to strangers?

"I'm not a girl! I AM A BOY!"

Interestingly, this is rarely enough clarification, even for the adults. Especially for the adults.

"Ah, she's so sweet. Is it a stage?"
"Is she really a he?"
"I can't tell. Daughter or son?"
"What'd she say?"

Here's a novel idea. People need to STOP talking about children! Tada! Stop thinking you have some random right to comment on a child's appearance or behavior in ANY way other than cases of life threatening, immediate danger.

STOP saying things about them.
STOP asking about them.
STOP saying things to them.

No one needs to know what or who or why the hell another child is anything or anyone for any reason. The public's entitlement of children is disgusting.

I've spent almost 6 years fielding constant judgmental comments about my children, my family as a whole, and my uterus. And even a harsh glare and solid answer doesn't warn them, why, it seems to encourage them to keep digging!

My daughter, when she was two, loved Toy Story and we indulged that with Buzz Lightyear glowing shoes. This is how she spent age 2, with her bouncing curls and flowing dresses.

"Why is she wearing boy shoes?"
"Excuse me, is she a boy or a girl?"
"A girl can't be a princess with clunky shoes like that!"
"Did your husband want a boy?"
"Are you sure she's a girl?"

Alternatively, if they didn't notice her favorite sneakers, they still only discussed her as if she was an inanimate object for their viewing pleasure.

"Oh, isn't she beautiful!"
"Look at those curls!"
"You have a pretty girl."
"Why, she is so pretty. What a good girl." (Double glory?)
"I love your girly clothes."
 "Little dear, stick fights are for booooys. You're a nice girl." (Another double!)

I dare you. I dare you to think back to things people say to your children or about your children. I guarantee you that 99% of the time, it is a comment about their appearance, or sometimes behavior in front of others. It's about what they wear, their eyes, their smile, who looks like daddy, who looks like mommy. And it's always, always judgmental.

Oh, you don't mind as an adult. It's not bad or wrong, you assure me? People mean well so I should let them continue doing this to my children? You're missing the part where children are carefully analyzing and interpreting their worldviews here. Saying, "You're so pretty! It must be hard with all those rough and dirty brothers," is a severe judgment to both sides. Say that or something similar to a girl almost every day of her life...is it really harmless? Or is it crippling?

The comments continue. Day in and day out, people think they have the right to loudly discuss innocent, unsuspecting, developing children right in front of them, as if they aren't there, as if they aren't listening.

"Oh, he's a boy? I didn't realize due to those curls. He needs a hair cut!"
"He looks like a girl!"
"Why is he wearing a necklace?"
"You can't go cheap with hand me downs and put him in pink! You'll confuse him!"
"Is he wearing glitter sandals? Why would you let him?"
 "Better put a stop to that! Wow, what would your husband say?"
"Why won't you cut his hair? You're being abusive forcing him to look like a girl."
"Wow, um, she's pretty bossy for a girl isn't she?"

CUT THE CRAP, PEOPLE! Your errant, ridiculous comments are hurtful and unwarranted.

Stop the children watching. It's rude, and a little creepy. You're not building up children. You're tearing them down behind a little glib smile and an upturned inflection of your voice.

If you absolutely must say something about or to a child, try a mental exercise. Say something that does not involve their appearance, a judgment, or a comparison.

Or, wonder of wonders. Smile kindly. Nod your head. And move on. It's simple enough to see, if you stop pushing, that some children do not prefer to be approached in public, touched in public, or have their personal choices and appearance discussed in public, especially by a stranger. 

Maybe I should make a point of this. I say, whenever I'm casually shopping at the grocery store or at the park, I'll walk up to a lady. I'll nab one that catches my eye, as she's eating dinner with her family at a picnic table or checking out at the register. "Wow, your dimple is really adorable! Is that from your mommy?" "Do you always wear your hair like that? It makes you look like a boy!" "I can't believe you're wearing those shoes." "But you sure do have pretty eyes!" *touch* *poke* *hold hands out for a hug*

Insanity. Absolute insanity. Get a clue.

Not your body.
Not your butt.
Not your choice!
Related...

Stop Calling Your Daughters Pretty and Your Boys Strong

My Kids Heard You in the Store Today

3 comments:

  1. I cannot agree enough. And I was completely gutted that my eldest son who absolutely loved his long curly hair finally caved into the pressure and asked me to take him to their hairdresser, where he asked the stylist to cut it all off like the "normal" boys haircuts. He sat still and silently as it was done, he looked naked without his hair. like someone had shaved a lion. And when he got back into our car he broke down and wept that it was gone. My son is just four. He was tired, so tired of adult remarks that boys couldn't have long hair. I wish he'd have talked to me other than asking me to get it cut but he didn't have words for how he was feeling he'd just confirmed it was what he wanted to do. until it was over then he fell apart. He changed for society. The worst part is that no, he never looked like a girl in the first place no one ever called him a girl. It was just that they were judgmental about his having better looking hair than they did.

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    1. YES. My daughter is going through this right now with clothing choices, especially swimsuits. It is heartbreaking to see them trying to conform.

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  2. At least you allow her to make these decisions about her attire. Many parents just force one way or another. Kudos.

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