Category Archives: Boogie

Girls are Strong

Girls are StrongOh, yes, they are.

She looks not totally unlike my own little placard-waver, Boogie.

How often do girls get a message this positive and this bare?


If you Hit my Daughter to Show her you like her…

I will beat you to a bloody pulp to show you how much I love you for it. Deal?

Thought inspired by this:

I am sure every girl can recall, at least once as a child, coming home and telling their parents, uncle, aunt or grandparent about a boy who had pulled her hair, hit her, teased her, pushed her or committed some other playground crime.

‘I will bet money that most of those, if not all, will tell you that they were told “Oh, that just means he likes you”. I never really thought much about it before having a daughter of my own. I find it appalling that this line of bullshit is still being fed to young children.

‘Look, if you want to tell your child that being verbally and/or physically abused is an acceptable sign of affection, i urge you to rethink your parenting strategy.

‘If you try and feed MY daughter that crap, you better bring protective gear because I am going to shower you with the brand of “affection” you are endorsing.’

Read the rest by Queen of the Couch here.

Just to be clear, if you hit my son for the same reason, I’ll extend the deal to you, too.


Gender, My Arse: Part I

In one of those meandering trips that the internet often takes you on and wastes your entire day with, I’ve been reading blogs written by parents of kids who nudge, push or whack gender boundaries on their arse.

It’s nice, because I have one of those myself; the lovely Boogie projects gender in such a straightforwardly confusing way that she’s mistaken for a boy about half the time by random strangers.

Not that she has to do much to achieve that effect.

Nothing will convince you of the complete, utterly arbitrary nature of gender more than having this happen even when she’s doing nothing; for a girl to get read as a boy these days, it’s entirely sufficient for her to have a short haircut and wear tracksuit pants. Incredible, I know, but (sadly) I kid you not.

I sometimes think that anything under-12 not pink and frilled may soon have to wear a forehead stamp, or a unicorn’s horn, if it’s a girl – you know, just so people aren’t made to feel uncomfortable.

I say ‘these days’ but that’s clap trap. One of ‘these days’ I’ll bore you rigid entertain you with hilarious tales from my childhood when I was mistaken for a boy about 85% of the time. And that was so long ago, pink hadn’t even been invented.

Of course, the reason we rely on such clearly unsatisfactory markers to establish gender in children – hair length, trousers, lack of obvious adornment – is because very few children look so ‘obviously’ male or female that their sex would shine through any of that window dressing. Pre-puberty, (clothed) body markers are non-existent, and facially, all children look more or less pudding-like, don’t you think?

By that I mean of course that they all have that soft, round, air-of-plumpness quality which is what makes them so cute.

While wearing trousers, with her short hair and all and her lack of clips and frills and pink, and all the other markers we expect of a girl, Boogie does look entirely like a boy. Or, at least like how we expect a boy to look.

She has never, however, been misidentified as a boy when wearing a dress; because short hair and all, a simple piece of material is still enough to alter her perceived gender projection entirely. And yes, she does look entirely like a girl.

I can further confirm that if L’il Boo wears a dress he, too, is always identified as a girl. Even if he is engaging in full-blown ‘masculine’ behaviour, like pretending to shoot everything in sight whilst picking his nose.

A dress, it seems, is a powerful thing.

And I’ll tell ya, a weird thing to hang something as fundamental as gender on. Not fundamental to me, of course, but then this whole gender thing wasn’t my fucking idea, was it?

And because gender is so arbitrary, I hesitate when I describe Boogie as one of those kids I’ve been reading about.

So the girl likes tracksuit pants (because they’re better for running, see?) and doesn’t like hair clips (annoying, see?); it’s hardly revolutionary, is it? She’s not even going to get a support group, for god’s sake. And she certainly doesn’t regard herself as bending anything, not yet at least.

Her gender fluidity is entirely dependent on others’ perceptions. And if people’s perceptions weren’t so restrictive, she wouldn’t be ‘misidentified’ at all because they’d have to ask her what sex she was first before making assumptions about her based on whether a piece of material is stitched down the middle or not.

And if the whole thing wasn’t so fucking weird, people wouldn’t give a flying fuck anyway.

Christ on a bike, I hate this world sometimes.


Boy in a Dress

L’il Boo wants to wear a dress.

If I were a different kind of person, I would get all panicky and start throwing Tonka trucks in his general direction, but I am not that kind of person.  Not least because I know where this desire has come from.

Every evening, to avoid school morning meltdown, I ask Boogie the following question: ‘Skirt, dress or trousers?’  She picks one, then I get two of the chosen items out of her wardrobe and she points to the one she wants to wear the following day.

Whilst largely not being arsed about clothes, Boogie is very specific about what kind of clothes she finds acceptable on her skin at any given time.  Some specifications are long-term, non-negotiable (buttons, frills), others are entirely arbitrary and fleeting (‘today I will scream if my jeans are in the wash, tomorrow I will tremble at the very mention of the word jeans’).

Given that this has been the case since she first turned two, the current system (after much trial and error) really works for us both; I get to take the ring road round Whinesville in the mornings and she gets to feel she ‘chooses’ from a choice simple enough that it doesn’t overwhelm her. Happy smiles all round.  By a conservative estimate I reckoned it’s saved me approximately eleventy million whining hours. Good times, eh?

L’il Boo, ever the copier, has now started to display random, fleeting likes and dislikes to items of clothing (dear god, no!).  So random in fact that I have no idea what he’s objecting to in any given case.  I very much doubt he knows either.  He’s just seen his sister do it, and that’s good enough for him.

He’s also, of course, seen that his sister gets choices he’s not offered.  No ‘dress, skirt or trousers’ for him.  Firstly, he gets offered nothing because I’m desperately trying to convince him he doesn’t have any preferences whatsoever.  Secondly, of course, because boys just don’t get the same choices, do they?  It’s ‘trousers or trousers?’ for them.  Or maybe ‘trousers or jeans?’ if I’m being creative.

The boy wants the option.  Practically, I can give it to him because I have enough of his sister’s old clothes in boxes to find something that fits.  But should I?

My first instinct is to say Fuck it!  The boy wants a dress, he can have a fucking dress!

Two things about this: I know enough to know that ‘Fuck it!’ is my first reaction to most things and to far too many things than can actually be good for me.  I also know the way the world works and it does not work well for boys who wear dresses.

He’s two.  Wearing a dress, he would be entirely unaware of any statement he’s making.  I, on the other hand, would be acutely aware of the statement he’s making and, because he’s two, it would be a statement about me more than him.  I’m already known as the resident weirdo feminist amongst both friends and acquaintances.  L’il Boo rocking a dress will do naught to lessen this reputation.

I will be accused (just ask Storm’s parents) of using my child to make a political and social statement, one which, bless him, he can’t possibly have had a say in.  That he chose a dress will not be a defence, merely another example of my man-bashing indoctrination of my children (y’know, like we feminists do).

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with any of that (Fuck it! I say – see?)  If anybody has a problem with me letting my son wear a dress, it’s just that – their problem.

But, though L’il Boo’s only two, he understands shock, and disgust, and horror and disapproval.  He understands all that just by looking at people’s faces.  Just like we all do.  And he will not understand that those faces are in reaction to his clothes, not to him.  And – have I said he’s only two? – he’s too young to have that explained to him.

Why would I want to put him through that?  It’s been bad enough when he goes forth wearing pink trousers (which, along with green trousers, are currently top of his ‘like’ list).  Trust me, people do not like being flummoxed when trying to assign children to a gender box.  On the other hand, why should I restrict him in an entirely unnecessary way?  My only stipulation for Boogie’s clothing choices are that they be weather-appropriate and even that’s fairly laxly enforced.  Why should it be different for L’il Boo?

Is he too young to wear a dress? Or I am just copping out, bowing to The Man?

And if I do cop out here, where’s the fucking line?  What do I compromise on next to stop bigots looking sideways at my children?

Answers on a postcard, please.


I Hate Eavesdropping

Overheard after Boogie’s Football club session:

‘Coach’:  Yeah, it’s really good, we’ve got a few girls in the junior team now and four or five younger girls coming through who have a real chance of making the team.  They’re really holding their own against the boys.

My girl can outpace virtually every boy in her class, her ball work can be exquisite at times, her tackles are full on and her strategic knowledge of the game is becoming awesome.

My girl is not ‘holding her own’ against anyone.  She is excelling.

Full stop.


Food, Glorious Food?

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately.  Or rather, I’ve been thinking about our relationship to food, a sentence which in and of itself is completely weird when you think about it.  A relationship with Food?  This can never end well.  Food will never write, never call and will make you fat just by looking at you.  Bastard.

But it seems that increasingly we just cannot accept that Food is just not that into us.  We insist, despite Food’s complete inability to watch movies without hogging the popcorn or give good head, on pursuing this relationship and weeping when it makes us sick.

And we are getting sick.  Over a million people in the UK suffer from some kind of eating disorder.  Those most at risk are young people between the ages of 14-25, although this may well be changing.  Statistics from the NHS show that that 14 figure may well have to start being revised downwards to say, oh, 10.

Oh, hang on, Ms Optimism!  Statistics from last year were open-mouthed shocking: Almost 600 children below the age of 13 were treated in hospital for eating disorders in the three years previous.  That figure included 197 children between the ages of five and nine.

Five and nine?  Are you frickin’ kidding me?  You’re kidding me, right?  No, you’re not kidding me.

Do not even get me started on childhood obesity.

Boogie is six.  To say that I find this piece of information troubling doesn’t really hit it.  This piece of information makes me want to weep.  And then kill somebody, or at the very least kick a three-legged kitten.  In other words it makes me sad and mad and mean all at the same time.

Course, the old, ‘it’s the celebrities’ thing was trotted out, with Susan Ringwood of eating disorders charity B-eat telling the Telegraph that ‘the figures reflected alarming trends in society, with young children “internalising” messages from celebrity magazines, which idealised the thinnest figures.’

And yes, I’ve no doubt that’s a factor, but the thinness of celebrities is only an effect in itself.  Why are the celebrities so thin in the first place?  Is there simply a genetic connection between a hunger for fame and a preference for lettuce and brittle bone disease?  I haven’t read the literature, but I’m suspecting not.

We’re just emerging from National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, but I’ve been thinking about food for longer than that.  In honesty, I started thinking about food when I had a girl-child but it’s only recently that I started thinking beyond the obvious about it: beyond not wanting her to be fat; not because I’m fattist (which the more enlightened among you will recognise as a comfort-blanket of a fib), but because I wanted her to be healthy.  You know, like, thin.

Not really thin, of course, because that would be as wrong as wanting her to be fat.  So I wanted her to be not too fat, not too thin…what exactly did I want?  Where was the fucking line?  How wide or narrow was this weight spectrum that would be found acceptable by me?  Was it only a few pounds wide or did a stone more or less make no difference?  Would a heavier weight be acceptable if she were taller and could ‘carry’ it better?  Was it OK if she was generally thin but had a bulging belly?  Was a bulging belly deemed OK at 4 but unacceptable by 8?  Could she have a large bottom?  Was whether a large bottom was acceptable at least partially dependent on whether they were ‘in fashion’?

Now, I ain’t stupid.  I could see that something was off with my thinking; it was so…prescriptive.  And so open to failure.  Keeping Boogie within ‘acceptable’ weight limits – no matter how narrow or wide – was going to take micromanagement to a new zenith.  I could see where it would end and I am fucked if I’m going to start weighing out my daughter’s food and have her doing one-armed press-ups in between episodes of Scooby Doo.  But where else could it go?

What was off?  I knew the facts.  Too fat or too thin was unhealthy.  Either led to all kinds of increased medical risk.  It’s true, all the doctors say so, right?  Right?

It was only when I understood why too fat or too thin was unhealthy that everything fell into place.  And I could only make sense of that when I understood that ‘too fat’ is, to paraphrase Caitlin Moran, when you no longer resemble a human being and ‘too thin’ is when the weight of your very skin is too heavy to bear.

When I understood that what was ‘unhealthy’ was not a body shape but a state of mind.

Not many doctors tell you that.  Oh, they tell you that when you’re 14 and you’re hospitalised with anorexia, or 46 and unable to heave your bulk out of a specially-made bed.  Sure, they tell you then, when it’s too fucking late.  Before then, when you really needed to know it, your obsession with your body size, your desire to get it ‘right’ whether ‘right’ was thinner or fatter, was lauded, you were praised for ‘taking control’ of yourself.  Right?

Yep.  It’s that relationship with Food thing again.

Reading Bodies by Susie Orbach really helped clarify my thinking.  As I’ve said before:

In a nutshell, Bodies basically explores how, in the last thirty or some years, our whole concept of what a ‘body’ is has changed from being merely the physical structure housing a person, to being the sum of what a person is, and as such, something that we must now ‘perfect’ in order to ‘perfect’ ourselves as people.

‘Or bodies must be tamed, made to conform to ever decreasing notions of of what is physically acceptable, or we will be found wanting as people.’

When the cage that houses you becomes who you are, interior decorating takes on a whole new importance.  And when that cage is something as fucking unreliable as a body, prone to leakage, stinky emissions, unsightly diseases and other unfortunate social habits, you can see that changing the wallpaper every 10 years just ain’t gonna cut it.

How could we not have a relationship with Food?  Food is the most immediate, most obvious way we can change and mould our bodies.  Food is the thing that can now define us: as fat slobs, as over-achieving control freaks; as people who have control or who have no control at all.  No wonder the whole ‘relationship’ is so fucked up.  But just because having one is becoming seemingly inevitable, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

What are we missing?  We’re missing that food has no fucking bearing on who we are.  Just being genetically programmed to retain fat or just being really, really over-fond of cheesecake or being able to exist on an apple a day, doesn’t actually define who we are as people.  It just means we have genes, or we just really, really like cheesecake, or we have (quite unfathomable to me) self-control.

We are missing the fact that’s it’s impossible to have a ‘relationship’ with food, however healthy we may like to boast that relationship is.  Food is fuel, nothing more, nothing less.  If we choose more good fuel, our bodies will perform sufficiently well so that we don’t have to think about them and we’ll probably lower our chances of becoming unwell.  If we choose more bad fuel, fuel that works against our bodies, our bodies will probably start to falter sooner or later, to a greater or lesser extent.

That’s it.  There is no ‘relationship’.  This is not a two-way street.  You can treat your cheesecake to dinner and a movie then serenade it with love songs before giving it oral sex for three days straight and it still won’t change into having the nutritional value of a floret of broccoli.

But still, something is missing.  We may understand the idiocy of having a relationship with Food, but we still need to eat, right?  Jesus, if we have no relationship with Food, how do we know when to eat, what to eat?

The thing that’s missing is called hunger.  The relationship you need to have is with your stomach.  And it’s the same relationship whether your stomach is convex or concave.

Your stomach will tell you when you’re hungry.  So eat when it tells you to and stop when it tells you it’s full.  And the more I think about it, the more I realise that what you feed it with is largely irrelevant.  Whether you chow down on cheesecake or broccoli, as long as you listen when it waves at you shouting ‘Full!’, most of the rest of all the shit is gravy.

So yes, I tell Boogie about ‘good fuel’ and ‘bad fuel’ and I try to give her some idea of the difference between the two (salmon helps your brain work, pasta gives you energy, brownies give you sugar lift), but that information has become, over time, background noise.

My nightmare micromanagement scenario has segued into an idea of breathtaking simplicity.

Eat, I tell her.  If you’re hungry, eat.  When you stop being hungry, stop eating.

It sounds like a revolution when I write it down like that.  How can that be possible?

It will be a long time before I know whether I gave her the ‘right’ message.  But one thing’s for sure however it turns out: it won’t be any worse than any of the other messages she’s getting.

And it at least has the advantage of simplicity.  How bad can it be, right?


This is not about Teh Menz

It’s about women.

But it really, really is about men, too.  Because, for me, this is about L’il Boo as much as it is about anybody else in the whole world.

I have a daughter and a son; if my feminism isn’t about the men as well, what am I saying to him?

I’m saying, you don’t count.  You, yes, you little boy with the Y chromosome, you, who is going through a phrase of such overloading cuteness I have the constant urge to squeeze you till you squeak, you don’t count.  I don’t fight for you.

Well, fuck that.

And no, this is not a please-go-gently-into-the-night with those poor, timorous menfolk, poor things can’t handle having to share their sweeties plea.  Fuck that, too.  Men will, I’m afraid, still make up the majority of those lining up by The Wall come the revolution (The Wall, of course, being the name of the buildings which will be established to teach feminism to the unsuspecting masses).  And if those men have to be brought kicking and screaming to The Wall (and they will), so be it.

But you know what?  My anger comes from a place of love, my friends.  Yes, indeedy.  I have always truly believed that feminism will free us all.  Not just women, everybody.  Advanced theorists may want to turn away now, because this shit is the 1 in ‘Feminism 101′: the gender binary hurts us all.

See?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

L'il Boo

L’il Boo, who as you can see from the accompanying photo is cute as smush even from behind, is (to use a phrase from I Blame the Patriarchy somewhat inaccurately, but accurately in spirit), ‘my Nigel’.  He counts to me.

And I see him now, at 2-and-a-half, still largely innocent of what’s expected of him as a boy.  He is still, to himself, just a child.

A child who happens to like (in no particular order): his sister (copying? sometimes I think he’s the victim of a particularly successful cloning experiment); Kung Fu panda, making tea, cabbage (uh-huh, you heard that right), practising karate with his sister (see Kung Fu Panda), football, hair accessories, cooking, green trousers, pink (seriously, it’s the kid’s favourite colour, I don’t know where I went wrong) dresses, fire engines, glitter, his sister’s friends (due to second child neglect syndrome, he has few of his own), Tangled, trains (though Thomas bores him, so he has some taste), slam-dunking his parents when they’re least expecting it, chocolate buttons (but only those that come with a monkey on the packet), Octonauts.

He is, in short, very ‘boyish’ in many ways.  And very ‘girlish’ in many others.

My god, what does this mean for his future??!

Well, nothing much I suspect.

But what is his future?  In the short term, I can tell you that it will include a period of being INCREDIBLY LIKE A BOY.  He will be so like a boy that I will be able to present him at an MRA conference and they will appoint him their mascot and shower him with plastic trucks.

Whilst he’s so far been seemingly unaffected by the gender mores he will be absorbing at nursery and elsewhere, make no mistake, the seeds are being planted each and every day.  Some time soon, we will see them grow and they will sprout with such speed that it’ll take my breath away.

He will come to an understanding of what it means to be a ‘boy’.  He will figure out the sheer, over-whelming importance of gender and he will do his damnedest to fit himself into that straightjacket, because that’s what kids do.

And it will break my heart.

I know all of this because I’ve been through it all before.  Boogie went through a phrase of being INCREDIBLY LIKE A GIRL.  Some time around turning three, she morphed into a fully-formed stereotype before my very (observant) eyes.  Her favourite colour turned from blue to pink, girls didn’t play football and princesses were delightfully-dressed goddesses.

Christ, that was a tough stage of development.

But we’re through it and out the other side and Boogie is, once again, a wonderful mix of girlish and boyish.  Which is to say she is a wonderful example of herself.   She’ll try and kick the crap out of you as soon as look at you (oh, the martial arts!  Martial arts is her new god!) but she’ll do it in a princess dress.  Seriously?  She rocks on so many levels, I cannot imagine trying to change her, trying to damp down certain aspects of her personality.

I will do my utmost to ensure that L’il Boo comes through similarly unscathed (I mean, it’s all relative, amirite?)

And L’il Boo?  Well, he’ll probably try and kick the crap out of you, too.  Whilst rocking a pair of multi-coloured fairy wings.

This says nothing much about my children.  It just says we’re feisty down here in Boogieville.

Which we are.  They get it from their mother.


The Trouble with Feminist Parenting

 

Mothering: about more than just baby poo

This is the trouble with feminist parenting.

I am torn between celebrating [my daughter's] innocence and apparent immunity to the more suffocating features of ‘girl culture’, and worrying about her being rejected soon by school friends for not being sufficiently aware of ‘girl culture’.

‘Mostly I’m all up in the celebration stuff but I won’t lie, there is a bit of me disturbed by all that ‘couldn’t give a fuck-ness’, too.’

I’ve written before about my own feelings on the subject:

…how do you raise a girl to be outside the girly-girl, appearance and consumerist-driven culture they’re being spoon-fed from every angle without making her an outsider to her own sex?…how can you teach a girl to not relate to the hyper ‘girly-girl’ model and yet still enable her to relate to, and fit in with, girls who do?

‘Because whilst I fervently want Boogie to step outside the increasingly limited model of femininity she’s presented with, I don’t want her to be, well, weird. Are you feeling me here? I’m trying to teach her to denigrate a model that the vast majority of her peers will believe in whole-heartedly, but I don’t want her to be the sad, lonely kid in the corner, amusing herself by putting her bogies on a passing ant.

‘And, sure, I can explain why her peers (and my peers) fall for all the gender shit that comes their way, but the fact remains that, on some level, the message must contain some implication that her peers are a bit stoopid. I mean, essentially, it boils down to: they may fall for it, Boogie, but we won’t because we know better.

‘And then she has to go to school and relate to these stupid people that mummy has told her about.

And I can’t lie, it does worry me.  But, you know, this essential problem isn’t limited to feminist parenting.  This is the problem with any style of parenting which falls outside the scope of ‘normal’, ‘normal’ of course being an ever-changing concept decided upon by the prevailing culture.  Any kind of parenting which falls outside these norms for whatever reason is derided and attacked.  Any kind of parenting which, in essence, teaches your children to be committed to something which isn’t the status quo carries this essential problem right along with it.

And with the status quo being what it is, what kind of parent wants that for their child?  Frankly, that’s just weird.

And there’s the salvation for my worries.  Because whilst I worry about my children being ‘different’, what’s the alternative?  Because I don’t want them to be ‘normal’, that’s for damn sure.  Feminism is my truth.  It’s a way of viewing the world which, having viewed the world in many different ways, is the view that makes the most sense to me, both to explain what has gone before and to change what will come.  I could no more not give this view to my children than I could go get a boob job and do the Cinderella gig at DisneyLand.

And my feminism is about more than a commitment to gender equality, it is about a commitment to equality of all kinds, and as such it goes against all kinds of ‘norms’, like racism and homophobia and able-bodied privilege and, oh, yes, capitalism.  And I will give all those views to my children because it is beyond my ability not to.  I am helpless in the face of what I know to be true.

Ha!  My kids have as much chance of being normal as I have of doing the Cinderella gig naked with ‘passive slave’ tattooed on my liposuctioned arse!

But you know what?  They’ll be fine.  Because there is one thing, one truth, which underpins everything, which is that everybody must find their own truth.  And if I am guilty of teaching my children anything it is of teaching them to look critically at the world around them and to make their own sense of what they see.  And if, at the end, they see it differently to me, then so be it.

Unless of course, they turn into Tories in which case I’m grounding them till they’re pensioners.


Bodies

I’m currently reading ‘Bodies‘ by Susie Orbach.  I’ve never quite got round to reading ‘Fat is a Feminist Issue’, so this is my first experience with Orbach and I have to say, she’s got some pretty bloody interesting things to say for herself.  In a nutshell, Bodies basically explores how, in the last thirty or some years, our whole concept of what a ‘body’ is has changed from being merely the physical structure housing a person, to being the sum of what a person is, and as such, something that we must now ‘perfect’ in order to ‘perfect’ ourselves as people.  Or bodies must be tamed, made to conform to ever decreasing notions of of what is physically acceptable, or we will be found wanting as people.

This made me laugh (wryly):

People whose wardrobes are so various, jangled and changeable as to engender in the observer a sense of not knowing who they are encountering from one meeting to another are not living easily in their bodies.’

For a large portion of my adolescence and early adulthood, this described my wardrobe perfectly, and whilst I knew even then that I wasn’t ‘living easily in my body’, I never connected my sartorial promiscuity precisely to that fact.  I just imagined I was too damn hip to be tied down to one fashion tribe.

But then I guess I did kind of make the connection eventually.  About ten or so years ago, I came to the quite startling revelation that every single item of clothing I’d ever bought and never really worn had one thing in common: they were perfectly good items of clothing, but only for people who weren’t me.  More precisely, they were for the person I wanted to be.  Even more precisely, they were for the people I wanted to be; because when you want to be anybody other than yourself, there are a lot of choices.  It took a little while to rid myself of inappropriate clothing choices completely, but from then on in, I couldn’t stop myself from asking Is this me?  Or is this the glamourous Soho private club member who is universally considered to be the life and soul of the place and who occasionally crawls across the piano in a sequinned shot-to-the-hip number and croons soft show tune interpretations?  Or is it the stylish Left Bank intellectual who spends her day reading Sartre before donning a YSL mac and spending the evening drinking absinthe at the Zinc bar, later picking up some skinny-hipped youth and orgasming over Simone de Beauvoir?  Or is it… You get the idea, I think.

A lot of choices.

And as I got older I began to find it increasingly ridiculous if I did purchase something which the answer to Is it me? was no, no it really isn’t.  I had fondly thought that I was just growing up, but I realise that I was ‘growing in’, growing into myself.  And in much the same way as women under the age of about 35 almost universally find it impossible to attain the ‘capsule wardrobe’ so beloved of fashion magazines, I could no more have limited my fashion ‘choices’ when I was younger than I could have made sense, in any shorter time than I eventually did, of the events of my childhood and the effect they had on me.  I had to grow into my self – into my actual self – before I could accept my body for what it was and clothe it accordingly.

I think it’s because of my own journey that I have endeavoured to encourage Boogie to be unthinking about her own attire, to view clothes as simply coverings which change according to season and activity.  I want her not to have to walk the same journey I did.  I want her to just ‘be’ in clothes in the same way I want her to just ‘be’ in her body.  I want her to ‘live easily’ in it.  Given the preoccupation we now have with the body and the clothes it wears being projections of our very selves, however, I wonder whether I have done the right thing.  Boogie may not yet judge her own body, or her own clothes, but others will, and indeed already do (apparently, she ‘dresses like a boy’, said with a smile of faux-concern). Am I effectively preventing my daughter from understanding the relationship between how you look and dress, and how you’re treated by others?  Is it possible to teach her to understand these things without making them chains to bind her with? Is it possible to teach her to comprehend others’ perceptions whilst at the same time making her aware that she doesn’t have to accept those perceptions as relevant to her?

I’m honestly not sure, but one thing I do know: if she does end up on the same journey as me, I’ve got way more wrong that giving her the wrong clothes.


Pants-tastic!

It is one of the ironies of my life that, in the midst of my efforts at gender-neutral parenting, stands a six year old girl who refuses to wear trousers.

It is made only slightly less ironic by the fact that it has absolutely nothing to do with any gender perception she has of trousers and everything to do with a pathological hatred of buttons.

From the age of two onwards, I could dress Boogie in anything – curtains, a suit of armour, barbed wire – she didn’t really give a shit as long as it didn’t come with buttons.  Trousers, invariably, have buttons (or poppers, which if anything, she hated even more), or at least the ones she had in her wardrobe when this whole thing started did and by the time I experimented with an elasticated waist, it was too late.  Trousers, with their devilish penchant for round fastenings, were out.  Totally, totally out.  And you could not even mention the word ‘jeans’ in our house.  Boogie will actually back away from a pair of jeans in a shop like she’s backing away from an errant grizzly bear – hands out, eyes down but watchful.  Boogie is actually scared of jeans.

Or I should say: was scared of jeans.

some kinda miracle

Because this – ta-dah! – is a picture of the lovely Boogie wearing jeans!!

Believe me, I understand that this is not a universal thing.  This is not going to be one of those instances where you think you’re all alone and, when you finally break the code of silence, you find you’re not alone at all and that so many people have been suffering silently with you there’s going to be an Oprah special on it and you’re the star guest.  It really isn’t going to be one of those things.

This is a picture of Boogie.  In jeans.

There were times I never thought I’d be able to write those words.

See?  This really isn’t resonating with you, is it?

Trust me, I have been hugging myself for two days.  Why?  Well, not because I think jeans are the answer to anything, but because we have moved forward.  Boogie actually said these words: ‘I’m not scared of jeans anymore.’

My mind spins!  Who knows, maybe progress will continue until she finally stops asking to go and see Alvin and the Fucking Chipmunks, Part II: Even More Misogynistic than Part I.

I can dream, amirite?


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