Monday, March 18, 2013

The Reign of Gender Norms

At our house we do not do Princess.

The girls possess zero tiaras, zero plastic high-heeled shoes, zero polyester Disney gowns in ghastly Easter egg hues. I’m the only family member who can nominally distinguish between Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. If you were created after 1990, I haven’t got a clue.

As graduates of progressive Quaker colleges and inhabitants of liberal (oftentimes drearily so) Seattle, my husband and I are disinclined to foist the standard commercial gendered crap on our kids. Happily, our girls are still young enough we have final say over what comes into the house and, more significantly, what leaves in a giant Goodwill-bound garbage bag in the wee hours of morning.

The three-year-old does have friends, however, and attends preschool and generally exists in the world. She’s been to the mall, attended birthday parties, scoped stuff out on the internet. She’s been exposed to many a (toddler-sized) ball gown and is not herself any kind of tomboy. She loves getting dressed in the morning, taking great time and care in selecting her outfit, which more often than not involves a dress or twirly skirt, tights in some contrasting color and pattern, legwarmers in yet another color/pattern, and, on a particularly cold day, a pair of legwarmers on her arms as well. She adores accessories—beaded necklaces, bangly bracelets, sequined barrettes, hair bands adorned with flowers and hot-pink stripes. Girlfriend’s got style.

The other day she came up to me wearing a sundress over a long-sleeved t-shirt and announced, “I’m going to go put on a different dress so I can be more beautiful.” When I offer her a swipe of my sparkly lip gloss, her face lights up the way mine would if you gave me a lifetime supply of the stuff. We are plenty girly—it’s just that I like to think we enact our girliness in our own less commercial (certainly less Disney) way.
I find princesses—both royal and fairy (a distinction seldom made, weirdly, given that one exists in reality and one has magical powers and wings)—to be cloying, passive, prissy, shallow and beneath all that glitter and sheen, oh so heteronormatively dull. But if my daughters were totally into them, I’d get over my distaste and bestow upon my girls whatever tacky accessories they required. I’d find a way to embrace Bell or Belle or whoever she is because I love my children and want them to be their own people with their own preferences and aesthetics and gender expressions and dress-up-clothes collections and ideas of what’s beautiful. Even if they're radically different from mine.

So far we’re in the clear. The princess kingdom has remained invisible. For Halloween the three-year-old elected to dress up as a cat, and for her birthday she wanted the theme to be “purple.” Her favorite things are chocolate chip cookies, the number eight, and her gender-bending stuffed cat (“Is Elliott a boy cat or a girl cat?” “She’s a boy. Where’s his dress? She needs it for the dance party.”). (The baby is too preoccupied with chewing on things—pretend fruit, plastic cars, a wrapped stick of butter, my boob—to be concerned with tulle and tiaras.)

When my mother-in-law gave the three-year-old a giant book of stickers—a page of cats and dogs, a page of farm stuff, a page of trees and birds, a page of cut-out-dolls and clothing—my daughter gleefully used them up making elaborate "This is the sister and this is her cat and they don't like the horse but the horse is eating this thingy—what's it called?—oats, and they live in this tree, and the birds sing, do you hear the birds, Mama?" scenes on sheets of glittery silver paper. When she was "all done" with the stickers—after months of use—there were three pages left untouched: a page of ballerinas, a page of fairies, and a page of princesses.

And, yeah, I’m not ashamed to admit it: this made me very happy. I might even have done self-satisfied little dance before tossing the remaining stickers in the Goodwill bag.

I know I can’t shelter my daughter from Princessland forever. Every time she gets a party invitation featuring some obsequious cartoon girl in a 1980s-prom-style dress and a crown atop her age-inappropriate updo, I assume it’s the beginning of the end. How can she resist the lure of sparkles and sequins and pastel dresses? And why would she?

The other day we attended her best friend’s birthday party. After two hours of castles and knights and horses and princess craft projects and princess cupcakes and princess garlands and princess balloons and princess party guests, we were sent home with a princess bag full of princess stickers, a princess bracelet, and a princess wand. She was quite taken with the wand. She carried it around for the rest of the day, waving it in her sister’s face, tormenting the cat, and generally making me nervous for everyone’s eyeballs.

“I live in the castle,” she announced, wandering into the kitchen as her dad and I made dinner.

“Oh?” her dad said, raising his eyebrows at me as if to say, “Shit. Here we go.”

“Yeah, I live in the castle with Elliott. And I have this wand.”

“Why do you have a wand?” I asked.

“Because,” she replied in a perfectly even tone. “I’m the queen.”

And the baby?

“She’s the king.”

If you’re going to be royalty, why not aim for the top? A princess is just another pretty girl in a hoop skirt, but the queen is sort of a badass—she’s got clout. (Not to mention the king.)

And if nothing else, the queen gets to raise the princess and try—gently!—to mold her into the kind of woman she’s (secretly) most excited for her to be.

photo courtesy panso, morgueFile

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Organ Meat

A short version of my essay about my desire not to eat my baby's afterbirth appears in the current (April/May) issue of Fit Pregnancy magazine—check it out in your nearest OB/GYN's waiting room. (It's on the last page, accompanied by an illustration of a blonde lady eating a placenta with a bottle of champagne—the only way to do it if you're gonna do it.)

A paragraph from the original (longwinded) version:

I was pleased to learn at the eighteen week ultrasound that the placenta wasn’t obstructing the baby’s most likely exit route, and I was grateful in a vague sort of way that it appeared to be doing its hormonal and nutrient/waste transport jobs with aplomb. But mostly I gave my placenta very little thought. Like the varicose veins snarling up my formerly lovely lady parts, the unrelenting feeling of motion sickness, the barfing at all times of day and night, the wicked indigestion, the itchy nipples, the sore hips, and the squished bladder, the placenta is a necessary, unavoidable part of creating a baby—but no more in need of reverence, celebration, memorial, or ingestion than the amniotic sac or mucus plug.

Will you be eating a placenta anytime soon?

photo courtesy NinoAdonis, morgueFile

Saturday, March 09, 2013

At What Age Do Balloons Stop Being Appropriate?

Today is my 38th birthday.


And now, for a recap of some of the best moments of my 37th year...

1. Having my second and final baby.

2. Finally stopping barfing an hour after having my second and final baby.

3. Bring brought chocolate milkshakes for every meal after finally stopping barfing after having my second and final baby.

4. Obama being reelected.

5. The three-year-old consistently calling the valves on her sippy cups "velcros."

6. That one time I slept all the way through the night without any interruptions. That was nice.

photo courtesy anitapeppers, morgueFile

Monday, March 04, 2013

Everything Including the Kitchen Sink

I'm wary of becoming one of those writers (the kind with a vagina that's been used as an exit for bodies, not just an entrance) whose literary output hinges on charming anecdotes about my adorable, winsome (if a bit whiny and eczematic) children—but wait!—isn't that why I bothered having them in the first place? For career advancement and financial and literary gain?

In any case, for the moment it's that or nothing—take your pick.

For Christmukah I gave the three-year-old, among other awesomeness (read: lip gloss), her own suitcase—a toddler-sized rolly bag that vaguely resembles an obese bumblebee. We haven't traveled anywhere for her to put it to use yet because, hello? Who wants to travel with a three-year-old who insists on bringing her own suitcase but then claims it's "too heavy" for her to "lift all the way into the overhead compartment" herself? Who put all those books in there in the first place, hmmmm?

The suitcase lives in the living room, and she gets it out from time to time and "packs for a trip." (She usually "travels" by bus, for those who are curious. She's very democratic that way.) She makes me proud every time because mostly what she packs are books and snacks. Lots and lots of them. What more do you really need? You can always buy toothpaste and undies, but bookstores and (wooden) cupcake shops can be hard to come by.

Occasionally she also includes some blankets, a stuffed animal or two, a harmonica, some plates and cups, a ball, some doll house furniture, a juggling scarf—you know—the basics.

Yesterday day she was packing for a trip while I was attempting the Sisyphean task of "tidying up," tossing Fisher Price people and cars and animals into their proper card catalog drawers, wooden food into the wooden fridge, toys I don't like into a "super special" garbage sack, plastic dishes into the plastic si—whoa. "Hey, three-year-old."


"Where's the kitchen sink?"


"The kitchen sink. In your play kitchen. It's not there. It's just a hole. Where'd you put it?"

"I packed it. For my trip."

Yes, my child packed the kitchen sink.

Hoarders, Season 38, here she comes.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Just a Bug

I have a virus. The preschooler had it first, then her dad, then me. So I know it's a virus.

A virus that causes nausea.

And makes certain foods smell weird and unappealing.

And creates cravings for foods you wouldn't normally think you'd want when you had a stomach bug.

Like pizza and grilled cheese and doughnuts.

Yes, if I didn't have an IUD I'd be freaking the fuck out.

If the preschooler weren't walking around bitching about the smell of sausage frying and broccoli steaming and spinach wilting, I'd be freaking the fuck out.

If I weren't having my period RIGHT NOW, I'd be freaking the fuck out.

Because, people, my uterus is CLOSED FOR BUSINESS. Permanently. No more babies. They're super cute, but no more. I can't take any more cuteness.

photo courtesy dieraecherin, morgueFile