Dellabee and Me

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Archive for the month “November, 2013”

With a Pretty Pink Bow

pink bow

The video for Goldieblocks has been getting a ton of buzz on the internet. It came up in my Facebook feed too many times to count as people kept sharing it and sharing it, usually including a comment that was some version of “I’d love it if girls did this to my house!”

My first reaction when I watched it was “huh?” because the music in the commercial completed contradicted the actual toy. The lyrics to the song, that has since been removed due to a little legal issue with the Beastie Boys, are as follows:

“Girls, you think you know what we want
Girls, pink and pretty’s it’s girls
Just like the fifties it’s girls

You like to buy us pink toys
And everything else is for boys
And you can always get us dolls
And we’ll grow up like them, false

It’s time to change
We deserve to see a range
Cause all our toys look just the same
And we would like to use our brains

We are all more than princess maids

Girls, to build a spaceship
Girls, to code a new app
To grow up knowing
That they can engineer that

Girls, that’s all we really need is girls
To bring us up to speed, it’s girls
Our opportunity is girls
Don’t underestimate girls

Girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls, girls”

But…these are essentially pastel-colored Tinker Toys.  Isn’t the song about rejecting the notion that girls only like pink things?

I’m confused.

I realize that this might have come up before, specifically with the LEGO Friends line that came out last year. There are 2 divergent schools of thought related to this – get girls into building toys by appealing to their girly nature, ie. pink/pastels, or create toys that are more gender-neutral. Personally, I think that we need to leave gender roles out of toys. Make things in all colors. Put pictures of both boys and girls on the box. Let the kids naturally develop interests and preferences without businesses trying to influence them for a profit.

What’s the harm in pink toys? Many people are saying they don’t care, as long as it gets the girls building things and using their brains. My husband likes the LEGO Friends because my daughter likes to play with LEGOS more now that she has a few of those sets. I suspect, though, that my daughter is actually more drawn to the fun people and animals that are included in the sets.

That is my issue. I am not anti-pink. I am anti-categorizing. Why aren’t there pink LEGOs in the non-Friends sets? Why aren’t there less pastels in the Goldieblox? Why can’t there be both girl heroes AND boy heroes? Why don’t the regular LEGO sets include the fun animals and accessories that the Friends sets have?

My son is not a stereotypical boy. While not effeminate, he is not how we expect most boys to be – athletic, boisterous, messy. He is unathletic, low-energy, and very emotional. He hates scary movies, violence, sports, and tight pants. By the way, I never knew these expectations existed until I had a son who didn’t fit them. “Boy” toys have never held much appeal for him, other than LEGOs and Nerf guns.

My daughter, though, she is a different case entirely. She is into many typical “girl” things. Her number one request at every gift-receiving opportunity for the last 3-4 years has been make-up. MAKE-UP!! She’d rather wear a skirt than anything else. She wants to let her hair get really long, because she thinks long hair is beautiful. However, she also likes bugs, and science, and getting messy. She loves being active. She likes watching Asian cinema with my husband. She is much more balanced.

Yet, the scales are getting tipped. More and more, she is expressing a preference for pink things. The fact that she never had a strong attachment to any one color before now concerns me. It reminds me of the behavior theory I studied in graduate school. Conditioning. If you pair something that brings pleasure with something neutral, eventually an association is made between pleasure and the neutral thing so it is no longer neutral. For example, let’s say I take a fun toy, and put it in a pink box, and give it to my daughter, and she is thrilled with the toy. Then if every toy I give her is in a pink box, she begins to associate pink with fun toy. Soon, pink = pleasure. Eventually she wants anything pink.

Has anyone else noticed that “boy” toys do not have a unifying color that signals “hey, this is for boys?”

There is an increasing focus on the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) in education, with a specific concern that girls do not do as well in these fields as boys. These building toys are being billed as a way to get girls more interested in these fields. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if the pink parade is actually part of the problem. In the “real world,” where is anything pink and pastel? Have you ever come across a house with a pink roof? Their whole childhoods are spent playing with things that are pretty and pink – yet those colors are highly lacking in the STEM fields. Where else in the world are things pink? Flowers, sunsets, ice cream. And maybe Miami beach houses. Check out one of the “boy” aisles in the toy section and see how many items accurately reflect real things. Weapons, tools, LEGOs, vehicles, heck even the wrestling toys look about right. I wonder how badly girls’ perceptions get skewed by playing with dolls who have heads 3 times the size of their bodies – kinda makes sense that math and engineering are puzzling. We raise them on fantasy – fairies and princesses and talking pastel ponies and glitter – but then wonder why they have no interest in or aptitude for real-world subjects.

Many toys that are marketed towards girls are heavily focused on friendship, nurturing, and relationships. Does this reflect the way women are, or are we that way because it is what we were taught was important? Chicken, or egg? I don’t know. Toys that are marketed towards boys are usually about fixing things, conflicts, and building stuff. Otherwise known as science, technology, engineering, and math. Is painting a bunch of building toys pink the only answer here?

Shouldn’t we maybe stop trying to gear toys towards specific genders and just get back to making toys for all kids to enjoy?

The best toys for kids are ones that allow them to creatively explore their environment, to express themselves, and to practice real-world skills. Unless we are going to start manufacturing pastel shingles to sell at Home Depot, and breeding purple horses, we should probably limit the pink to cotton candy and bubble gum.

Questions Without Answers

How do you measure a life? Is it in increments of time? Is it in numbers – sunsets seen, years married? Is it in lives touched? Friends made, friends lost?

For that matter, how do you define a friend? Is it just someone you see or talk to often? Is it that person whose loving presence can be felt even if they are miles away? Is it only the one who remembers to call on your birthday? Can you still be friends if you haven’t seen or spoken to someone in over 20 years?

What do you say when a mom loses her baby, when the baby dies in her arms for no apparent reason? I swallowed my shame as I silently bitched about how desperately I want a few minutes away from my kids, while hers was taken from her very grasp.

How do you comfort someone who is facing something so terrifying – Stage IV cancer – that the words escape you? My desire to avoid platitudes caused delay – I meant to send an email or post a funny pic on Facebook to make her laugh. I was actually surfing Pinterest and Google images for days earlier this week, trying to find the right saying and pic that would shock some laughter out of her. But I stalled – kept thinking I had more time, I’d get around to it. Only I didn’t.

Suzanne and I went to high school together. We were friendly but not friends outside of school. I always appreciated her sarcasm, her intelligence, but we were in slightly different social circles. We had no contact after graduation.

At least, not until a few years ago, via the magic of Facebook.

Facebook friendships exist on some sort of alternate plane. I feel closer to the people in my feed than I do to most of the people I see on a daily basis. But I know that sounds a little lame, and I feel kind of ashamed to admit it. Like married couples who don’t want to admit to others that they met online, I fear that the connections established through coax cables are somehow less than those made through actual face-to-face contact.

Suzanne was pregnant with her second child when we reconnected. I already had my 2. We exchanged comments and likes, jokes, messaged each other occasionally. We followed each other on Pinterest, and she once commented that she basically repinned everything I pinned. I enjoyed her online presence.

In the spring of 2011, Suzanne announced her 3rd pregnancy by posting an ultrasound pic on Facebook that clearly showed 2 babies. Twins!! She was adamant about not finding out the babies’ genders. People bugged her about it online, but she remained steadfast. Then an ultrasound tech accidentally revealed them to her – but she did not share the news, preferring to keep it secret until their birth.

In hindsight, if I’m being honest, my first response to the ultrasound pic was envy. Pure, honest-to-goodness jealousy. See, my husband does not want any more children but I do, and even though I have tried to make my peace with it, it often bubbles up inside me like a mountain’s hidden spring. I did not hold onto these feelings for long though, and soon I was caught up in the big gender reveal that would occur when the babies were born.

I had a dream that I ran into her in a clothing store, and as she rounded a rack of clothing her belly jutted out comically, like a football. In the dream, the babies were both boys. When I messaged her about it, she replied that someone else she knew also had a dream that she was having boys.

Her boy-girl twins arrived that fall. A few weeks later she posted a late night photo of her daughter, alert and adorable. The next day, her daughter stopped breathing in her arms.

As a friend, I was distraught for her. And because of my initial feelings of envy, I felt guilty – oh boy, did I feel guilty. As a mom, I was horrified. Losing a child is every parent’s deep dark fear, one I visited on occasion but generally preferred to avoid. She was living it. As a whole, I’d have to guess that her followers online were paralyzed like I was – what could we do? Was there anything we could do, beyond typing “so sorry” on her wall?

It didn’t matter in the end. Sue posted a status update that read something like “It really is okay that you don’t know what to say or do. I don’t know either. We can figure it out together.”

Just a few months later, Suzanne sent me a message and told me she had been diagnosed with cancer. Her story can be found here, in her own words. She kept a blog throughout her treatment, and what a crazy ride it was.

10/31/2013 – Suzanne died.

I didn’t go home for our 20th high school reunion last year. I thought about it – really, only because I wanted to see Suzanne again. Her prognosis was not good. But I didn’t end up going – we had to move to Raleigh from the Charlotte area for my husband’s job right around the same time as the reunion. I wish I had gone.

I don’t know how to express what I’m feeling right now. Do I have the right to be as torn up inside as I am? Because I am. I am so, so sad.

How do you measure a life? If it is by the amount of broken hearts left behind, then Suzanne’s life – cut short – was very, very full.

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