I was having coffee with two girlfriends when one of them broached the sensitive subject of family size. “You’ve finished having kids, haven’t you?” Jane asked me abruptly as I reached for my second Tim Tam. I nodded. My children were four and two and I’d hit the snooze button on my biological clock some time ago. She turned her attention to Jodie. “And you must be done by now, surely?” Jodie, also nodding, glanced at me, and we settled ourselves down to talk Jane through the big issues: knowing when your family is complete, saying goodbye to the bassinette, demanding your husband have a vasectomy.
Only she was one step ahead of us, and with her mind well and truly made up. “Great!” she said, pulling out a brochure, her sales background coming to the fore. “You can do this market with me then. We can go thirds on a stall, sell all our old baby gear, rid our houses of clutter, make some money, get away from the kids for a few hours and spend time together.”
The girl had obviously done her homework. Even without the enticement of a child-free morning the idea had merit: between us we had seven children (including two sets of twins) all well past the baby stage and cupboards that needed an extreme makeover.
As I sat listening to her pitch I felt fantasies bubbling up unbidden, wicked thoughts that I’d never even shared with my husband. I could get rid of the high chair! Sell my breast pump! Maybe even offload the collected works of The Wiggles! My mind raced with possibilities. If I could find someone to buy the cot my kids could share a room and free up the study… if I sold the Baby Bjorn maybe I’d get enough for those boots I’d seen last week… if I could divest our home of even half the toys we might not have to extend. I was in.
Of course, it wasn’t that easy. The sale was held on the Sunday morning after an unplanned and particularly late Saturday night involving cocktails and karaoke, rather than sorting rompers and packing the car as I’d intended. As a result I had to complete those tasks at 6am, before meeting at the town hall of an outlying suburb to begin set-up by 7:30. I had a hangover, a sore throat and a blinding headache every time I bent over, and with eighteen boxes to haul in and out of the car and unpack I did a lot of bending. It didn’t help matters that our position was just two stalls down from the Kindermusic display… free classes every half hour and a Hamsterdance CD on constant rotation.
Around us, seasoned sellers calmly wheeled in their display racks and artfully arranged their wares before settling back in their seats with the thermos in one hand and the picnic hamper at their feet. Everything was labelled, folded, washed. They’d come prepared with money belts, cash tins and calligraphied signs. Surrounded by our overflowing boxes, Jane, Jodie and I surveyed our own stall in horror. Between us we had one clotheshorse, a trestle table, an ice cream container for the money and a bag of lemon sherbets. No-one had even thought to bring a chair.
Still, it was now almost nine o’clock, there were at least 50 buyers lined up outside and we were here to sell. The doors were flung open and the first hour passed in a blur of frenzied transactions. My Baby Bjorn went in five minutes, the cot within fifteen. As our ice cream container began to fill differences between our selling styles emerged – Jodie was persuasive, Jane firm. My hangover dictated mine: everything must go. There was no way I was packing the car again.
Other triumphs followed. Jane managed to sell a three-story dolls house she’d been given (somewhat inappropriately) for her twin boys for fifty dollars; Jodie had to restrain herself from doing cartwheels as she waved goodbye to her double stroller. At first I haggled over prices, but as sales flagged so did I. Five dollars for that beautiful little Osh Kosh outfit that my daughter had come home from hospital in, still in perfect condition and purchased for eighty? Fine. I barely flinched as I handed it over. There were still three hours to go and I was discovering that lemon sherbets have no analgesic properties.
The morning wore on, punctuated only by the relentless strains of Kindermusic and my pounding head. By 1pm almost everything was sold, despite the fact that I’d given up smiling at potential customers sometime after 10. Jodie, Jane and I counted out the money and toasted each other with the remaining sherbets. It had been a success, though I was so exhausted I could barely drag myself to my now blessedly empty car.
Next time I swear it’s all going on EBay. But I did make enough for those boots.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem