This morning, coming home from the pool, Sophia announced, “I’m going to wear my bride hat at the dinosaurs.” By “the dinosaurs” she meant the memorial that was erected by a local eagle scout in honor of the dinosaur that was discovered several blocks away from our home. There’s a plaque, a picnic table, and a rag tag set team of plastic dinosaurs, which on-your-honor you can play with and leave behind for the next visitor. By “bride hat” she meant the veil that was in the bag of hand-me-down goodies dropped off by Aunt Emily yesterday.
“Oh? Who are you going to marry?” I asked, bemused.
“Daddy,” Sophie said, without hesitation. And then, as an afterthought, “or Jan [Emily’s charming, silly, sunny boy with whom Sophie is enamored]. He’s a really nice boy.”
I was hurt. Jan I can understand. But why daddy? Why not me? I’m a catch. I cook. I clean. I arrange splendid playdates and outings.
I was afraid I already knew the answer. Still I had to ask: “Why don’t you want to marry me?”
“Because, Mom-Moms, I have to marry a boy. Girls marry boys. Daddy is a boy.”
Just as I suspected.
Kevin and I have been very careful not to articulate expectations that she will date, fall in love with, marry or grow up to be with a person of one sex with the other. We wanted to avoid transmitting the message that a heterosexual relationship is the only kind of relationship. Should it so happen that she’s gay, we want her to look back and know that the only thing we ever cared about was that she would wind up with someone who loves her, edifies her, and with whom she is happy.
My own parents did a good job of this. Gay was normal. Our neighbors were a same-sex couple who ran a kennel for miniature schnauzers. We’d go over to their house at Christmastime—their home was built during the American Revolution and had slits in the walls where you could hide behind and stick a gun through. It was always beautifully decorated and they served us hot cocoa and had little gifts for us. And every summer we went to Cape Cod. We spent our nights in Provicetown where we watched transvestite parades and hung out in feminist bookstores and vacationed alongside families of a variety of configurations.
Thus, I try to speak in general terms, if at all, when I talk to Sophie about a romantic future “one day, when you meet someone you fall in love with….blah blah blah.” She knows male-female couples as well as male-male couples and female-female couples. Still, somehow, she has picked up on the hetero-dominant model.
I blame the princesses. Cinderella mooning over Prince Charming, Aurora waiting for Prince Phillip to ride in on his steed, Ariel sacrificing her fish tail to be with landlubber Prince Eric. Where are the lesbian princesses? The gay princes? Surely they are out there. Certainly there are stories where the princess ditches the prince (The Paper Bag Princess), and stories where princesses eschew their dainty image (The Princesses have a Ball, Atalanta in Free to Be You and Me), and even where princesses kick some royal butt (The Princess Knight), but none that I know of that propose a same-sex romantic path.
Which means it’s up to us. “Sophia.” I reply, “You know, not every girl marries a boy. And not every boy marries a girl. Some girls marry girls. Some boys marry boys.”
“Oh,” responds Sophie, “You can mix and match. Boys with girls. Girls with boys.”
Not my point.
I can see that this is only the beginning of a long conversation we will have over time.