My baby is a cross-dresser

Phoebe has a lot of clothes. Some of them girly. But many of them what I would consider gender-neutral. However, if it’s not girly (pink, purple, princessy and/or with hearts, flowers, butterflies or fairies), it’s apparently considered downright boyish. And we’re not even talking just blue or patterned with footballs or monster trucks. Or even stripes or plaid. We’re talking about animal prints. Teddy bears? Boyish. Doggies? Boyish. (Though kitties seem to be girlish) Hippos? Boyish. Owls? Boyish. (But other birds are girlish.) Frogs, turtles, alligators, lizards? Boyish. Bugs? Boyish. (Except for girly dragonflies, ladybugs and butterflies.) Green, yellow, or orange? Boyish. You’d be amazed at how many people take it as an affront when they discover that Phoebe is a girl when we have her dressed in [gasp] blue or [shudder] hippos.

For example, yesterday, when I took Phoebe to my old Tae Kwon Do school, I saw a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in ages. Some of whom didn’t know about the whole baby business. Phoebe was wearing jeans with a gray hoodie and gray socks, and had her beige jacket with teddy bear motif, and a pair of mary janes. And in two separate incidents, a couple of women asked, more or less, “who’s this guy?” To which I responded, more or less, “she’s Phoebe.” (n.b. They were like “who’s this guy,” and I was like “she’s a girl.”) One woman responded, with a look of shock: “But you have her in blue! I thought she was a boy.” (The bear jacket has blue details. The jeans are blue.) With the other, the jacket was off, so the reaction was “I saw the gray and black.” Each woman was a bit uncomfortable, apparently embarrassed for having made such a gaff. However, I didn’t mind. You see, Phoebe is a baby. And as far as I’m considered, her sexuality is not really an issue at this point.

Another time, when Phoebe was even smaller, there was a similar incident. At the Home Despot (a monstrously large hardware store, for those not in the know). A young woman (or perhaps teenager) who was working there stopped to look at Phoebe, who was wearing a yellowish orange outfit with fishies. And she (the employee, not Phoebe) said something like: “What a cute baby. I can’t tell if it’s a boy or a girl.” To which I replied, “Yeah, we tend to dress her gender-neutrally.” And then the young woman suggested that we could get Phoebe’s ears pierced so people could tell she was a girl. Hello? If I felt so strongly that people absolutely must never ever mistake my baby for a boy, why would I dress her gender neutrally? I would be capable of, for example, finding some article of pink clothing with which to label her, or slap a bow on her head. Without actually resorting to poking holes in her.

Anyhow, while Phoebe does have her share of girly clothes (and she does look terribly cute in them), she often dresses a lot like me. (Except for the animal prints. No teddy bears emblazen my coat, or anything else I wear.) I wear a lot of gray. Black. Dark colors. And actually, I like to wear men’s shirts. And men’s sweaters. And fairly recently, I also discovered men’s pants. You see, I can get great deals on clearance pants because my size is not a common size for men. So for instance, I got a couple of pairs of men’s pants at the Gap for $5.00 each from a clearance rack. Which is handy for my transitional pants needs. (When I tried the women’s clearance rack I was displeased both with the size I would need to get, and the styles available. Plus the women’s pants were way more expensive.) I also wear shoes that would not be described as girly. I like to wear Docs, and ones that could be either men’s or womens. So actually, many days, I wear outfits that are basically entirely men’s outfits. (Aside from the undies. Let’s not go there just now.) So, I guess I’m a bit of a cross-dresser myself.

Cross-dressing has quite a lot of representations in theater, film and TV. We have men dressing as women, and women dressing as men. Sometimes, it’s a case of pretending to be the opposite gender, other times it’s wearing oppositely-gendered clothes as a style choice. Or perhaps lifestyle choice. And sometimes there are other reasons. I’m working on a list, with some attempts to categorize. (And perhaps cross-categorize. Which is appropriate for cross-dressing, I suppose.) But as my list is getting quite long, and as I have work I need to do tonight, I’ll have to save the list for another day. (Those damn lists take a long time…)

New Year’s resolutions for 2006

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve made a list of New Year’s resolutions. And here it is, the beginning of another new year, and it seems like a wonderful opportunity to set some goals. Having a new baby can lead to difficulties in getting many things done, so I’ve decided to set some goals that I know can be achieved. Namely, some that I’ve already reached.

A New Mother’s Retroactive Resolutions for 2006

  1. Personal appearance: Lose 10 pounds
    Physical appearance is important to so many people, and I think weight loss often tops people’s New Year’s resolution lists. I can honestly boast that I lost at least 10 pounds in a single night! While the process wasn’t exactly painless, it sure was quicker than dieting.
  2. Health and fitness: Exercise more
    Another common goal is to improve one’s fitness levels. And I did indeed “exercise more” in 2006. The trick to this one is to take advantage of the inherent ambiguity of the term more. Since it is necessarily a relative or comparative term (i.e. something can be/have/do/etc. more XXX than some other thing), I choose to leave out the specifics of the comparison. For example, if I wanted to say “I plan to exercise more than I have been exercising” my resolution would have failed. However, if I consider my resolution to mean something like “I plan to exercise more than various people who are a) comatose b) dead or c) of a more extreme couch potato nature than even myself,” I have achieved this goal in spades.
  3. Fine arts: Write a song
    Let’s not leave out creative and artistic growth. I actually wrote several original compositions, complete with lyrics. My greatest hits include “The Diaper Song” (We’re changing the diaper, and we’ll put a new diaper on…put a new, put a new, put a new, put a new diaper on.) and “The Bouncy Song” (I have a little girl, her name is Phoebe Lenore, and she likes to bouncy bouncy…bouncy bouncy bouncy bouncy bouncy Phoebe…)
  4. Feeding the mind: Read some books
    It’s always important to strive for intellectual breadth and depth. I’m happy to say that I’ve read quite a few books this year. Many of them quite thick ones. Well, with thick pages, at least. And I’ve even gone as far as to nearly memorize several of them, including: Goodnight Moon (Brown), Bear Snores On (Wilson), The Foot Book (Seuss), Quiet Loud (Patricelli) and The Going to Bed Book (Boynton).
  5. Home improvements: redecorate the house
    Let’s not forget the home. I can quite honestly say that there have been many changes to the appearance of our home. Not a single room looks the same. The new look is definitely more colorful than ever! The new palette includes a shift from earthy tones (mostly muted browns and grays, typically represented by wood and stone) to an array of chartreuse, tangerine, fuchsia, cerulean and lemon yellow. Mostly represented in plastic and some plush.
  6. Productivity and daily routine: Wake up earlier in the morning
    Who doesn’t want to feel more productive? I used to frequently waste the day away by sleeping until 8:00 a.m., or even snoozing in past 10:00 on weekends. I now always wake up before 7:00 a.m. There are even many days when I wake up before dawn: by 6:00, or 5:00, and sometimes even 4:00! And I don’t even need to set the alarm clock.
  7. Etiquette: write and mail thank you notes in a timely manner
    This one is for real, actually. Though the interpretation of “timely manner” may be subject to my own somewhat lax standards. I determined that I should finish writing thank you notes for the presents given for my daughter’s birth (in February 2006) within the same calendar year as her birth. I am bound and determined to achieve this goal. (Don’t quibble with me over today’s date. I will have those letters written in 2006.)
    1. our new living room decor
      Our new living room decor.

Rescue me! (…from the princess phenomenon)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this article in the New York Times Magazine I read last weekend. It’s about the current craze among little girls for all things princess, written by a mother who is struggling with her own daughter’s princess compulsions. The article has some interesting notes on the social construction of gender. For example, there’s a bit about the current designation of pink as the girliest of girly girl colors (and nearly the only color option for girls). It seems that this is actually a fairly recent happening:

The relentless resegregation of childhood appears to have sneaked up without any further discussion about sex roles, about what it now means to be a boy or to be a girl. Or maybe it has happened in lieu of such discussion because it’s easier this way.

Easier, that is, unless you want to buy your daughter something that isn’t pink. Girls’ obsession with that color may seem like something they’re born with, like the ability to breathe or talk on the phone for hours on end. But according to Jo Paoletti, an associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland, it ain’t so. When colors were first introduced to the nursery in the early part of the 20th century, pink was considered the more masculine hue, a pastel version of red. Blue, with its intimations of the Virgin Mary, constancy and faithfulness, was thought to be dainty. Why or when that switched is not clear, but as late as the 1930s a significant percentage of adults in one national survey held to that split. Perhaps that’s why so many early Disney heroines — Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Wendy, Alice-in-Wonderland — are swathed in varying shades of azure.

The other bit I found particularly thought-provoking was this bit about the attempts to reconcile traditional and contemporary standards for girls’ roles:

But what to make, then, of the young women in the Girls Inc. survey? It doesn’t seem to be “having it all” that’s getting to them; it’s the pressure to be it all. In telling our girls they can be anything, we have inadvertently demanded that they be everything. To everyone. All the time. No wonder the report was titled “The Supergirl Dilemma.”

Anyhow, it’s a fun read, as well as an interesting one.

time warped

I seem to be having trouble accurately perceiving the passage of time lately. Just a couple of weeks ago (or perhaps it was months), I was in a meeting at work. We were discussing the agenda for the day, and various upcoming scheduled events of the day. I looked at my watch. (A normal thing to do when talking about times.) However, my watch did not have the answers I sought. While it is quite a nice watch, with hands and numbers and well-crafted internal mechanisms, it had not been wound, nor the time changed, since some time in February. It was, in fact, the first time I had managed to wear my watch in many months. It seemed like a great accomplishment, a step towards recapturing the structure of my previous life. When I grabbed my watch, in a fit of inspiration, I figured I would “get around” to setting the time before heading to work. Well, hours passed (I presume), and there I was, sitting in a meeting looking at watch that reflected the time of some moment from my past. A metaphor perhaps?

Time has been racing by like you would not believe. (Just now, since writing that first paragraph, I’m pretty sure I lost at least half a day.) There have been a number of times when I’ve thought “I should respond to that email from [insert name here] that I received a couple days ago.” When I actually then dig up said email in my inbox, it is often weeks or even months since I received it. Yes, send me an email, and I will get back to you right away. Within the year.

And then there was this whole bizarre time warp I experienced shortly after my daughter was born. The first few weeks absolutely crawled by. Every day felt like a week. It was a haze of feeding and comforting (lots of bouncing) with not much sleep or much of anything else. And then at some point, vroom, time took off. The first 6 weeks and the subsequent 6 months seem of approximately equal duration in my mind.

So now, in spite of looming deadlines (the damn Incomplete is due next week), I am compelled to put together a small collection of stories (TV episodes, movies and more) reflecting my sense of the world passing me by.

Movies, shows and other stories of warped time:

These further seem to group into 3 main chunks.

1. I overslept.
Comas and long naps. In the tradition of Rip Van Winkle and Sleeping Beauty. (Wikipedia has some great lists of other takes on these tales.)

  • Dead Zone (book, movie, TV show)
    A guy wakes up from a coma. Has special powers. (Where are my special powers?)
  • Kill Bill, volume 1 (2003)
    Woman wakes up from a coma. Pissed off.
  • Bear Snores On
    This is a book I read to my daughter. Bear in hibernation misses out on a party.

2. I was a popsicle.
Things in the tradition of Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer.

  • Forever Young (1992)
    I’m not actually sure I saw this whole movie. Mel freezes, Mel melts.
  • Late for Dinner (1991)
    Only vaguely remember this one, too. I seem to remember it was cute. Had Peter Gallagher. (Strange, he was in another coma movie.)
  • Futurama (1999-??)
    The whole premise of the show. Fry freezes, unfreezes.
  • Austin Powers (1997)
    You know this one.

3. I lost track of time.
Miscellaneous time warps.

  • Blast from the past (1999)
    Brendan Fraser grows up in a bomb shelter, and emerges decades later in complete ignorance of the progress of time.
  • Buffy, season 6 “Smashed” (2001)
    Having been a rat for several years, Amy comments: “I felt like I was in that cage for weeks.”
  • Buffy, season 6 “Life Serial” (2001)
    I’m thinking of the part of the episode where Buffy is taken out of time, and what seem like seconds to her translate to hours for the rest of the world.
  • Stargate, season 2 “A Matter of Time” (1999)
    A black hole messes up the passage of time.
  • She’s had a baby (2006) A grad student suffers from baby-induced time warping, and falls even further behind in her school and work obligations by blogging rather than doing things she’s supposed to be doing.

mommy?

I have recently become a mother, and so am in the process of exploring what this means. I have a daughter who is now 9 months old, and these past months have been a learning adventure. I was perhaps not very well prepared for motherhood, and expected to learn a lot about what it means to be a mother. But I thought I had, at the very least, a reasonable grasp on what the word mother means. It turns out there’s more to it than I realized.

I was at a meeting where we were looking at materials from an NLP course. We got to a section on word sense ambiguity, and instead of having just the standard bank/bank examples, a slide had this example of 2 definitions for mother:

a woman who has given birth to a child

or

a stringy slimy substance consisting of yeast cells and bacteria; is added to cider or wine to produce vinegar

Stringy slimy substance? A quick look up confirmed it:

moth‧er2 /ˈmʌðər/ –noun
a stringy, mucilaginous substance consisting of various bacteria, esp. Mycoderma aceti, that forms on the surface of a fermenting liquid and causes fermentation when added to other liquids, as in changing wine or cider to vinegar

Not just stringy and slimy, but mucilaginous. Shouldn’t I have known about this?