Friday, September 7, 2012

Boys Don't Get Hearts

Mom, Dad, and three little boys come up to the booth to look at tie-dye.  The kids are all really excited about it.  Kids are probably our biggest reason for sales.  They love tie-dye.  The bright colors just draw them in.

So, Mom and Dad tell the boys pick one out.  Boys start choosing.  The middle boy picked out a bright, lime green shirt quite excitedly.  When he pulls it off the rack and shows it to Mom she says "Well, that's kind of got a little bit of heart on it."  She said it in the same tone you might use to say "Well, that's kind of got a little stain on it."  Or "That's kind of got a little rip in in."  She put it back in the rack and tells the boy again to choose a shirt.

After riffling through the shirts he picks the same lime green shirt with a blue heart.  His mom tells him again "See, that ones got a heart, too," as she puts it back on the rack.

The boy starts flipping through the shirts again.  He pulls the lime green heart shirt off the rack a third time.  This time the mom's tone was harsher.  "No, you can't get that one.  Its got a heart on it.  See." At this point the brothers start chiming in with their disapproval.  "Yeah, that's a girl shirt, Joe."  "Yeah, it a heart shirt."

The little boy was standing there looking at it and he looked so torn.  Like he liked the shirt, but knew he shouldn't like it and wouldn't be allowed to have it.  I told him, "They're really cool colors though, aren't they?!"  He nodded and put it back on the rack.  At this point his mom picked one out for him.  It had lime green on it, too and you could tell he liked it, but you could also tell it wasn't the one he really wanted.

The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.  What sort of world is this where hearts, symbols of love and all things good and loving, are only for women and girls.  It was a blue heart on a green shirt.  It wasn't even lavender or neon pink or any "girl" colors.  There was nothing inherently girly about it to my eye.  Except, I guess, that hearts are girly.  Do we want little boys who have no heart?  Or who think they certainly shouldn't express it publicly?  Or who think hearts are for sissies?  It really rubbed me the wrong way. 

I wish I could have just given it to him, but its not like he'd probably have gotten to wear it even if I had.

If you ask me hearts are for everyone.  Its not a gendered thing at all.  We all have a literal heart that pumps our lifeblood through our bodies and I'd like to think we all have a spiritual, metaphorical heart that pumps a different kind of lifeblood.  The lifeblood that is practicing kindness and doing what's right and showing compassion, and feeling the full range of love--romantic, familial, and every way in between.  The lifeblood that makes us interdependent beings who care about each other and need each other.  The lifeblood that is "having a heart."

To think that the symbolic representation of all that--the heart shape--is limited to girls and women makes me a little sad to consider.
Photo by my sister, Lisa.
It makes me especially glad that my sweet nephew, Elijah, has parents that know that love and hearts are not just for girls.

21 comments:

  1. Oh Me- Oh My..I agree with your words and also have this to offer..when the child is grown and can't make a decision for himself will the Mother realize the reason why...nope, nada, zilch....so sad...
    ~~Blessings~~

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    1. I hadn't thought of that, but I bet you are spot on. Thanks for your thoughts! Have a great weekend.

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  2. Beth,
    That is really sad. I would never equate a heart with "girl" things. Unfortuately, my ex made those kinds of distinctions.

    My grandson wanted a doll house when he was two. He got it.

    Two years before, my daughter's nephew wanted a doll house and the father, brother of my sil, absolutely refused to allow Santa to get one for him. So, my daughter and her husband gave him a doll house for Christmas.

    The mother of the child said it would be the Jurassic Doll House by the next day. She was okay with a doll house for a little boy.

    My thoughts were that men should be involved in a house, putting babies to bed, cooking. Are women only relegated to being involved with house chores?

    How homophobic can a person be so as to scar a kid? And, the older child already had been indoctrinated.

    My son became angry when I gave his two-year-old son a Cabbage Patch, one of the first made, that I used in my booth. The little boy CP even had on a camo outfit!

    I bought tractors for my girls! Cars! All sorts of "boy" stuff.

    Maybe Matt should wear a shirt with a heart on it.

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    1. Its funny you should mention that last thing. Matt regularly wears a bright fuchia colored tie-dye after we started to get frustrated by people's rigid perceptions of what are gender appropriate colors. I mean he's a pretty burly looking man in hot pink. He certainly doesn't look like a girl. : ) Maybe now he'll have to start wearing hearts, too. Maybe pink ones! ; )

      And good on you for letting the little ones in your life play with whatever toys they fancy...not just the "gender appropriate" ones. Unfortunately there are so many like your SIL's brother.

      A good weekend to you!

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    2. Oh, and when I was a little girl my favorites were the classic little girl toy of Barbies, but with a heavy, heavy dose of GI Joes, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, classically boy toys. I liked them all.

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    3. Yes! That's it! Matt to wear a heart T-shirt at the tie-dye booth! I love tie-dye. But I felt so sad for that little boy, like a real actual ache in my heart. x

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  3. My oldest, a son, had a million farm toys that he would not allow her to touch. So, I went out and bought some for her. He had already had dolls, dishes, a stover made from a cardboard box, doll clothes, all sorts of things in addition to all the boy toys. She had her own John Deere tractor. She had a two-foot-long Tonka tanker, all metal, and a fleet of Matchbox cars. She got the identical bendable Superman figure/doll he did when they were about 5 and 7. I was not going to deny her pleasure of having a Superman. She loved it.

    Then, the third,a girl, had all the toys from the older two. So, no sibling ever banned her from a toy. Well, they protected their record players!

    It's sad that a boy is denied so many chances to be gentle in our world, so many chances to show he has a heart. Society is the worse for homophobia.

    Maybe Matt could make a special shirt with a heart. However, a burly, manly-looking man like him can get away with wearing baby pink. Some of the men who have less hairy faces and slighter bodies will forever have a problem in society with wearing anything that could be slightly conceived as feminine. Socialization, of course, determines all our notions about what is feminine or masculine. Too bad.

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  4. I wouldn't want my daughters to marry a man who had been taught that men don't have hearts. I may be stretching what she said here, but it's really important to me that the men my children marry *love* them.

    My husband is a gentle, loving soul who holds the babies, and sighs when we see little bitty babies at church. I wouldn't have it any other way. I dated some of those men who held the belief that they shouldn't have hearts. They were mean.

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    1. And don't you just count your blessings every day to have such a gentle and loving partner!?! I know I sure do. We are so blessed.

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  5. This is so sad. Greg (our son) went through some of this type of crapola in Elementary school years ago about "girl" colors and "boy" colors... things have just gotten SO CRAZY!

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    1. My nephew had that same problem. He didn't care the bicycle at his preschool was pink...he just wanted to ride bicycle!!! There were the "enforcer" children though who would point it out to him. Crazy indeed.

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  6. Amen Sister! Society is really hard on men because of those very attitudes. I see my family doing the same thing to their boys and girls. It makes me really sad.

    I applaud all you parents and others out there who allow children to explore their likes and dislikes and allow them to develop into emotionally healthy adults that aren't saddled with rigid rules about how a "man" or "woman" should look and act. They will be happier and definitely more secure in their skins.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I bet it harder to watch with your own family members. And I applaud those parents, too!

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  7. I guess I look at it as each to their own. Every family will have good and bad about it, and I do mean every family. I assume the kids in this family seemed well cared for and loved. We don't always have to agree with the choices others make, and although it sounds as if the boy was put under a bit of pressure to conform to the parents ideas of what is good for him, all in all I am sure he will be fine.

    Bean

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    1. I am sure he'll be fine in that he is fed and cared for, but I still can't help but feel he is being sold a little short. I am happy to let others live as they wish--that's why I just said the colors were nice and didn't try to push the issue with his folks or anything--but I am not always happy about they ways they do it always. Still, it could be worse so I see what you are saying.

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  8. This makes me so sad! :( Poor sweet little boy. There's enough harshness out in the world, that I really feel kids don't need that from their own families. You should be free to express who you are in the safety of your family. For goodness sake, couldn't they just let him get the heart shirt to at least wear at home? I hope he perseveres and gets his heart shirt one day, even if he has to draw one on there himself!
    -Jaime

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    1. That is a sweet idea. I hope he does draw his own heart! For goodness sakes, indeed, it was just a t-shirt, it was just a heart.

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  9. It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth, too, just reading it. And it's seems unfair that girls can wear anything, regardless of gender stereotyping, but boys are mocked and ridiculed for doing so.

    Like Eli, who was teased for playing dress-up at preschool, so he stopped.

    I applaude men (and boys) who are "tough enough to wear pink" -- or hearts.

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    1. In the tie-dye booth Matt and I have had SO many conversations about what exactly "boy colors" are. It seems to me to be horribly unfair. Females have the whole spectrum of beautiful colors to choose from, but males are frequently pigeon holed into black, blue, brown, and dark green. Nothing bright. Not red or yellow or lime or fuchsia. Dark and drab. How lame would that be?!

      When I was a little girl I love GI Joes and Ninja Turtles and forts and hated long hair and dresses. No one seemed to care. I bet if I was a boy with long hair who liked dolls and tea parties people would have cared. What IS up with that?

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  10. oh dear. How far we have NOT come. I would let my little boy wear "girly" symbols if he wanted to. He wanted to wear a skirt (he has an older sis), and I told him he could do that any time at home. If I paint his sis' toenails, he wants his done too and yes, I do it.

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Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas. I value the advice and friendship that you share with me!