Vested Interest

Angelina Jolie and I are a lot alike. We're both parents and neither of us are married to our partners. Sure, there are a few tiny differences like she owns a chateau and I own a chapeau and she's a badass and I'm overly nice and she looks like a super model and I look like modeling clay and she's an actress and I'm a social worker and she has a private jet and I can't even get a private moment in the bathroom but otherwise - two peas in a pod. No matter the differences, we obviously share a desire to let our kids express themselves through the way they dress. Much has been written about Shiloh's gender non-comformity and those links don't include the hundreds that are offensive or crazy. Basically, tabloids consistently report that Angelina is responsible for dressing Shiloh in stereotypically boy clothes. People believe that because either a) they see Angelina as a dark, vaguelyvampirish bisexual or b) they have never had an opinionated young child or c) both a and b. Basically, people are ignorant.

It just so happens that Luisa and I have an opinionated young child, one who has always loved pink and frills and glitter and dresses. We have always allowed her to choose her clothing and dress herself despite the fact that her style often assaults our eyeballs. So, imagine our surprise when she chose this outfit for school pictures:

She was looking through her closet when she ran across Miguel's pink dress shirt which she had claimed a couple of weeks earlier. She grabbed it and said, "I know! I want to wear Miguel's vest!" She then looked through her pants and dismissed the black velvet jeans as "not fancy enough". Luisa agreed to iron on a patch to jazz them up but why have one patch when you can have three (not shone in picture - two seahorse patches on the shins)? She was thrilled with her outfit and went off to school to have her picture taken the next day and...I cringed. Why? Because people are ignorant and I was afraid that other parents would think that Luisa and I were responsible for her clothing choice because we're big gender non-conforming lesbos.

Several weeks later, we went to a potluck for the parents of children in Zeca's class and there was a class photo there so that everyone could point out their kids. I was standing in the kitchen with several parents when one mom picked up the picture, pointed to Zeca and said, "Did you make her wear that?" And there it was - the question I had feared. I was about to answer but she quickly said, "Who am I kidding?! You couldn't make Zeca do anything!" She laughed...I laughed...and then it was quiet. I thought about the other parents standing around who didn't know Zeca, who might judge us by the way we dress and I put it out there - I voiced my fear and I talked about assumptions and I did it in short, humorous bursts so as not to frighten anyone but I did it. Did anyone learn anything? I can't speak for the other parents but I know that I did. I learned that having children forces you to conquer your fears - I have some pretty incredible teachers.