Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Learning From the Four-Year-Old

This is going to sound completely trite, like I'm plagiarizing from some Cosby manual on parenting, or putting to words a Family Circus cartoon, but today I was deeply moved by the Four-Year-Old and one of the ways that she perceived and interpreted the world.

We met Sidekick's family about half-way home at a restaurant for lunch. There, the Four-Year-Old and Sidekick met a couple of other kids and were off playing for most of the lunchtime. The kids were a bit older and had a more *ahem* mature sense of humor. At one point the boy was talking about playing a joke on their parents by wearing his sister's clothes.

Then the Four-Year-Old said that she knew a boy who liked to wear dresses.

Who is it?


I wasn't surprised. BioMom had suspected as much after the third time the Four-Year-Old had come home with a picture "from August" of a princess. It was as if he was looking for a reason to draw extremely girlie pictures.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

BioMom works with a parent of two adopted boys, one from Romania and one from Guatemala. They are really energetic and interesting young boys and we've started getting closer to the family as friends. Anyway, the Romanian boy also enjoys dressing up in girls clothing. Its so strange, even as a lesbian, I have an immediate negative knee-jerk reaction to this that I simply can't explain. Then, I feel this overwhelming sympathy and compassion for the boy and feel myself wanting to invite him over and show him that he has a safe space at our place to be who he is. I don't know if it is my own experience feeling discrimination or, less formally, societal disdain for how I look/act/dress whatever. However, being a woman who is slightly butchy is much more socially acceptable than a man who likes to wear dresses. It is beyond my ability to even imagine how hard it is for a man with those desires to move through this world.

Another part of me is simply fascinated. Because I have such little interest in wearing dresses myself, it is hard to comprehend why anyone would prefer to dress in such uncomfortable garb. For a woman to dress in pants is simply utilitarian. Thorstein Veblen (a 19th century economist whom I greatly admire) wrote about women's dress and its use as a signal of wealth. Wearing high heels indicates that a woman does not need to be on her feet for long.

Another famous economist, now Deidre McClosky (formerly Don) popularized some of these ideas in his/her very public process of "crossing" (sex change) from a man to a woman. She pointed out that nearly a third of cross-dressers in the world are not, in fact, gay. Ultimately, the issue tugs at more than one of my personal triggers and grabs my attention.

Anyway, when the Four-Year-Old brought up her friend at school who likes to wear dresses, my mind jumped to our friend's boy who also likes to wear dresses.

You know, we have another friend who likes to do that too.

I struggled to remember his name and she totally followed my line of thought and knew who I was talking about.

Oh yeah!

She also knew what I was talking about: that he, too, liked to wear dresses and that that was the connection I was making.

What do you think about that?

Everybody likes somethin'!

And she shrugged off to the next thing.

I am still just floored by this. That the kids have clearly communicated these desires to each other. That, either they have not been corrupted enough yet to realize the social disdain these kids will face and therefore want to hide the desire, or that they recognize a safe space in The Four-Year-Old.

Either way, her absolute acceptance was inspiring.

Now for the trite part: I want to be just like her when I grow up.

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