When I was a tiny girl in preschool, my best friend was a boy named Steven. I adored Steven with my entire being. Luckily he lived next door so we could spend every waking moment together. We even shared potty time because our moms couldn't convince us to separate.
When I look back at photos, he's very adorable, and clearly a boy. But I never thought of him as such. He was simply BestFriendSteven.
I had a little girl friend, too. Missy. Missy did not adore Steven. At all. Missy resented Steven's friendship in my life.
It all came to an unhappy head one day when we were maybe 5 or so and Missy and her mom had dropped by our house. Missy and I played pretty happily for a short while, until the door bell rang. It was Steven, wanting to play.
Missy wailed, "Nooooooooooo! NO STEVEN! I don't want to play with a BOY! I'M your friend," she cried, "You play with ME!"
This infuriated Steven, whose pride apparently demanded he state that he disliked Missy, too, a GIRL.
I remember feeling very confused, standing between a crying girl friend and a furious boy friend. Steven was a boy? And this mattered? Missy was a girl? And this mattered? And if Steven liked me but didn't like girls, but I wasn't a boy, then what did that make me, or what did that mean about our friendship?
Obviously at 5 my thoughts weren't quite this complex, but that's how I was feeling.
I turned to Steven, "I'm a girl."
"No," he told me, "You're JULIE."
"I am too a girl!" I yelled.
"Girls play with girls!" Missy insisted.
I turned to her, "Girls play with boys too," I told her, "Steven is my friend. I just want to play with both of you!"
But neither of them would have it. Not a bit of it. Steven refused to play with That Girl Missy, and Missy refused to play with That Boy Steven. At that moment, I didn't want to play with either of them, because I didn't like Crying Missy or Mad Steven. I didn't like all the fuss nor did I understand what all the fuss was about. Who cared, boy or girl? I just cared about who I liked and having fun with them.
Up to that point, I'd happily been eating my cake and having it, too.
I wasn't sure who made or enforced them, but I felt fortunate I had no such rules about no boy friends for girls.
As time passed, I continued to have both boy and girl friends. I was the only girl in elementary who invited boys to her party. I liked my little buddies Mark and Chris. Chris was hilarious and Mark liked books too. I had my little group of best girl friends, girl scouts, tons of girly stuff, but I liked the boys too. I thought all was well until Ruby told me we couldn't be friends any longer because I was boy crazy.
I denied it, but secretly worried it was true. The girls decided I had to take the Hair Test. So we plucked out a piece of my hair (OW!) and they watched intently as I ran my fingernail down the shaft. It curled up tightly, of course. It did that while still on my head, too. But it was a witch trial, and I sank to the bottom and drowned.
The girls all gasped out loud, stepped back, and looked at me pityingly.
"I told you," Ruby said smugly, "Boy crazy. You're boy crazy! SHE'S BOY CRAZY!"
After much discussion, it was decided I needed a cootie shot. Circle circle dot dot, with the point of a spring loaded ball point pen.
Despite the cootie shot, and girlish forgiveness thereafter, I felt ashamed. I backed away from the boys and cloistered myself in my group of girl friends.
Chris still tried to be friends. He'd chase the girls around the playground yelling he was going to joke on us, but I'd either get mad or sad and eventually, he didn't try to catch me and tell me any knock knock jokes. I'd betrayed him; instead of letting him catch me and laughing, I squealed and ran like the other girls. He and Mark moved on. I missed them, and hearing about their Saturday football games, but I never let it show.
Once we hit the teens and dating age, I discovered true angst. I floated through at least three crushes a week, and felt too awkward to even talk to boys. It was as if I had forgotten a language, and thus the means to communicate with these foreigners.
Couple skate was humiliating, and school dances were exercises in frustration. We all hugged opposite sides of the gym walls---excepting a few couples who were going together---as Spandau Ballet sang about something that was true.
But then I found confidence and my own style. And some boys found me. High school was a rush through serial monogomy. As was college.
I also rediscovered that boys made good friends. In high school my very best friend was a boy. In college one of my very best friends was a boy.
Fast forward to now: me, with two daughters.
Patience, ever since she could talk, made it clear that she did not. care. for. boys. They have no place whatsoever in her life.
Color me boggled. She's been around adorable and sweet little boys her entire life. We've had fun playdates with boys like Tom, a little tow-headed cutie, and Ethan, a precious little explorer. I've never discriminated.
I've tried to understand it.
"They're loud, Mom, and they don't like to play fun things. Their toys are BAD. BOY TOYS." She looks at me as if I am an idiot. How can I not understand this?
But I don't! Not all of the boys are loud, and their toys look fun to me. They have a lot of the same toys we do, actually, and even better, some new ones we don't.
I was even more baffled when Patience suddenly, ironically announced she had a boy friend, Will. I was ecstatic and made a big fuss (breaking parenting cardinal rule #5) about Will. You have to understand, I thought we'd turned the corner. I egotistically and naively believed all my little confabs with her about, "people come the way they are, so you can't really consider things we don't control, like whether we are a boy or a girl, have brown eyes or blue, or anything like that...you have to look inside" had finally taken root.
One day I asked about Will.
"Who?" Patience asked.
"Your friend, Will."
She fell dramatically to the floor, "Moooooommmmmmm! Will is a BOY, he cannot be my FRIEND. He was my boyfriend, not my friend!"
I noted the past tense, but her huge heaving sighs and eyerolling creeped me out, so I dropped it.
Persistence has no such bias. This is fortunate because, outside of her school, we do not know any little girls her age. She doesn't care. She likes playing with boys and girls alike.
In fact, her best friend is a boy: Russel, a little charmer with dimples and dark curls. They are almost exactly the same age, and he's the son of a friend. They've been around one another their entire lives (which I grant you isn't impressive since I have shoes in good condition older than both, but eh...it's their world, right?).
They are too cute together.
He got the stomach flu and was MIA for a week. Every day she asked, "Wuss still sick, Mama?" I'd say yes and she'd say, with big miserable eyes, "Sad sad sad. Miss Wuss." When he was well enough to join us and play again, it was like a scene from a movie.
We walked up to the playground, and I pointed through the fence, "Look there...Russel."
Persistence turned her head to see, then smiled hugely. She pointed too and yelled, "WUSSEL!" with a big laugh. He swung around, and smiled too.
Cue slow motion. Cue big swell of music.
They ran towards one another, arms spread wide, and body-slam hugged one another so intensely they fell over. They stuck like glue to one another the rest of the afternoon.
Every day she wants her friend. Every day she sees him is a joy.
This week, on Tuesday, Patience, after witnessing another one of these scenes, asked me, "Why does she like That Boy? Why is she glad to see him Why does she like playing with a boy?"
"Because she likes him," I said, exasperated instantly, sick to death of this old conversation, past the ability to understand or be understanding about Patience's inexplicable and long-standing enmity with males, "He's sweet, they like to play the same things, they have fun together, because she finds him a great person to be around."
I retierated my schtick about prejudice, but as usual, it merely induced a bad case of the eyerolls.
But it all made me sit back and think.
I like males and find them fun friends too. I've never had any bias against boys, or labeled any toys boy or girl. I've set up play with boys and girls alike. I can't think of anything I've ever done to promote this, and in fact, can think of years of things I have tried to end it.
Then along comes #2, and she is happily prejudiced-against-boys free.
So...where does this come from?
I still don't understand these rules and who makes them, but I can promise everyone out there that I haven't made any such rules. It's all Patience.
Now...please please please feel free to tell me personal and parenting experiences in this, especially if you have any insight or reassurance that one day, Patience will not make gagging noises every time I mention something nice about a boy or suggest playing with a boy---I mean in the next few years, not as a teen. I do not wish to think about that age quite yet. I'm just thinking of the immediate future.
I realize this topic is not nearly as meaty as you might have expected, given the title and my propensity for epic posts. There is another side to it, the more philosophical and less personal, and I'll save that for another day. Maybe comments will help guide the direction it should go, so invoke your right to speak! LOL
Also, I am still working on the HPV post, so feel free to send me links if you haven't yet and thought we were past the deadline. I will get to it soon, promise!
Lastly, what is a metapost?
copyright 2007 Julie Pippert