“Oh isn’t he cute?” says the lady next to me at the deli.
“He must be teething” says the grandma as we pass in the pasta aisle.
“Aw what a sweetie. How old is he?” asks the woman next in line at the checkout.
I get it a lot, the baby chat. They’re like magnets and people love to stop and talk about them, myself included.
The only thing wrong with this situation is that my baby is actually a little girl.
Sometimes the t-shirts in the boys section are just cuter. Sometimes she’s wearing hand-me-downs. Sometimes a blue outfit is handier on a rushed morning. And it’s interesting to see the reactions of strangers when their social cues are thus mixed.
I was intrigued to hear recently of the Canadian couple who are refusing to reveal the sex of their child, insisting it is not their place to impose stereotypical roles onto it. I like the idea of not boxing a child away into a pigeonhole, but to be honest, this just sounds like a lot of work! Having to double-think everything that comes out of your mouth before you say it sounds like it would be tedious and stressful. I’d be the first person to slip and say “he” needs a bath, or something is in “her” room.
My own experiences with the awkward silence that takes place when the well-meaning commenter struggles to figure out whether my child is a boy or a girl in the appropriate time frame has made me really think about how images help us make sense of our world. Pink and blue clothing seems to help differentiate otherwise very gender-neutral-looking babies, and socially, we are programmed to digest this information and categorise it as part of processing our environment.
Having said that, I don’t always want to buy things that are pink, sparkly and covered in butterflies just to make social interaction easier. It’s either a cupcake or a rocket ship, and sometimes I just want something not so stereotypical. While I appreciate small talk being much less awkward when the topics are clearly defined and easy to read, but life’s so much more than a random supermarket conversation.
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