Friday, January 09, 2009

And In the Summer, He Wears Toenail Polish

Thanks for your wise counsel and perspectives. I’m feeling much better now (at least, as long as I don’t think too hard about another Tom Cruise in the making). I was also heartened by the result of the recent (and I am sure scientifically very accurate) Glamour poll of men: when offered the choice of being 6'2" with a 3-inch pen is or 5'2" with a 7-inch pen is, 68% chose the latter. I will not discuss my son’s package even on an anonymous blog, but I do not expect the former to be his fate.

I think my freakout was a combination of contemplating kindergarten starting next year and having a visit from Nana, who truly, truly believes that HB would be taller if we fed him more. But when I think about HB’s personality, he could not be more temperamentally impermeable to the taunts of others. For instance, these were his favorite holiday gift:

Yes, those are tights, and he has coveted them for a long time. He’s been making do with tight-ish long johns (always paired with colorful shorts), but has been begging for the real article. I had told him, “I will probably have to buy girls’ tights,” and he said, “Girls’ tights are fine!” Then a pause. “But not pink.” Another pause. “Hearts are okay though.”

This past Monday he wore them to preschool for the first time, and that night I asked him if people had liked them. “Oh yes,” he said. “Jacqueline and Emily said, ‘What are those?’ And I said, ‘tights,’ and they laughed together and said that only girls could wear tights.” Yet he said this in a quite gleeful way. “Did you tell them that wasn’t true?” I asked. “No,” he said as he wandered away. “A teacher did, though.” Then Tuesday he wore the second pair to school. Wednesday, he was upset that I hadn’t done the laundry yet so he could wear them again. Clearly, this is a kid to whom the only opinion of importance is his own. He reminds me a little of those tiny dogs who don’t know how small they are and run up and challenge gigantic Cujos—successfully.

(He says he likes the tights partly because they’re like his father’s cycling tights, but partly because they’re … “tight.” He has not worn regular pants since last year.)

(He does run around shooting things All. The. Time. with anything that could remotely be interpreted as a weapon, so I doubt the tights are an expression of gender confusion. Actually I know they’re not, because this kid is never confused about anything. If he wanted to be a girl, he’d be a girl, and nothing anyone could say would stop him.) (Not that I would try to stop him, FYI.)

(Click here for a picture of the toes.)


ann ominous said...

A) i think it's great that you let him run around in tights and toenail polish unlike some parents who would freak out and send him to *ahem* "summer camp"

B) i think that perhaps your son might be a secret super hero...or the next hot ticket in the world wrestling federation. think about it, spandex pants...taking on invisible monsters...disguising his feet so people don't know whose they are....

Just me said...

I also thought "super hero" rather than gender confusion. :)

Erin said...

Superhero makes sense, but my first thought was maybe a sensory preference? The daughter of a friend of mine doesn't like the movement of clothes around her arms, so always wears a leotard or bathing suit (in the summer) under her shirts. Maybe the same thing here?

P is currently in his second "I want long hair" stage. The first time he wanted to grow it, he said "I want to be a girl." When I calmly asked him why he wanted to be a girl, he said "Because girls have long hair and I want long hair." I explained to him that there are many boys who have long hair, and reminded him of several that he knows (including an uncle). He thought for a moment and said "I want to be a boy with long hair." It was funny. I had no idea how I'd deal with a then-3-year-old with gender identity issues, but it was a much simpler fix!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure I voiced my belief that he would be a rock star quite some time ago. Exhibit A: costuming!

He's certainly in good company...

My CAPTCHA is "lumpsiv" and now I am (unfortunately) remembering the little plastic basin they gave me to pee in post-childbirth.

Orange said...

Those tights are cute.

My son's hair is past his shoulders now. At school, people tend to like his hair, but on vacation there were a few clueless people (possibly all uptight dads) who thought he was a girl because God Knows Boys Can't Have Glorious Hair. (This one man persisted in talking about "the girl" even when his kid said "that's a boy.") He complains when I'm brushing his hair and the tangles (the tangles!) get yanked, but it doesn't bother him enough to lop off the bottom two inches.

My kid's hair is still a good six inches shorter than this kid, who has been getting the "girl hair" crap for much longer. And then there are these young brothers setting a nurse straight about whether pink is for girls.

Anonymous said...

You might be able to find "boy tights" at a dance shop - there are boys who dance ballet.

Also, I'm not sure he'll stay so small. The first thing that caught my eye in the picture are rather well built arm muscles and pecs for a kid - he looks like he'll grow into a muscular frame.

Anonymous said...

Like these, I meant

There are plenty more out there. My father was a choreographer, and one time he found this sweet 18 year old kid who had never danced before but had a ton of talent. He was also an immigrant and probably had some rough spots in the English they told him to go buy some dance tights and he came back in pantyhose - like the L'eggs carton ones, you know, the ones with the lines where the top is out of a different material? That's the only time I really saw someone laugh at a man in "tights." Those dancers were amazing athletes.

Anonymous said...

Just saw this the other day:

Tights for men have been long accepted in Europe. Not long ago I came across some European ads for male tights that were from the 60's and 70's.

HB is on the cutting edge of American fashion for men.

Anonymous said...

He is awesome. And I also think it's great that his parents let him do whatever his little heart pleases, gender rules of culture be damned.

EmJay said...

My son is in the 10th percentile and is the same age as your son. He wears tights (even pink ones), paints his toenails and fingernails all year round. He does have some gender confusion issues, but I think it is only because of how kids who are 4-5 years old think. He likes pink, so he must be a girl. If only it were that simple. He has been taking ballet classes since he was three at his request. He pines to dance as Clara in the Nutcracker. Oy! We just let him be who he is and try to support him without trying to change him. He wears a pink shirt nearly every day.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear. He is going to be soooo popular with the cool girls. And I'm not just sayin' that. You'll be fending them off with sticks. Good luck with that!

Anonymous said...

"He reminds me a little of those tiny dogs who don’t know how small they are and run up and challenge gigantic Cujos—successfully."

I have a little scrapper like yours. We call him a "little tiny alpha male."

The Mother said...

You know you're really in trouble when you want to borrow your teenage son's clothes.Hey, they're black, and they're slimming. And since he steals my earrings...

Jenn (dish) said...

My son hasn't requested tights, but he is always pushing his pants legs up to to the top of his leg so that he can, "look like a girl." Considering that he's three, I'm not the slightest bit concerned (I also wouldn't be concerned if he were 18--gender issues don't really faze me).

I had to laugh when you talked about your MIL believing that he needs to eat more. Mine does the same thing. She and FIL think less of my son because he is "too schkinna" (accent added for effect) and thinks my daughter is such a good girl because she eats (but she is currently off the charts for height/weight ratio--not tall enough for her girth)--which, of course, worries me. I can't win.

Anonymous said...

test post?

Lisa said...

I think a super hero cape would look GREAT with his tights.

They all go through phases. I think you have the right attitude.

DoctorMama said...

Re: the superhero angle – I kind of always thought that superhero outfits were the epitome of gender confusion, no?
Erin—definitely a sensory component, though a little surprising since he’s never had anything like that before.
Re: glorious hair. HB has never wanted long hair, which is probably just as well. I love glorious hair on a boy, but his would be more like Kate Hudson’s kid’s. That kid gets a ridiculous amount of flak for his hair in the tabloids, but I can’t help but think that if he had pretty hair, it would be much less of an issue.
Jul—and I note the high heels in that pic. It’s really a two-fer as far as costuming ideas for HB.
L’eggs carton tights—that is an amazing image. HB is not destined for dance, however, because he inherited my outrageous lack of flexibility instead of his father’s near double-jointedness. (Maybe the genes for personality and ligaments are linked?) Also, what is needed in the dance world is tall men, apparently.
Annapolitan—Mantyhose! I’ll be damned.
EmJay—your son sounds wonderful. I’d love to see a picture of him in his pink shirt. I wish he and HB could have playdates.
r3—I remember now that the “cute” boys in junior high were mostly the little ones. Of course, they’re almost all little in junior high.
themother—sharing clothes! I never considered that benefit! I look forward to it.
Jenn—you really can’t win. My sympathies.

Ozzie said...

He is adorable!

And I'm just saying, between the liking of tights and the muscle-age he's showing before even grade school- dude could wipe the mats as a wrestler. It's a good sport for the undertall (as it was for yours truly), and it does wonders for the confidence.

Thanks again for the running advice (I'd mailed you a bit ago with questions on how far is too far)!

Lainey-Paney said...

Man, I love this post.

Makes me feel less crazy when I go up to bat for my son & his desires to do or have something that others would say is assigned to children of the opposite gender.
Ahhhhh....I'm not alone!

Lainey-Paney said...

....besides, all the super hero costumes are tight &/or have tights w/ them. (and WHO is going to tell Batman that he can't wear tights???)

Jennifer Bedingfield said...

Actually, there are tights and pantyhose for men out there. Do a google search for "male pantyhose". Besides, I see a lot of male bikers wearing them too. The male brand is supposed to be more durable and run resistant from what I hear.

boombalady said...

when I paint my toenails, my little 2.5 year old dude wants his done too... why not?

Anarchy said...

So I guess this thread is a bit outdated but this struck a chord with me, and I may have some insight. As a child I remember enjoying some of these very same things, and it has played a major role in my life over the past 20-some years.

Some background: I'm a 24 year old male living in NYC with a good job and a fiance. Living in a liberal town sure does help.

Some of my earliest memories of my childhood revolve around a love of certain clothing - warm and tight clothing in particular. When I was three I remember visiting the home of a friend and while in her room, came upon her snowsuit - and boy did I love wearing the thick, warm, one-piece suit. When I was in kindergarten the class I was in had a couple deaf kids - and I absolutely HAD to have a hearing-aid like them. This was the 80s, so these things were large and strapped to the child's chest. I've thought a lot about it over the years and I cannot exactly explain what makes these things so appealing, but the attraction certainly was there. And this is long before I had knowledge of any sexuality or fetishism of any sort [more on this in a bit]. I don't think there is any underlying psycho-babble explanation about some traumatic event in my life; there is simply an inexplicable attraction to certain objects that are close to the body.

As a teenager - 10, 12 years old - I got into wearing diapers and tight clothing like wetsuits and spandex because...they felt good. The spandex and wetsuit obviously were tight and slightly restrictive - I always felt it, and all over my body. Very stimulating, physically and mentally. And again, this is before I knew anything at all about sex [I was a late bloomer it seems]

Fast forward a few years when I was 15/16 years old and just starting to work; I put in a lot of hours and had plenty of cash to blow. By this time I knew all about sexual fetishism, and began exploring the rather strange and twisted world of hedonistic pleasure :-) That story is for another blog. Move a few years more forward, when I was in college - I occasionally wore nail polish around campus. I have never acted effeminately, but this seemed to provide a rush of sorts - not sexual in any way - but a mix of fear and excitement at the thought of going out in public and wondering how people would react. Exhibitionism lite?

Anarchy said...

Today I am still most fond of tights and spandex, and thick fluffy clothing. I feel occasional shame or reluctance at the things I do, even when alone. But after a lot of long, hard thinking over the years, I have realized that this fetishism [literally, an attraction to objects] is rooted in the youngest days of my childhood and did not arise sexually. I am not saying that your son will turn out anything like I have, but I do think that this childhood attraction/preference goes a lot deeper than tights or nail polish. And it is a little reassuring to know that there may be a natural or rational explanation for this behavior.

This behavior is not a bad thing. I love going out wearing tights or a hot pink shirt or a thick warm turtleneck. It makes me happy. When I'm having a bad day it keeps me a bit more relaxed. It makes me feel content deep down inside.
Which brings me to my last point. Throughout my research, I have read that certain children with AUTISM are being 'treated' with tight clothing and other stimulae. Lead aprons, wetsuits, spandex, electrostimulation, etc. Apparently they find the additional stimulation on their body soothing, and this also helps them calm down. I don't have autism, but I understand where this is going.

All people are unique and that is what makes the world an interesting place. You do not have to directly encourage your son's actions or behavior, but you should *not* berate or judge him for doing so. Encourage him to find his own happiness in life, guided by basic principles of morality, decency and love for fellow man. And teach him to have thick skin and not change his behavior to suit what others want. Because he sure will hear about it [or keep it well-hidden, like I did].

I wish you and your son all the best

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DoctorMama said...

above comment deleted because of suggestions of violence toward children, not for its poor spelling or its antediluvian ranting