The Boy Who Wears Bows

We are in a new time in our lives. When I was growing up, the ideas of what boys wear and what girls wear were pretty established.

Now, if you were growing up like me, it was okay to be a tomboy. You could wear boys’ clothing and play sports and video games and it was no big deal. But if you were a boy, the same gender neutrality wasn’t the case.

I have a son and a daughter. My son is the baby so he follows his sister everywhere. She is a tomboy in princess’s clothing. She wears dresses, does her hair, and puts on a necklace and then goes to climb mountains and play baseball. There is no separation of what is acceptable for her to do or wear from any other child.

My son likes to do the same thing his sister does plus a few things she didn’t do. He loves cars and trains and trucks in a way she was never into. And he will participate in all of it with a bow on his head. He sees his sister wear bows and asks for them as well. Because we have never established something was a “girl thing” or a “boy thing”, we put the bow on and let him rock it.

It definitely raises interest especially in our South Asian circles. We have heard “that’s for girls” a few times. But really is it? Or is it just something that we have established as a “girl thing” in society? If boys were given a fair chance to express themselves, would they themselves have immersed in the bow culture?

The next question that arises is what happens when my son wants to wear something else his sister wears. What about princess dresses or necklaces or bangles?

What do we do when we have let the kids live in a gender neutral zone where they can be free to do or wear whatever they want? Is it better to follow society’s gender norms at least for now so we can protect our son from the chance of being bullied until he can understand how to protect himself? Would we follow the same rules of parental protection as we would with climbing structures and riding bikes? Would we do whatever we could to protect them in the real world until the real world catches up with the way we think?

As parents, what is the correct path? I don’t know if there is one. I think we are in a new territory where children have the freedom to become who they really are, who they are truly comfortable with. I want to be able to be there for my children for whatever choices they make. I want to be there for them to fall back on and to be their shield when they need it. My parents did that for me when I was breaking society’s norms and I don’t want to be any less for my kids.

It may turn out that our son doesn’t care for “girl things” as he gets older. It may turn out that he loves them.

It may turn out that he may go on to drive monster trucks with a multitude of bows in his hair.

Stigma

Stigma.

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, its meaning includes a mark of shame or discredit.

The Indian community takes stigma very seriously. If you do something that isn’t part of the community’s definition of acceptable, there will be some sort of stigma attached to you. If you don’t get married until you are older, if you don’t have kids by a certain age or at all, if you have a degree, if you don’t have a degree, if you have too many relationships, if you don’t have relationships with the right people, if you don’t speak your parents’ language, if you can’t cook and clean, and the list goes on and on, you probably have some sort of stigma attached to you.

There isn’t a specific definition of what is acceptable and what isn’t. It varies with each community.

Here’s my take on it: Who the f*** cares?

Why do so many people care about what someone else is doing? Why does it matter as long as the person is a good person and not harming anyone else? Why should it matter to me at all who is dating who or making how much money? It makes absolutely no difference in my life.

I didn’t think this way in my teens and 20s. Then, I wanted to fit the mold of what I should be doing. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy it made me to do what everyone else wanted that I stopped. It did break some of my friendships and relationships. It did wreak some havoc on my life as I reoriented myself to put my feelings and desires first.

It sometimes still does affect me. I’m Indian so my programming is definitely towards the “what I’m supposed to do”mentality instead of the “what I want to do” mentality. And then I have to sit and really think and ask myself if what I’m doing is making me happy. I’m raising children now and I don’t want them to feel like they have to fit some predetermined mold. I want them to be able to make choices throughout their lives without feeling like they are doing something “bad”.

I’m glad I’ve at least gotten to a point where the stigma attached to me bothers other people more than it bothers me. I am who I am.