To Our Village: Please Don’t Gender Our Children

I dread the day when my little boy realizes he isn't supposed to play with Minnie and will be mocked for his exuberant cries that "Minnie have a bow!"

This post is the email I sent friends and family asking them to assist Seth and I in creating a gender-flexible, non-hetero-normative environment for our twins. 

It truly does take a village to raise a child.  All of you are part of ours, and we are grateful beyond words to have each and every one of you.

I have been thinking about this email since before my children were born, and the time has come for me to sit down and write it.  When I thought about what I most wanted to communicate here I think what it boils down to is that we need your help.  Beyond Seth and I, you form the closest circle around O and J – a circle that has the power to build the kind of world in which they grow up.  We can’t necessarily change the realities of the outside world, but we can create a buffer, an alternative, a safe place to fall, a refuge, a place where they can be who they truly are.  It is with that in mind that I ask you to open your hearts and minds and consider how you can wield the great power you have in J and O’s lives in order to help us create that safe space.

When I went into my kids’ room this morning, my sweet J was standing up in his crib, exuberant, clutching his stuffed Minnie Mouse as he does every morning.  He shouted gleefully, “Hello Minnie!  I kiss Minnie!  Minnie have a bow!”

“Hello Minnie!”  I responded.

Across the room, my precious O was clutching the matching Mickey with a sly smile on her face.  She did a little shoulder shimmie when she saw me.  The night before as we headed up to bed, she had said softly, “Minnie?” making sure her companion would be in her crib with her.

No, my son doesn’t prefer Minnie to Mickey.  The fact is, my kids don’t know the difference between Minnie and Mickey.  They call them both Minnie.  Either doll will suffice at night when they can’t go to sleep without “Minnie.”  Why?  My kids don’t know what gender is.  Yes, they are too young, but also, we haven’t taught them.

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“10 Things a Guy Should Do on a First Date” and Other Stupidness

This is my response to this post entitled 10 Things Guys Should do on a 1st Date that my brother brought to my attention.  I want to publicly say that this post and the millions of posts like it on the internet, written by both men and women, are stupid.

By “stupid,” in this case I mean stereotypical, sexist, heterosexist, cis-gender biased, minimizing of individual differences among those of the “same gender,” diversity squelching, and generally ignorant.  Let’s forget for a minute those folks who don’t even neatly fit into a male/female category, for whom the rules of how to act on a date based on gender are probably most dramatically absurd.

Let’s just think about the number of men and women there are from all different races, classes, ethnic backgrounds, educational levels, with differing political persuasions, from different professions, some who grew up on farms or suburbs, others in cities, some who were born on other continents or studied overseas, who belong to as many religions as you can imagine.  REALLY?  You are going to make a list of rules of how people should act on dates with one of the 150 million females (and that’s just the U.S.) as if there is ANY one thing these women would have in common.

Admittedly, lists like this for women are equally absurd, but I think there are less of those these days as people are somewhat aware of the political incorrectness.  As my brother points out, it’s still okay to make absurd generalizations about women to “help” men, but not as okay to tell women how to please men.  So for all the straight men who have argued to me that there are now “rules” men have to follow that women don’t “because of feminism,” I am here to tell you that if these are the rules you are referring to, they are stupid.

Let’s start here.

Take Charge. We do not want to decide where to go. We will never tell you this, but it is true. Ask us what kind of place and/or food we like; then, pick a place like that. Do not leave it up to us to choose. You are the man. Act like one.

Brilliance!!  Guys, if you want to date someone who’s been in some kind of coma and missed second wave feminism, go ahead and take this advice.  Who wants to date someone who would state they don’t want to have to make decisions?  If “acting like a man” means telling women what to do because it takes too much exertion for us to figure out what we want, that is offensive to everyone.  Seriously??

Mind Your Body Language. If your legs are crossed and your hand is over your mouth, we will unconsciously think you are hiding something. If you are sprawled out all over with your legs spread wide and your hands behind your head, we will think you are a slob or generally loose. Sit up straight, lean in closer, and keep your hands where we can see them.

This makes men sounds like monkeys in a cage under observation by some very suspicious observer.  I don’t know about other women, but I would never be observant enough to notice and or take the time to read that much into a man’s gestures.  ”Keep your hands where we can see them?”  Really?  Because all men are predatory and not to be trusted to even move their hands out of sight?  I don’t think so.

No Pawing Allowed. If you’re going to score with us at some point, we will let you know. Trust. Occasional physical contact is OK — a hand to the small of the back, a touch of the thigh, a brief holding of the arm while making a point. Do not grab anywhere in the red light zones. If we want your hands there, we will put them there.

Pawing?  Now the men have been demoted from monkeys to dogs.  Sensational!  I know some readers may be stunned by this, but some women like things to move quickly in the physical department… yes, I’m talking about S.E.X.  There are also men who want to wait… long… take it from me.  We all need to be aware of others’ boundaries.  I have had many female friends complain that a man is never making a move, and others complain that one is too forward.  If you want someone to know your boundaries you have to tell them.  This is true for persons of all genders.

Pay. Feminism, shmeminism. Take care of the bill without comment. That is what we want. Wave off any offer to go dutch. We lied. We don’t want to pay half.

UHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.  Ladies, are you as pained by this as I am??  WTF.  SERIOUSLY??  I would like to state for the record that while I am biologically female and also identify with a female gender identity, I do not consider myself part of any “we” that wants to put up a sham of wanting equality only to have a man refuse to treat me as an equal.  THAT is NOT sexy.  Women should pay half!  If you don’t agree, date women like the one who wrote this post.  If you do, date women who will pay half.  Please do not read shit like this and then go around whining about how women are only interested in money, dating is “so expensive.”  BUNK.

When I hear my single male and female heterosexual friends complaining that “all men… ” or “all women…” I want to say where are you looking, and how hard?  What would you be willing to compromise to meet someone who doesn’t expect you to follow a gendered script?  Would you be willing to accept someone who doesn’t follow other culturally prescribed scripts?  Someone who doesn’t have money?  Someone short (mostly for women)?  Someone of a different race or religion?  Someone who identifies as GLBTQIAPK?  Someone who doesn’t meet your friends and families expectations?  Someone divorced?  Someone who demands equality in other areas in addition to splitting the bill?

Most of the rest of these are not so bad, but I  can be put under the category of good advice for ANYONE:

Listen…  Ask Questions…

Everyone needs to ask questions and listen.  EVERYONE.  People who ask questions and listen are more successful in most aspects of life, including dating.  These social skills predict success better than IQ, education, etc.

We really do not care if you are secretly neurotic, deeply insecure, or mildly nuts. We are interested in how you portray yourself. Act confident, interested, engaged, self-assured, ambitious, and happy. We like that. Thanks.

We’ve all been on those dates where people reveal way too much too fast.  If you’re a shrink like me, you are probably married to that person.  Yes, there are those of us who are impressed by someone who will speak openly about his/her emotional life and past struggles.  Of course that depends on the way it is presented.  Everyone has a different level of tolerance for airing one’s baggage.  But in general, it’s probably best to be yourself, without talking like you would in my office.  That goes for men and women.

Bottom line… if you don’t like “the rules” don’t follow them, and demand partners who don’t either.  I often here from men and women that they get better results with internet dating when they present themselves in a very gendered way, or in ways that don’t suit them.  Remember high school?  I probably would have been more popular if I had done a lot of things that didn’t suit me too, but I didn’t do all those things.  Hell, I’d probably have more people reading my blog if it was called “Naked and Horny in the Suburbs” and included photos of me in in compromising positions.  Quantity is not everything.  You are better off with 10 dates with quality people you might actually like than 100 sheep who are blindly following cultural norms.  Quantity is for conformists.

If you don’t follow “the rules” that will make it more likely your peers and future generations will not have to either.  If you don’t like the expectations of the people you are dating, date other people.  Here’s a tip – TALK to people.  When the bill comes, start a conversation.  Even if it turns out you’re totally incompatible, that’s good information that could save you a lot of hassle. You get to have a genuine exchange instead of being fake and following some script that’s going to lead you nowhere anyway.  And who knows… somebody might just learn something.

 Copyright 2012, undercoverinthesuburbs.com.  All Rights Reserved.

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Out of Which Closet? (My Husband Does Do That Part 3)

Not my mom.  So who am I then?   Or should I say what am I?  Sometimes my husband and I feel like we are different, gay perhaps, or maybe queer?  Is there more to being gay than the sexual preference part?  Where is the line between gender and sexual orientation?

I love and have sex with a man, but I don’t feel straight.  Women are sexy too.  I think I’d love being with a woman, but I can’t say I’d prefer it to a man.  But I also feel like there’s more to my not feeling straight than that, so calling myself bi doesn’t feel right either.

Perhaps it goes back to not believing in gender as most people see it.  Labels of gay and straight necessarily imply hard lines between male and female.  To define one’s sexuality by “who” or “which” one is attracted to, one must buy into the concept that there are clear males and clear females.

What about those who do not fit neatly into those categories?   Did you know there are roughly as many intersex people as there are Jews?  That’s a sizable portion of the population, and it doesn’t even begin to cover those along the transgender spectrum!

I went to a talk once where I was introduced to the term “omnisexual,” meaning attracted to basically anyone, because you reject the notion of dichotomized gender roles.  Is that what I am?

How does one “come out” as omnisexual, pansexual, genderqueer?  And does one have to look the part?  I surely don’t.  And what about the other aspects of my lifestyle?

My husband and I don’t live as male and female the way most people seem to.  We don’t organize our lives around gender… at all.  None of the daily tasks we do, the way we raise our kids, the way we organize work in and outside the home, the way we relate to each other, the power structure in our relationship, none of it is based on the fact that he’s a man and I’m a woman.

I often feel like this is my dirty little secret.  I don’t know how to talk about it.  There’s no word for it.  I don’t know how to find others like me.  This must be how it feels to be gay before one realizes there’s a concept for “it.”  How amazing would it be to be able to go to a bar or a website where everyone is, well, whatever I am?

It always amazes me that so many people seem to exist on the earth who fit into already existing categories.  There’s another “man” who “has sex with men,” must be a “gay man.”  Hell, there’s even a category for people who like animals!

What about the spaces between the categories?  What about new categories?  Isn’t our desire really way more complicated and varied than the available labels we have?  Where’s my category?  I want to come out, but I can’t figure out which closet I’m in!

Copyright 2011-2012 undercoverinthesuburbs.com.  All Rights Reserved.

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Undercover in the Suburbs

I never wanted to get married.  I never wanted children.  I was sure I could have a wonderfully succulent life without these instruments of the patriarchy, and I’m certain I could have.  Okay, in all honesty, I still thought boys were icky well into my twenties, so it was downright hard to envision marriage and children would ever happen to me anyway.  Thus while my feminist ideals were entirely sincere, they also helped me avoid being disappointed.

Somewhere in my mid-twenties, I walked into a clothing store in New York City and fell in love with a girly pink dress with just a teeny bit of lace trim around the bottom.  Instead of squelching my desire as I normally would to quell the inevitable cognitive dissonance attached to such urges, I walked out of there wearing the dress.  Screw the fact that I didn’t have the right shoes or bra to go with it, or anywhere fancy enough to wear it.  My mother had just died a few days before, and I was feeling a bit like a snow globe whose little white bits had gotten all shaken up, and it was yet unclear where they would land.  I wondered who I would be without my mom, who would I be if I wore this dress, who I would be with all these contradictory parts of me floating around in a little glass orb…  Was I suddenly just like all the other girly girls or a tomboy enjoying one aberrant evening in my new pink dress and sneakers?

So here I am seven years later, and my whole life feels like that dress.  Definitely what I wanted, but also not me.

This blog is about feeling like a radical and looking like a soccer mom.

This blog is about maintaining one’s creativity in a cookie cutter world, and being a smart girl at a time when everyone seems enamored with idiocy.

This blog is about feeling not quite conventional, a bit too eccentric, not straight enough, and way too feminist to hang with the other mommies, but not quite out there enough to take my kids and move to some kind of collectivist commune or join that lesbian separatist movement after all.

This blog is about being a mom of twins, as if I didn’t already feel like a freak!

This blog is about trying to live a holistic lifestyle without relocating to a giant bubble on the moon where no one has ever heard of McDonald’s.

This blog is a tribute to the love of my life, a true partner in every sense.

It is about sustaining an egalitarian marriage while systemic barriers force us into traditional roles.

This blog is my anthropologist notes from a culture that is both mine and yet deeply foreign.

This blog is my answer to such frequently asked questions as “Where’s your minivan?”

This blog is my study on whether to speak up and say my husband DOES do that, or just smile politely and pretend I’m also living in the 1950s.

It is about wanting and not wanting and trying to reconcile all the different parts of myself.

This blog is about acknowledging that I love my kids with a kind of passion like nothing I’ve never felt before, then admitting that the endless days of repetition are turning my brain into a pile of poo-poo, and that I skip out the door on my way to work.

This blog is about who I will be as wife and mother, and who I will be apart from a wife and mother.

This blog is my coming out party, and my attempt to figure out which closet I’m in anyway.

This blog is about waking up one day, undercover in the suburbs, trying to reclaim all those little pieces of myself, and watching to see where they will land.

Copyright 2011-2012 undercoverinthesuburbs.com. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Lyla Cicero