My sister recently told me that as a child I was always in my mother's closet and specifically at her high heel shoes. I could even do cartwheels in them. And I also loved her makeup and would regularly apply the blues, silvers, golds and green eyeshadow colours that were fashionable in the late 70's early 80's. My father was fundamentally against younger girls wearing makeup, wearing mini skirts (which were hugely popular in the early 80s) or getting our ears pierced. But with three daughters it was a tidal wave of what appeared to be hard wired femininity and soon he realised he couldn't fight it.
I'm beginning to realise this with my own daughter, and also having been through the battles with my dad, I know that you have to give your children leeway to express themselves. I believe it was Carl Jung who (very) accurately said, 'what we seek to suppress seeks to express itself.' One only has to look at the amount of homophobic preachers and politicians that bang on with their anti-gay propaganda, only to find themselves at the heart of some or other gay scandal - almost always. But that's another subject for another time. But this sentiment is true for children - the more you make a big deal out of something, the more they want to do it. At this stage, wanting to wear makeup is not a case of that uncomfortable tween thing of wanting to be attractive to boys, but more so it's an artistic or creative expression of self that's very much tied in to my daughter's love of illustrating. I also appreciate her enjoyment of makeup and clothes almost certainly comes from my love of makeup and clothes, and she wants to be like me. I guess it could be worse - at least she's not talking about Sauvignon Blanc.
This morning she told me she needed a chair and more light so she could apply her makeup for camp. I told her she didn't really need to wear makeup for camp, but she told me she knows that, but she likes to. Then I told her that we were leaving the house in two minutes and she quipped, "Yup, that's all I need", and I responded: "Really? I can do mine in about two minutes too" before stopping and wondering if I was encouraging her. Later we paused downstairs as her brother put on his shoes, she ran back upstairs, came down again and said breathlessly, "Oh I'm relieved, I had time to put on my lipstick."
Earlier this week I told the children we were going for a swim. Cue: grumbling and groaning and protestations of wanting to stay in the house (despite it being gloriously sunny and beautiful outside, and the fact that we have ready access to a pool that we just don't have for the other 10 months of the year). So I said: "I am giving an official order - we are going to swim!" And my daughter looked at me with a smile on her face and said: "Mum you cannot order someone to swim - that kind of thing should be a choice."
Me: "Um, er, yes that is correct, so let me rephrase it. In my professional opinion as your mother it would be a good idea for all of us to enjoy this opportunity of beautiful weather and go and have a swim."
When I was a kid my parents didn't believe in a democracy. We feared my father and obeyed my mother (who was actually a big softie) if only to avoid my father's wrath. What they said went. We are trying to raise our own children to question things and think for themselves, and as a valued part of our family know that their vote counts and they have a voice. But occasionally it backfires when you just want them to get on with something because it makes your life easier and the whole 'Because I said so' stuff you try, just doesn't wash with them. If this is what I am dealing with now, I can only imagine how their teenage years are going to be, which seem a lot closer now than I would ever have imagined. Being the youngest of four, by the time I became a teenager my parents were, I think, exhausted and fed up with fighting against teenagers. I got a fair amount of rope and therefore didn't have much to rebel against and never really went through the whole "I hate you" thing with my parents. I appreciate that not all children are the same and with some kids a lot of rope can result in a lot of problems. But for me the independence (within reason) was fantastic and apart from a handful of stupid things, I was a pretty responsible kid and never really got into anything seriously bad. Although I do recall relishing the moment ahead of going out and saying goodnight to my parents (and getting my spending money) their shocked expressions in response to whatever weird and wonderful outfit I had put together. It never failed to please me. Teenagers huh?
Yesterday my son, who is four, attempted to lick my breasts (through the clothes I was wearing) at lunch in a restaurant. I tried to look nonchalant and surreptitiously move him away with my hands. This kind of subtle approach never works for him, and soon it became a game and he became more determined and obvious, until eventually I almost shouted: "Enough already, stay away from my breasts!" Which got me a couple of suspicious glances from other diners. He responded matter of factly with: "Dose are not your breasts, dose are your booboos!" As though that justified the whole business. Given some people like to nurse their children until they are old enough to get a driver's license, I hoped that they'd just assume I'd recently stopped nursing him and was in the process of weaning him with an admittedly hard line approach. In truth I stopped nursing him when he was approximately nine months old, but his fascination with my breasts has prevailed. Somehow, in the embarrassing moment, me being perceived as a harsh mother denying her four year old son her her breast to nurse seemed a smaller vice than them assuming, probably correctly, that despite his diminutive size, he is likely a future breast man. He regularly sticks his hands down my shirt or tries to kneed my breasts in public saying 'cupcake cupcake'. I've told him repeatedly that they are a part of my body, and more so a private part of my body, and he does not have license to touch me there whenever he wants. I imagine one of these years, probably not too far in the future, along with the inevitable distate for girls most little boys develop, he will be disgusted by the very thought and deny ever having gone through this phase. With a compulsive documenter/writer for a mother my kids are getting away with nothing! *Maniacal laughter*
On the subject of breast men, I picked up a copy of The National Enquirer this week. I love this magazine because it makes me laugh with its crazy over the top stuff and is often a much needed form of escapism from the regular news which is deeply depressing. But unlike the Daily Mail which is also full of crazy offensive shit, it doesn't masquerade as a reliable and reputable source of world news. The Enquirer usually goes after the Queen of England with some or other insane story about her, or O.J Simpson (probably true in this case because he is genuinely crazy), and this week it was about President Obama who they say is a lecherous man. They 'support' this claim by including various pictures of him with younger women (at graduation functions etc) and then state that he is looking obviously pervy and lecherous in the pictures, even though he appears to just be smiling or looking interested in what they are saying. They maintain that his marriage is on the rocks, and his wife Michelle (accompanied by photos of her looking a bit sour - probably just attempting to extract a piece of food from her teeth with her tongue in an unnoticeable fashion) is just biding her time until his second term is over before she leaves him. Oh and that most of this information is coming from a Japanese politician?! I actually looked this up and surprise surprise the first link to corroborate this was from none other than The Daily Mail.
I do wonder if people working at The Enquirer believe the stuff they print, like there's this team of crazy conspiracy theorist types who collect these stories and see it as their duty to tell the world. Or if they know it's all a load of crazy made-up stuff, but it sells, and they have fun with it. I'm going with the second.
Back in London my mother took our now six month old kitten to have the snip. She told me if all animals recovered from surgery with the same gusto as he has, the vets would be out of business. Apparently the vet warned my mother that our cat may have a reduced appetite for a few days because of the anaesthetic, but my mother informed me that a few short hours after getting back from the vet he wolfed down a large piece of cooked salmon that was meant to be her dinner. Why my mother was feeding the cat her dinner is not clear.
Today she took him in for his post surgery checkup and the vet informed her that at 4kgs he is now ready to eat adult cat food. My mother told the vet that that's all he's ever eaten, having eschewed the not inexpensive kitten food we bought for him at 9 weeks. Back then he sniffed at it and then proceeded to wolf down our older cat's food instead and continued to do so until I stopped bothering with two different kinds of food. Plus of course he steals our human food off of the kitchen counters and our plates when he thinks we are not looking, and eats flies and other unfortunate creatures he happens to catch in the garden. So basically he eats everything except for the food he was meant to eat. The animal is a trooper though and tough as nails. We feel it has something to do with the fact that he is a pavement special with multiple blood lines of the street cat variety, and perhaps there's a kind of genetic memory for dealing with what life throws at your with optimism and resilience.
We're hoping that his neutering will make him less likely to level violence at us and our older resident cat, but I'm not holding my breath. The crazy Burmese that used to visit us was as violent as ever, repeatedly attacking my poor mother once to the point that her hand swelled up and she required a tetanus shot. When I asked her what happened she said he had jumped on her lap and was enjoying having a scratch until he decide it might be a good idea to sink his fangs into her hand, narrowly avoiding a rather large and visible vein. His family blamed his psychotic behaviour on the fact that they had builders at their house and this prompted a distinctive character change in him. That and the fact that his first castration was botched and he had to go in for a second time to remove the remaning bits, and somehow this had pissed him off permanently. I think if I had to go in twice to remove my masculinity I'd be pretty pissed too. While I was having this conversation with the cat's very earnest owner I had the dawning realisation that cat people are all somewhat nuts. I guess I have to include myself in this.