It was like watching somebody come alive, watching a flower bloom, watching a rainbow cross the sky.
It was the day C.J. discovered Barbie.
Back story: Uncle Uncle and I had a bad Barbie addiction as children. It was tough to shake, especially since our mother was and is a total enabler. In March 2009, Nana Grab Bags bought me – a grown woman — Mattel’s 50th Anniversary Bathing Suit Barbie. She was a modernized version of the original 1959 doll with a two-piece, black and white bikini trimmed with her signature color pink, pink hoop earrings, ponytail and a cell phone.
I kept her in her box in my closet for months. One fall day I was cleaning out my closet and sat boxed Barbie on my bed.
I nearly fell off my stepstool at C.J.’s shriek.
“I want to open she!”
He held the box as he jumped up and down, up and down, up and down.
I hesitated. You don’t open a boxed Barbie if you can at all help it.
But his face. His sweet excited face could convince me to do worse things. We opened her.
Cue the choir of angels.
I figured he would play with her for a day or two and lose interest; like he did with most toys. She’s been a constant in his life for more than a year. Oh, he wasn’t dabbling, he was hardcore from the start.
It was the beginning of our adventures in raising a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son.
C.J.’s Brother was a devoted Thomas the Tank Engine fan from his third birthday to his fourth birthday exactly. 12 months; no more, no less.
C.J. and Barbie are celebrating their 16 month anniversary.
“And, how’s C.J.? Is he still playing with dolls? Oh, he is? When do you think this phase is going to end? What do you think it means?” ask Grandma and Grandpa Colorado when we catch up by phone.
Since C.J. hooked up with Barbie I’ve been mostly answer-less.
I have to admit, it’s easier for me to connect with my younger son over Barbie than it was to connect with my older son over Thomas the Tank Engine and the Best Traxxas RC Trucks. Me and Babs go way back. Playing Barbies with C.J. is much like playing Barbies with Uncle Uncle. Uncle Uncle would backcomb her hair to high hell and I’d be responsible for brushing her out; same goes for when C.J. manages to tangle her to rat’s nest proportions. And, both Uncle Uncle and C.J. have scolded me countless times for my outfit choices and styling techniques. It’s history repeating itself.
Since C.J. fell off the “boy toy” wagon we’ve endured questioning stares, dirty looks, disgusted headshakes, knowing nods and smiles of encouragement.
C.J. has been his happiest since he met Barbie, we haven’t always been. But, as a mother, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For some reason there were Strawberry Shortcake dolls at Grandma’s house.
Played with her and Lemon Meringue. And Ken.
I don’t ever recall it being a big deal, they were just toys.
Must’ve been 3 or 4 at the time.
Years later, I remember it being a big deal (to me) that my cousins got me a My Little Pony.
Still have it.
I stumbled upon your book (and then, your blog) somehow and thankfully. It’s nice to read about people that I can relate to. My now-six year old son has slowly been becoming interested in things considered “girly” – Hello Kitty, My Little Pony, and his most recent love, Barbie. I bought him his first Barbie (and her friend, Ken) just yesterday, and he is now obsessed with everything Barbie – today, we bought a Barbie car; this Saturday, we’re going to be driving over an hour to buy a Dream House (plus a camper, pool, and a bunch of other stuff) from a nice lady who advertised on Kijiji. I’ll admit that I’m just as excited as my little guy – as a young girl, I was even more obsessed with Barbie dolls than my son, my two older kids had no interest, so it will be nice to get to play Barbies again.
I love this post. Amazing how one event can open your eyes.
“I want to open she!” That is adorable! Just found your blog the other day via your husband’s article and am reading through it in my spare time. We have a daughter who hates dresses and frilly stuff and loves everything “boyish.” For some reason I had no idea there were any blogs like yours out there! So glad to have found it and I’ll be buying your book soon too.
Pingback: Gendered Toys? Define Gender | ThinkIts
Barbie = gateway drug. I love how your mind works.
Once again, back-reading your blog, I am struck at the humanity you display. Admitting you’re not some magical MONDE DU PAM mom (to comment on the aforementioned MA VIE EN ROSE – a wonderful, wonderful movie btw for anyone raising a non-gender-typical son) proves your humanity. What a brave decision to work out your struggles here. My advice, speaking as someone who was not entirely unlike CJ (or Ludovic from the aforementioned movie) growing up, is to just make sure you give him choices, and try your best not to grit your teeth too much when he chooses something you don’t necessarily like – but, if you REALLY don’t like a choice, try as you have in your blogs to work out with him exactly how and why you disapprove. You’d be surprised how what seems cosmically important can be inconsequential to someone dealing with these issues, and you can be equally surprised at how important things can be that seem terribly unimportant to everyone else.
When I was little, for instance, I used to insist on getting into the girls’ line for drinks at the gender-based water fountains. My teacher threw a fit and called my parents – until I explained that the reason I liked it better was because the water coming out of the boys’ side was lukewarm and tasted rusty but the girls’ side was ice-cold. It had nothing to do with gender and what could’ve been a storm of sadness turned out to be nothing.
At the same time, it was very important to me to have Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Happy Home (from the original collection in the 80s, of which I was a child) for Christmas one year, and I wanted nothing else, and my folks didn’t get it for me and got me a BUNCH of boy toys that cost a LOT more than the Strawberry Shortcake dream house and I was miserable. They thought they were doing the right thing. Oh, parents. 😉
Later, my mom asked me why I was so mopey so close after Christmas and I said I hadn’t gotten the only thing I actually wanted and they said WHAT? in total surprise and I gently reminded them that I had said I wanted only Strawberry Shortcake’s Berry Happy Home for months and months before Christmas and when I was told it couldn’t be afforded because of how expensive the other gifts for Christmas had been, I informed them in no uncertain terms that this was SOOOO OKAY because I’d packed all the toys they’d gotten me into my closet and they could have all of them to take back to the store if only they’d listen because “Santa didn’t listen to my letter” and was holding on to the “wrong” gifts in case he “came back to fix the mistake.”
They got the message. They took back the toys. I got the doll house, and played with it religiously every day, reassured that Santa hadn’t betrayed my trust. 🙂
How sad at first. They could not get what you wanted because the others were expensive. What you wanted cost less and made you happy.
I am reading some of your back posts. My now 7 year old son likes to take his Barbie to his dad’s apartment complex pool. HIs dad is very supportive. He just told me a new rule he has, which made me laugh. My son can bring his Barbie to the pool, but she has to have clothes on. He said it was just too weird to see our son walking around with a naked provocative Barbie.
I really love to hear about the dad’s support. Way to go dad.
I’m back-tracking….but the above barbie looks like Lindsey Lohan.
You are such an amazing mom reading this is bringing me to tears.
I have flashbacks of my childhood reading your blogs!!! My parents say they knew I was different from the time I was in the womb… But my early years were the most colorful. I had an obsession with fancy umbrellas and my entire family (minus a few elders) encouraged it. I grew up in republican west texas and have recently moved back. I am blessed with parents who loved me enough to support even the smallest meaningless things even when others frowned down on it. Your a great mother.
I love that you had a fascination with fancy umbrellas. C.J. feels the same way about aprons. Thanks for the encouragement. Cheers!
This reminds me so much of the beautiful French-Belgian movie “Ma Vie en Rose.” It’s about a little boy, Ludovic, who is convinced he should have been born a girl. CJ may not be like Ludovic at all, but the similarity is that Ludovic wanted to play with girl’s toys and this caused problems for the whole family. They didn’t know what to do. The movie shows the tragic consequences that can come from rejecting your child’s natural-born nature. It has a happy ending, though, and I know you will have a happy ending, too!
Thanks for the tip, I’ve ordered the movie from Netflix and can’t wait to watch it.
I am speechless at how moved I am reading your posts. Bless you and your entire family, regardless of orientation. 🙂