“We are SO Brangelina right now,” I announced as I walked into the house carrying four full grocery bags on each arm. I load them on my arms like heaving bangle bracelets that cut off my circulation because I’m too lazy to make multiple trips to the car to unload. I bet Angelina doesn’t have to lug groceries.
“Why’s that?” my husband said to me, which is what he says when he needs further explanation to determine just how crazy my thought process is. Notice he didn’t have to ask who Brangelina was. Yes, I’ve trained him well. He can proficiently discuss celebrity couples and knows them all by their conjoined monikers.
I peeled the bags off of my arms, placed them on the kitchen counter and pulled out the Life & Style magazine that had just hit the newsstands. The cover headline screamed “Brad’s Fears for Shiloh: As Angelina cuts Shiloh’s hair shorter than ever, Brad breaks down worrying that his little girl will be ridiculed.”
Legends of the Fall changed my life. It was the first movie that C.J.’s Dad and I saw together (which was a milestone worth journaling about back in high school) and it was when I was introduced to the one and only Brad Pitt. If you are attracted to men, you remember when you first laid eyes on Mr. Pitt. It’s like how some people remember the day when President Kennedy was assassinated. Then, there was the first time I saw Angelina Jolie. The movie was Gia and, from that moment on, I understood fully and completely how a person could, with all of their being, be physically attracted to a person of the same sex/gender.
The two of them together really isn’t fair. How can that much beauty and sex appeal cohabitate? Then again, how can it not? My relationship with Brangelina was shallow and purely physical for a long time. Sure, I heard that they did some volunteer work around the world, donated millions of dollars to causes and saved some orphans from icky circumstances and other fancy stuff like that. But, I didn’t bother myself with those details until Brangelina had a little girl who started presenting herself as a little boy.
Shiloh is roughly the same age as C.J. From what I can tell she is gender creative. From what I can tell Brangelina are okay with it. They were the first example of a family like ours that I saw and could relate too. If you aren’t a family like ours with a child like ours, then you have no idea how good it feels to read about and see a family that you can relate too.
Having a gender creative child will never be in fashion. I don’t think that we are hipsters because we have a gender creative child and I certainly don’t think Brangelina glamorize it, but they do make it seem a little more okay, at least they do for us. They’ve taught me to be, where C.J.’s gender creativity is concerned, totally unapologetic. I thank them for that.
The article in Life & Style talked about how Shiloh went from liking dolls to dinosaurs when she was two years old. That’s the age when C.J. went from liking trains to Barbies. That’s the age when parents stop selecting toys and the children start doing it for themselves. At age three, Shiloh started wearing some clothes from her brothers’ closet and C.J. started wearing my tank tops as tank dresses. A year later, when Shiloh begged for a short-cropped hairdo, C.J. wanted to grow his hair out like Rapunzel. Shiloh is sometimes mistaken for a boy (because apparently some people don’t keep up on the Brangelina brood like I do) and C.J. is sometimes mistaken for a girl. Our kids are total twin-sies, only different.
In the Life & Style article, Jonathan “Manhattan’s most media-friendly psychotherapist” Alpert was quoted as saying, “this is a culture where kids get picked on if they don’t look like other kids. Shiloh’s already different…and she may already feel ostracized because of that.”
People have given me the same advice and I have read it a few times in magazines like the Atlanta Parent. My argument is that if we were all the same, this world would super boring. If the goal is to get people like Shiloh and C.J. to be less colorful, the result will be a dull, drab future in a place where their peers have been taught that conformity reigns supreme. It will be Boresville 90210, population snoozefest.
A few days later Grandma and Grandpa Colorado were in town for doctors appointments and, like an AARP-aged Bonnie and Clyde, they stole the waiting room copy of Star magazine to show us an article titled “Doctor’s Tell Brad and Angie: Let Shiloh be a boy!”
In the Star article Dr. Jeff “America’s Physiologist” Gardere said that “it’s important for Brad and Angelina to allow Shiloh to develop into any personality that is not harmful or antisocial. Therefore, if she wants to develop emotionally more like a boy, then she should be allowed to do so.”
That’s what is hard for some people to understand about the way that we have come to parent. There are people who feel like we should be helping C.J. to conform more and follow his instincts less. I won’t do it. I’m here to love him, not change him. He’s free to be who he was created to be – short of breaking the law and harming others. I’m trying my hardest to be what C.J. needs so that he can grow into the very best version of himself.
Though he’d probably rather playdate with Suri Cruise, I’d rather he find a BFF in Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. Then, I could talk to Brangelina and thank them for being the first parents to show me that letting a gender creative child be creative is okay….while stealing glances on the sly.