A horrid little brat for days,
all spit and sass,
tripping your brother,
a note from your teacher,
you even called me fool.
Next morning you dressed
and redressed three times,
splashed on your father’s aftershave,
tucked a wallet in your pocket.
When you opened your notebook,
a page of red and turquoise hearts
and stars spilled out–
I thought for me–
until I saw Cora Cora Cora
in your neatest hand.
Love! Why hadn’t I thought of that?
I was just your age when Jeffrey John Jasper
showed me how to play wild horses:
if the cowboys caught us
they got to corral us.
I outran all the boys until
the day I figured it out.
Valentine’s Day Jeffrey gave me
a one-dollar card that said love.
I kept secret until recess,
when two girls showed me
identical cards signed JJJ.
You tilt your head at the mirror,
and homilies swarm to my mind.
I wave them and the waft
of English Leather away and say,
Mmm, don’t you smell nice.
“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