“He wants to get his ear pierced.”
My daughter nodded.
“It seems a little impulsive to me,” I reply.
“It’s not. He wanted to do it in New York when he visited me.”
The next day I’m talking to Mr. G who logically explains that Jane had her ears pierced multiple times at 16. He throws in a handful of logic and reminds me that if he doesn’t like it, he can just take it out and the hole will eventually close up. We are in the mall, at night. I need a collared shirt for golf the next day.
And as we wander the mall I am horrified that it’s so difficult to find proper golf attire. As the tile floors reflect back fluorescent lights, I recognize how comfortable I am with my sexism. I remember the 11-year-old boy in the neighborhood piercing his ear and his parents shrugging, then rightly noting that their daughter had pierced ears; why can’t their son? I have my revelation in front of Clarks’ shoes. Ugly shoes in an ugly mall while I embrace an outdated maxim. It’s all ugly, and it’s my life at 9 pm in suburbia.
There are a million little sexist parts of me. The parts of me that assume doctors will be men, that mothers are more nurturing than fathers, that brute strength is a real strength and not merely a cover for other things. I sit with my legs tucked together, and judge both men and women by body type and grooming. I don’t do these things knowingly, we all do them, I’ve had 48 years of practice.
Every day we run up against a hundred messages about how to be a lady and how to be a man. So I talk, and I empower my kids to follow their own paths. I nod and tell them their path is a good path. “Go where the boys are, make them move over and take your seat at the table,” I tell our daughter.
I can tell my son to respect women, but that’s little like reminding him the sky is blue. These two navigate the world in tandem; it’s like raising one child some days.
“We know.” is so often the chorus, even when I’m only talking to one of them. Sometimes the wrong child answers.
There will be ear piercing this weekend. It will be a hoop somewhere on the cartilage. It will be on his ear, and I’ll be okay with it the same way I was just okay with piercing her cartilage. But it’s a sexist piercing because it will have been served with a side of discomfort. And discomfort is okay when we acknowledge it.