“Have a nice day, ladies!” As the Walmart greeter says it, I immediately bristle, hoping that my son didn’t hear.
“Ladies?” he says with a laugh. We keep walking.
We had spent the morning looking for sales so he could use up a few of the gift cards he had leftover from Christmas. It was a great morning until the “ladies” comment. But lucky for me, my son is the most incredible human on the planet and allows these sorts of things to roll off his back.
Lars is 13 years old and has long, flowing blonde hair. He has a slight build and the most striking blue eyes — just like his dad’s.
He constantly gets mistaken for a girl.
He and his sister look very similar and often are mistaken for twins — despite her being two years younger. The entire situation would be a mess if my children weren’t so unbelievably woke. (I hope I’m using that word correctly. I’ll have to ask my kids before I publish this.)
About six months ago, the dynamic duo went to the corner store for slushies, and as they approached the register, the cashier said, “Will that be everything for you girls?”
Lars and Sophie looked at one another and started laughing when Lars confidently said, “Um, I’m a dude.”
Then Sophie added, “Wow, gender stereotyping much,” totally deadpan, with the hateful eyes of an overly confident preteen who isn’t having that sort of shit thrown at her brother.
The cashier, who, I’m assuming, didn’t want to be bested by a couple of kids, asked Lars what he expected with that long hair he was sporting. Lars got all up in his grill, telling him that he could style his hair any way he wanted and maybe he should avoid gendering people who walk into the store because it’s completely unnecessary.
In most circumstances, I would have given my kids a talking to for being so blatantly combatant with an adult, but when they told me about this scenario, I high-fived them and said I’d never been prouder.
I would have never had the guts and gull to do such a thing at their age. Hell, I hardly do now.
When I was a little 10-year-old tomboy with a bowl cut and a pudgy face from eating too many homemade cookies, I was called a boy on multiple occasions. It always ended in the same solution — grow my hair out to look more feminine and wear more “girly” colours in my clothing.
Alas, my mom was never a believer in the “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” trope. So, there I was, wearing a ton of reds and yellows and confusing the shit out of the strange adults who for some reason feel the need to talk endlessly about the gender of the children in their general vicinity.
Why are some people like this? Why does it matter?
Sure, it was this person’s job to greet and bid farewell to the Walmart patrons, but when did a simple “have a great day” go out of style? I understand that SOME people of a certain age have it ingrained in their brains that boys wear blue and have buzz cuts while girls carry around dollies and wear braids in their hair. I suspect that these are the same kind of weirdos who forcefully ask 3-year olds how many girlfriends they have because obviously, this small child straight outta infancy has got to be playing the field by now.
As I walked side by side with my boy out into the frigid air of the parking lot, I looked over at him, still shaking his head exasperatedly.
“Does it bug you when you get mistaken for a girl like that?” I asked, hoping that the question didn’t hurt him further.
“No, it really doesn’t because I know who I am,” he said. “I wear my hair long because I like the way it looks. I wear pink face masks because I like to be different. And I just really like the color pink. These things are never a problem when I’m in school. It’s always just random adults who feel the need to comment on my appearance.”
“I know. I’ve noticed that too,” I say, draping an arm around his shoulders.
“And why would I care about what some stranger thinks about me? But the thing that really bugs me is that these people are so damn ignorant that they feel the need to say anything in the first place.”
“Yeah, I get that,” was my lame-ass response because at this point in my son’s impassioned speech, I had no words to match his.
“They teach their kids not to stare at people with disabilities, and their generations were so backwards they were taught not even to see race let alone embrace it, but when they see a kid with long hair and pink clothes on, they have to make a point of calling me a girl? What about kids who don’t have as much confidence? What about trans kids? What kind of insane outdated bullshit are those people saying to them?”
I told Lars that everything he was saying was exactly right. I told him that he was kind and so smart to think about the issue past his own experience, and that was how we as a civilization eventually right the wrongs of the world.
We kept talking in the car as I drove to the next store, and as I parked, my son slapped on his pink face mask, batted his eyelashes, and said, “Well, Mom, this is turning out to be a great mother-daughter outing if I do say so myself.”
I laughed because Lars is one of the funniest and simultaneously confident people I know, and then I told him that if someone refers to him as a girl again, he has my permission to educate them to the fullest extent of his power.
This post was previously published on Get Inside.
From The Good Men Project on Medium
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