Leaving the boat
you enter the world of water
naked of knowledge –
schooled only in the use
of snorkel, mask and flipper.
At first, uncertain of the ocean’s depth,
your arms and legs go everywhere;
the sudden terror in your heart
heard in each troubled breath.
A fish swims in front of you. Then another.
And another. The colours brighter than
the brightest colours in your favourite box of paints.
Now your mouth becomes a gill, limbs
a tail and fins. You drift among reef and fish:
a friend, a fellow fish… until the reef appears
like the living thing it is
to crawl out from the shadows and
seek the light it feeds upon.
Now, caught between coral and the source of light,
fish dreaming turns to fear – you feel the reef
slice into your flesh like a knife, gills
filling with water…
Taking your hand
we find a sand bank
to stand upon, and I explain
how the glass in the mask magnifies the view.
‘It changes the look of things,’ I say.
‘Like the mind does when it dreams.’
Still holding hands we turn
our backs on the reef
and push off for the shore,
floating like lovers on a canvas by Chagall.
“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