Yes, I live in a house full of girls. Truth be told, I'm blissfully outnumbered three to one. Still, there are times when I get treated as the chromosomal anomaly. For example, what began as a tender moment early this morning---my sleepy-eyed two year old daughter in my arms, patting my chest---quickly regressed into a lesson about why I'm different:
"See, Dad has hair on his chest! Does Madeleine have hair on her chest? Noooo. Does Lila have hair on her chest? Noooo. Does Mom have hair on her chest? Noooo.... That's right, Dad is a boy!"
For the record, it's barely even a wisp of chest hair, and certainly not as manly as this:
Definitely not as manly. In fact, standing shirtless on a beach pretending to talk on a telephone with the cord disconnected is about as manly as you can get. Except, of course, maybe this:
I can't see it, but I guarantee that chest has more hair. And the corded phone? Pure man-ness.
Yes, there are seven X chromosomes and only one Y chromosome in my household. But growing up it was just me and my brother, so as a former boy in a house full of boys, I'm particularly familiar with the whole world of boyhood. I mean, I just posted a picture of a chimp talking on a telephone. I'm definitely a boy.
But, as a father of two girls, I think I get the best of both worlds without that whole philosophical debate over circumcision that scares the bejesus out of me. Because, in all honesty, there's not much of a difference between boys and girls. Yes, there's that whole pink thing and the Mattel vs. Tonka phenomena, but those are just icing on a very similar cupcake. My little female cupcakes eat dirt and play with cars and laugh at pictures of chimps conducting business just as much as any boy---my girls just happen to be coated in pink frosting with glitter and sprinkles. And no matter how many sprinkles may decorate their outsides, I can assure you that they are just as gastronomically revolting as boys. It's true: ladies fart. A lot. No, really, more than you can imagine.
So, if we're so similar, why the gender split? Why do boys wear blue and girls wear pink? I think the entire gender divide, those shuttle buses between Mars and Venus, deodorants "strong enough for a man but made for a woman," Barbies and blowdarts, all of that madness starts with lazy parents.
That's right, I'm lazy. You know why I dress my youngest daughter, only eight months old, in dresses and pink? Here's why:
Boy. Note the face speckled with potting soil.
If I put my daughter in green or yellow or white or any other pastel non-gender specific color designed for babies, I must inevitably endure the standard line of questioning from elderly people at the grocery store: "Aw, well, hello sweetie, are you a boy or a girl?" There are lots of old folks in my neighborhood. I don't have time for that.
Yes, things will get more complicated one day, when my daughters' chests begin to sprout something other than hair. I'll be worrying about tampons and training bras while parents of boys are worrying about pyrotechnics and internet porn.
Which sort of leads me to a point, because I swear I have one.
Despite the fact that we all smell the same in the bathroom, we still live in a world dominated by men who have subjugated women into restrictive roles, reduced wages, and attempted to paint them in a powerless pink. Those minor gender quirks as children mutate into major differences as adults. As a father of two girls, I feel lucky to have an opportunity to help change this situation---because I'm far more likely to teach my daughters how to use a shotgun than sit on our front porch with one.
So, for all of you out there in the interweb who are raising boys and turning to Jennifer Fink's fabulous blog for levity and advice, please remember: dump trucks and bottle rockets aside, you have a great responsibility to teach your sons how to treat the opposite sex, about the characteristics that unite us and make us the same---not the ones that make us different.
Except the chest hair. That's all ours. ;-)