Thursday, July 22, 2010

My Life in Pink - Part 1

I know when read the sentence after this one, you’re liable to roll your eyes and say something like, “Somebody call the cliché squad.” I wouldn’t blame you, but that doesn’t make untrue the fact that after three sons and a very tomboyish daughter (who was better at sports and knot-tying and tree-climbing and wrestling and all the other favorite recreations of young boys), Mother was very much hoping for a girl when she learned she was pregnant with me. My understanding is that all Pop was hoping for was some clue as to how he was going to support so many of us on what he earned as a high school basketball coach and drivers’ ed teacher. A wife-and-mother having a paying job in those days was seen as an admission of her husband’s deficient manliness.

I’m male, but don’t remember a time in early childhood when I wasn’t perfectly content to let Mother present me as she pleased. I remember once going to the supermarket with her and Karen, my older sister, and getting in a shouting match in the car on the way home because a fellow shopper complimented Mother on what a gorgeous little girl I was. Karen was terribly embarrassed — and probably terribly hurt too, now that I think about it. At almost 13, Karen was the eldest of us kids, and probably entering a stage in life at which you really want for the first time to be found attractive. I can’t remember a single instance of anyone telling Karen she was pretty, whereas, judging from the photos I’ve seen, I really was an extraordinarily pretty child. All children have large eyes, of course, but mine were huge even for a child, and the color of the sky on the happiest spring afternoon of your life, which made them a good complement to my sunshine-colored hair, which Mother of course would allow no scissors to approach. I wore a great deal of pink. It may very well be that I wore nothing but pink.

I played with dolls, of course. It always amuses me to note how some in our culture imagine that, just because they’re referred to as action figures, little boys don’t play with dolls just as avidly as little girls do. Of course, it wasn’t GI Joe I was playing with, but My Little Pony, and later Barbie.

None of this caused any great concern in our house. By the time I was four, Karen was 16, and had declared her lesbianism, loudly, and wasn’t actually around very much. Scott and Magnus, nine and six, respectively, didn’t seem to think about my gender one way or the other. They didn’t involve me in their rough-housing or games, but I had no great interest in being involved. Father, meanwhile, was working a second job, as a line cook at a chain restaurant whose folksy name belies its being owned by a huge mutinational corporation, and wasn’t around very much. I was Mother’s gorgeous little girlboy, and reveled in being so.

I have no unpleasant memories of kindergarten. I think that most children spend their first year in school too bewildered by the situation in which they find themselves to even think of being awful to one another, and my teacher, Ms. Hennessy, was nice. I had her for first grade too. It was only years later that I discovered that her great solicitousness might have owed to her having entered adulthood as Mr. Hennessy.

What very interesting times we live in!

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