Yesterday, I was dressing my daughter, when I made a decision to put her in an item of clothing purely to identify her as a female.
There were some jeans out, also a nice blue hoody, and as I am always being told by my wife to use clothes that are already out that left me with just socks, shoes and a t-shirt to choose. Wait. Mum’s already put some socks on her and instructed me that she needs to get some wear from a pair of trainers before she grows out of them. So just a t-shirt then. First on the pile were some summer vests (discounted – it’s Autumn now, there’s a nip in the air), but what caught my eye was quite a cool little t-shirt with a guitar on the front. Wait. Trainers, jeans, t-shirt, hoody – she’s going to look like a boy!
The whole blue/pink, boy/girl thing was something we had tried to avoid from the beginning – we decided not to find out the gender of our baby until the birth, so we bought clothes that we liked and would be happy to put on a boy or a girl – apart from some gifts and hand-me-downs this means not much pink. Since becoming a parent I have discovered that although baby clothes departments are split down the middle, blue and pink, if you manage to find baby clothes in any other colours – red, green, orange, yellow, purple – they also indicate “male”. Something else you discover when you become a parent, is that strangers will talk to you about your baby, and in doing so, they will reveal the gender they believe your child to be. In the case of our daughter, strangers, checkout operators, old ladies at bus stops, healthcare professionals who haven’t read their notes and don’t know whether her name is a boy or a girl’s name, inevitably judge her to be a boy. I usually don’t bother to correct them, just smile and nod, and don’t worry too much about it but I think the sheer weight of numbers is getting to me. When she was a baby, I thought that it was a 50/50 and people were just guessing wrong, but it’s every time. “He looks just like you.” “Would he like a balloon?” “Need a high chair for the little man?” Today, at a car boot sale a stall holder invited us to “just let him have a rummage” through her box of toys, despite the fact that our daughter was wearing a dress!
The little lady is now at an age where she no longer wears “baby” clothes like baby grows and rompers, she is now a toddler and clothing styles are far more distinct for boys and for girls, even t-shirts and trousers are cut differently (despite body shapes still being broadly similar at this age), and are embellished with cars and monkeys for boys, and flowers and butterflies for girls. But perhaps I’m putting too much importance on clothes, that is what we always think about when we walk away from one of these encounters, “But she’s wearing girly jeans” we protest. Do people look close enough to tell the difference between boy jeans and girl jeans? I do know that people often point out her resemblance to me, so maybe they make a subconscious connection – I am a very manly man after all. Then again the child minder has been complimented on her son’s smile (not her actual son, my son… err, daughter).
So in the meantime, I’m using Hello Kitty t-shirts as a gender indentifier, boys don’t wear Hello Kitty right?
Maybe she just looks like a boy, maybe she’s an ugly duckling (she’s not – she’s beautiful).