Recently, Mr. B had a playdate with a beautiful young girl five months his junior. For the purposes of this post, we’ll call her Cinderella. She happens to have a basket full of fluffy, frilly clothes she uses to play dress-up. Sometimes, she’ll even dress up her sister.
After about a half hour of playing separately, Mr. B with some trains, she in glittery blue polyester and high-heeled shoes, Cinderella inquired if Mr. B could wear the pink dress. She had already put her baby sister in the yellow Belle costume. She supposed, I guess, that every child in the house should be playing along.
Despite my past as a cog in the academic machine of denying innate characteristics for males and females, and deploring the social constructions of our patriarchal society, I balked at this proposal.
I thought, Shit. Here’s something I don’t know the answer to. Do I let my toddler boy put on a pink princess dress?
Is it normal for this to make me feel a bit queasy?
What would Jesus do? Would he put on a pink dress if a nice young lady asked?
Cinderella repeated her question quietly and firmly, while her mother and I kind of acknowledged and at the same time ignored her. Then Mr. B heard. He expressed interest in joining the game. (He’s so accommodating.) I decided I had to let him, appreciate his willingness to try something new, his comfort with fluidity of gender constructions. I can probably even take some credit for that, if I wanted to. My college social psychology professor would be proud.
So I held Missy Mae on my lap, and attempted to put the small pink dress over his head. To my relief, it wasn’t working.
“Oh no!” I cried. “It doesn’t fit. Oh well, we’ll have to play with something else. Here, try this quite gender-neutral crown I found here on the floor. And look, this long piece of cloth can be a cape. You look like a prince!”
I love my toddler unconditionally, and I encourage his nurturing, sensitive, domestic traits. We cook, vacuum, play with dolls (at other people’s houses), do yoga. He kisses and hugs his baby sister. We emphasize the “big” way more than the “boy.” But I’m really glad I didn’t have to witness him wandering around in a shiny pink dress. My gentle, soft-spoken husband would have had a heart-attack.
You may not be Jesus, but what would you do?