May 18, 2012

"My Son Looks Like a Girl. So What?"

"My 12-year-old son has hair halfway down his back, and the fact that the bottom half of it is currently pink does not seem to be clarifying anything for anybody: everyone, everywhere assumes he’s a girl."

I'm writing in the New York Times about how everyone thinks my 12-year-old son looks like a girl. So what?

49 comments:

Patrick said...

I found this part illuminating: In my utopian vision — and you can’t raise children without a utopian vision

Really. You can't raise children without visions of utopia? That seems ridiculous. How about teaching your kid to deal with the real world? If you want to dress your kid up all pink and stuff, I don't really object, I don't care.

But don't pretend it says anything about your kid. It is very clearly all about you. The blog and everything. It's about you, not your kid.

Hey, look at me!! I'm raising my kid with an open mind. LOOK AT ME, READERS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES!!

rhhardin said...

It’s fear that makes some of us treat marriage like an injured baby bird that needs to be coddled

Baby birds don't want to be coddled.

They want to be warm and full.

ricpic said...

"I'll be happy whether Ben turns out to be gay or straight."

Sure you will, mom. Just keep telling yourself that. After all, to tell yourself anything different would be so neanderthal.

rhhardin said...

You can tell gender at huge distances, meaning without using any detail, say you're a bike rider coming up on a distant pedestrian on a long country road.

Hips give it away from the rear, and if approaching from the front then breasts work first, via a great difference in lighting between breast top and bottom.

bagoh20 said...

What if a White kid decided he wanted to be Black, and walked around in blackface 24/7? There is nothing wrong with being Black, and it doesn't hurt anyone for him to be faking it, but I bet some people would have a problem with that too. The only argument they would have is: "Hey, it's just not true, so stop wearing that lie." Is that good enough?

ndspinelli said...

He's Romney bait.

Pogo said...

Utopians are destructive as hell. Steer clear of them, and all their efforts.

Their primary utility is to serve as a negative bellwether; whatever they do, do the opposite, and you will be right. It saves quite a bit of time.

MayBee said...

I think there are some moms with a gay version of Munchhausen By Proxy syndrome.

Pogo said...

"What if a White kid decided he wanted to be Black, and walked around in blackface 24/7?"

Horrors! Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Pretending to be Indian is okay, though. Or Kenyan.

David said...

Catherine does this a lot. She has a blog about her family. Here's her post from February 17, 2008.

Michael and I celebrated our 18th anniversary yesterday. 18 years! As you know, or don't know and have perhaps wondered about, or revoltedly suspected, we were not married for most of them. I wrote about this particular stubbornness of ours in an esssay in the anthology The Bitch in the House. But then I took a job at Amherst College for the famously excellent benefits, balked over the insurance forms, and checked off "same-sex partner" for Michael, with "same-sex" crossed out. Doh! They called me back in immediately ("If we insured Michael, then we'd have to insure all your boyfriends, wouldn't we now?" they said, which made me feel deliciously trampy, if still underinsured). I called home in tears. "We have to get married!" I cried into the phone. "Otherwise they won't insure you." And Michael said cheerfully, "Honey--are you proposing to me?" And, in my own broke, Blue Cross way, I suppose I was. And so we were married by the town clerk, and suffice it to say, I didn't so much appreciate needing to complete a little safe-sex lecture and be tested for STDs, given that we'd skipped already through that particular leafy glade, having conceived penis-vagina type babies and all. But whatever. All that is a long way of saying that when people ask us what event it is we're celebrating on our anniversary, I hesitate. Should I mention that we used to call it our "bone-iversary"? Probably not.

She teaches writing at Amherst.

TWM said...

More importantly is the boy still sucking on mom's boob?

dreams said...

"I'll be happy whether Ben turns out to be gay or straight."

She might not know for sure if her son is gay or straight but he surely knows if he is gay or straight.

Yeah, she is exploiting her son for her own selfish reasons.

TWM said...

Now that I think on it, he's either gay or a future hipster. Gay would be much better for him and society in general.

MadisonMan said...

I am not a fan of writers who use their kids as subject material. This lady is no exception.

Daniel Ruwe said...

Regarding the anniversary post, my question is: what exactly is "revoltedly" supposed to mean?

MayBee said...

Even looking back 50 years, Mr. Romney’s claim that the boy’s sexuality was not part of the equation feels implausible to me. Because that’s always the point with children who don’t look right, right? It’s that the refusal by some men and women to dress the part means that the great human drama (a k a heterosexuality) can’t be cast correctly.

She's wrong here.
I certainly hope she's wrong when it comes to adults thinking this about children- that children have to look ready for heterosexuality. Otherwise, it's kind of icky.

Long hair really used to be a sign of rebellion. Just like wearing blue jeans to school was. There was a lot more conformity in our culture then. You can still see it in other cultures. In Japan, the school where my friend worked required a doctor's note that a student's hair color was natural if it was anything but black/dark brown.

Lyssa said...

Hmm, I was a girl, and my parents certainly would not have allowed me to dye part of my hair pink at 12 years old.

Alex said...

This is typical of the valueless left. Boys can look like girls, girls can look like boys. No standards, no morals. Just complete chaos and societal breakdown. That's their goal.

Mitchell said...

The kid has a pretty smile so I'm all for it.

Still, one is left to wonder how much freedom Catherine Newman allows the kid to choose "the chinos-and-navy-polo-shirt accounting department costume mandated by his gender."

My best friend since kindergarten had shoulder length hair in grade school and that was the 1960's. I thought it was a bold, nonconformist thing to do and he took a lot of shit for it.

But his father had long hair (an artist and vehement anti-war veteran) as did his brother.

In high school, both my friend and his brother got crew cuts.

The father's hair stayed long.

rehajm said...

Is he pre-gay, or is the feminine hair just savvy camouflage for today's girl friendly/boy hostile primary education environment?

rehajm said...

My best friend since kindergarten had shoulder length hair in grade school and that was the 1960's. I thought it was a bold, nonconformist thing to do and he took a lot of shit for it.

Nonconformists all look alike.

In high school, both my friend and his brother got crew cuts.

A college friend's daily public school wardrobe was a jacket and tie. There was no dress code. Now that's nonconformist.

EMD said...

Or the guy at school who pinned him to the ground and cut off all his hair.

What a coinkidink!

EMD said...

A college friend's daily public school wardrobe was a jacket and tie. There was no dress code. Now that's nonconformist.

Exactly. I recall the band Tin Machine (fronted by David Bowie). They played fairly agressive rock, but all wore very nice suits and ties. They looked awesome. They had one good album.

Quayle said...

In this lady's world looking different is no sin, only thinking and talking different are sins.

Rather than a stable world of immovable normatives worthy of aspiration, she's framed a world view for her son in which each person looks inside of themselves to find out 'what they are.'

Which is a recipe for a long life of confusion and instability because, little things affect our vision of ourselves.

"A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats."

Her son's self image may "be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato."

There’s more of gravy than of gravitas about this lady's approach to life.

Alex said...

What this kid needs is a Mitt Romney-type to hold him down and cut it off. Right cons?

Alex said...

Wait so it's somehow better if Romney cut that kids hair because he was a hippie? Hating hippies is ok?????

MayBee said...

Who sends out more visual and vocal cues than men in the "gay community"?
Not to mention verbal cues.

Not all the cues in this world are sent out by heteros for heteros. Does she really want all signals eliminated?

prairie wind said...

Even looking back 50 years, Mr. Romney’s claim that the boy’s sexuality was not part of the equation feels implausible to me. Because that’s always the point with children who don’t look right, right? It’s that the refusal by some men and women to dress the part means that the great human drama (a k a heterosexuality) can’t be cast correctly. If we don’t know which is which, how we can pair up everyone in properly reproductive two-by-twos, Noah’s Ark-style?

Oh, go to hell.

MayBee said...


She might not know for sure if her son is gay or straight but he surely knows if he is gay or straight.


Good point, dreams.
What does it say about the utopia she's created for him if he hasn't told her yet, or at least exhibited behavior making it clear.

Renee said...

The young man is 12. He just looks like he is from the 80s and a big fan of 'The Culture Club'.

We all went through the awkward middle school phase, his mother in over analyzing it.

prairie wind said...

At 12, a boy with pink hair is almost certainly straight. Boys that age like attention for being funny, not for proclaiming sexuality.

Jane said...

What a sense of entitlement that she's upset at being obliged to marry in order for her employer to provide medical coverage to her partner!

And how anachronistic to project back into the '60s our present concerns about gay bullying!

pduggie said...

My son looks like a girl? Cool.

My son looks like MLK? Uncool

ricpic said...

Hating hippies is ok????

Hating hippies and homos is required!!!! In defense of sanity. Sanity trumps tolerance. Which is why nice tolerant people are the achilles heel of civilization.

deborah said...

One of those women who think their every thought is fascinating.

EMD said...

Frankly, I'd rather read the kid's blog.

edutcher said...

I can't decide whether this is like the kid whose parents named him Adolf Hitler or the boy whose parents decided to raise him as a girl to see how he turned out.

rehajm said...

Is he pre-gay

I'd ask, but I'd get an answer.

PatCA said...

"I'm going to tell you a story about my son, who ROMNEY IS A BULLY wears his hair long and ROMNEY HATES GAY PEOPLE and who I accept...."

This is the political season, NYT style.

Dark Eden said...

Hating hippies and homos is required!!!! In defense of sanity. Sanity trumps tolerance. Which is why nice tolerant people are the achilles heel of civilization.


Yes, they should have the proper politically correct hatred of Republicans, Christians and Southerners!

K.C. said...

At 12, the boy is trying to elicit some attention via his "look", lots of kids and adults do so.

Mommy is just helping him expand his audience.

A future grand master narcissist in the making. Yay

Joe said...

Seems that the writer wants her son to be gay so she can brag about it. Never occurred to her that teens and preteens often do things without any of the motivations attributed to them by adults. For some kids, the most important thing is to conform, for others it's to stand out.

I live in a very conservative area and the high school kids wear their hair in all sorts of weird ways. It's often one of the few things they can control.

And few of them have anything on the punk scene of the late 70s, early 80s. (Which is a good thing.)

Valentine Smith said...

She's the narcissist. The kid's just mirroring her. Five to 1 the kid's straight. And soon to lose his cherry to a 31-year-old substitute English composition teacher.

Joe said...

Wow, suddenly wearing your hair long and not completely conforming is narcissism? I'm gobsmacked.

Valentine Smith said...

She'll be crushed when the kid starts leaving baby mamas in his wake. Her maternal martyrdom syndrome stifled when all hope for the kid's death from AIDS or even better, slaughter at the hands of a homophobic teen mob is abandoned and leaves Mommy Dearest without a forum for her progressive ideas.

Wait—there's always the marriage is dead meme.

The woman hates the kid. He's much prettier than she is.

Erika said...

Great Caesar's ghost, what an insufferable twit.

I'm so happy to live in a nice old-fashioned town in Texas where drawing attention to yourself and being a pretentious assclown is discouraged.

paul a'barge said...

This lady's article is quintessential queer-bait.

What does her son's pink tinted hair have to do with gay marriage?

DADvocate said...

Even looking back 50 years, Mr. Romney’s claim that the boy’s sexuality was not part of the equation feels implausible to me. Because that’s always the point with children who don’t look right, right?

What bullshit. Newman wants to view everyone who disagrees with her so ehe does by imputing motives to them that she has know way of knowing. I didn't know what a "queer" was when I was 12 and didn't care when I found out. But a lot of schools had strict dress and grooming codes back then. The public high school I attended required boys wear socks, tuck in their shirts and such. The basketball coach required short hair.

For the information of perverts like Newman, who see sex everywhere, it's not all about sex and gender roles. Hope your son finds a way to mix with conventional society so he doesn't end up working part-time in a used bookstore like my grandson.

DADvocate said...

Hurray for tolerance and accepting how other look, unless they're wearing "chinos-and-navy-polo-shirt accounting department costume."

Freeman Hunt said...

Lots of gays do the chinos polo shirt thing. No H8.