fbpx
Parenting: It’s Hard Y’all

Parenting: It’s Hard Y’all

I crossed another Rubicon, with my kid. Ugh. Parenting: it’s hard y’all.

Both my kids were running around in the twilight in blissful imaginary play. They were both wearing dresses (cuz that’s how we roll – and luckily the younger doesn’t mind being occasionally treated like a dress-up doll by his older sibling.)

So there was a lot of squealing and laughing and I noticed a couple times my older kid lifted up her sibling’s dress revealing that he was commando.

(Quick side note – can we all just agree that running around commando in a dress is the way we should all be living regardless our gender expression?)

The younger one laughed but yelled “stop!” and kept running and laughing.

But it happened a few more times, specifically just after I called them in for bedtime. And as they continued squealing and ignoring me and playing “lift the dress”, for some dumbass reason, in that moment, I was furious.

I read the riot act to my older kid about how she was crossing boundaries by exposing her brother’s hiny and this wasn’t ok and “you need to know that you are harassing him and you may be laughing right now don’t you dare laugh in my face about this it is very VERY serious. I know you’re laughing about it all, right now, but he said ‘stop’ and that means you STOP because you can’t go around lifting dresses how would you like it if I went around lifting your dress?”

At which point I did exactly that, exposing her…oh. Underwear.

Welp…that didn’t prove my juvenile eye-for-an-eye point, at all.

She started laughing. And then I wanted to laugh, infuriating  myself all the more, and rather than checking my anger, I channeled my giggles into greater fury.

“You need to realize this could get you in serious trouble. If you lift someone’s dress at school or you do this when you’re older you could go to jail. Yes, JAIL is where you land when you lift up other peoples’ dresses.”

This might have been a bit extreme, but it justified a tad bit of my anger in my pea-brain. Parenting: it’s hard y’all.

Man, I tell ya. I know seven year-olds are supposed to run around saying poop and laughing about butts and shaking wieners. It’s fun and funny. I laugh, too.

And I am 100% HERE for body positivity.

I don’t mean for them to keep body parts under wraps. Hell, walk around naked all day long, if you want (at home. Out in public would be a bit too much, obvi. I suppose I would head to jail, then.)

My entire point confession, here, is I was the one who snapped a little too forcefully and I crossed the line I thought I’d avoid for longer than this:

…that my kid started laughing in my face at my fury and that just sent me over the edge.

Sigh.

It’s human, I suppose. And it seems like a rite of passage.

Or whatever.

But I felt so stupid, afterward. I tried to talk about it with her, after I’d banished her to her room, but she was buried in a book and just said, “Leave me alone!”

At bedtime, I covered her in kisses and re-visited the topic that it really isn’t ok to expose body parts if someone’s screaming “no”, even if they’re laughing. “The fact is, that’s violating someone’s personal boundaries. Even if it’s your brother.”

But she was quickly like, “Yeah, Daddy, I get it. Stop talking about it.”

We ended the night on a high note – prayers, a song, and a few “I love you’s”.

Hopefully I haven’t scarred her forever.

But I’m scarred – because of feeling that very first rage at “hell hath no fury like that of a parent being laughed at by the kid they’re trying to lecture”.

Sigh.

Parenting: it’s hard, y’all.

Label-less and Limit-less

Label-less and Limit-less

Over the last year, I’ve had several conversations about sexual identity and gender orientation, a topic difficult for anyone to grasp, let alone our black-and-white culture.

It usually begins, “It’s great you’re letting your son wear a dress.”

And ends, “Do you think he’s gay?”

And I just think, why can’t we live in a label-less and limit-less way?

And then I go in a mental tailspin. “What does it mean that my son wants to wear a dress? Does it mean he’s gay/transgender/confused/abnormal? No. It doesn’t mean anything. He wants to wear a dress. In the end, maybe he will be one of these things, and maybe not. But why label or limit him, now? He’s 5, for Chrissake.”

I try to shrug it off and be Zen. Many parents in the U.S. have already tread this path….evidenced in blogs/news/facebook/life. A boy in a dress is not that big a deal.

Aaaaaaand…it still scares the shit out of me.

I don’t want him to be teased.

I want him to feel safe.

Confident.

Supported.

Un-boxed-in.

And this all comes from my own experiences.

I came to my current “sexual definition” later in life. After a youth of romance with the ladies, I unexpectedly fell deeply in love with a man (he with whom I share my life and family, right now.) Without going into great detail (you can read about that in my as-yet-not-at-all-conceived book), my greatest struggle “coming out of the closet” at age 28 was the fact that I didn’t feel like I had a closet to come out of.

I was just suddenly loved a dude.

Until then, I had never felt confused. I hadn’t had a “trouble” with women.

No, it’s not shocking that I found myself with a man – I was never the boilerplate macho meathead spewing virility. I was teased for being “gay” as a kid, though I wasn’t…technically. But I also didn’t lie awake during my teens and 20’s thinking I was doing the wrong thing with the wrong gender.

And reconciling this at age 28 was difficult because I didn’t want to be painted into a corner.

Why did I need to be labeled a completely different person because of the person I suddenly loved?

Plenty of my friends condescendingly said, “Mm-hmm. Sure,” in response to me feeling label-less.

Some friends asked “are you bi?” And I was like, “I dunno.” Another screamed, “You’re gay! Get over it!” And one particularly sweet friend rolled her eyes at me when she mocked me, “Right. You don’t want to be labeled.”

Right. Is that so hard? Label-less and limit-less?

I wasn’t trying to eek from one orientation to the other through the “clichéd-by-the-media-or-whatever” path from straight to bi to gay.

I just…was.

I just…chose to be.

That choice was really difficult. Why? Because of social fucking constraints.

I’m not saying I reserve(d) the right to go back to heterosexual knockin’ boots. By current social convention, “jumping back and forth” is virtually impossible.

But why must it be so?

Isn’t sexuality and identity more fluid than just black and white?

Isn’t there more depth to human connection than what moral (or church or government or repressed political) convention allows for?

When we allow ourselves to ponder our place in the world, reflect on what makes us deeply happy, meditate on more than making and spending money; when we’re really allowed to ponder our place, our identity, and our desires – aren’t there hundreds of ways we relate to each other that could be interpreted as “gay” but are actually just different dimensions of human relationships?

I digress. Greatly.

So when someone asks me now, “Do you think your son is gay?” I refrain from snarling or barking. But I do want to scream, “How childish are YOU for needing to label my 5-year-old son? He just wants to wear a dress! Can’t he just have that without being defined for the rest of his life? YOU need to grow up.”

But instead, I usually just respond, “I don’t know. He’s 5.”

Here’s to a label-less and limit-less society.

Movie Review: A Dog’s Purpose

Movie Review: A Dog’s Purpose

I’m late to the game, but having recently watched it, A Dog’s Purpose becomes more than just a movie, it is a teaching tool for profound topics. I’ve got all the feels for it – a movie that’s beautifully shot, well-acted, charmingly written, and poses questions about mortality, kindness and mindfulness for children and grown-ups alike.

A Dog’s Purpose follows a dog’s quest for his, er – purpose?, over the span of several reincarnated lives as several men’s and women’s best friend.

“Bailey”, charmingly voiced by Josh Gad (so you can tell your children “That’s Olaf’s voice.”) cycles through several lives, some thrilling, some sad, some long, some short.

If you’ve ever had a dog in your life, you best bring some tissues. I mean – why DO we cry so much over the loss of cinema canines? I’m about to foist “Old Yeller” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” onto my kid because of the unforgettable tragedy and emotion it conjured in my youth. I can’t wait to share that experience with her. Am I an emotional masochist?

But I digress.

What particularly moved me was the provocative questions the movie inspired: thoughts about reincarnation, mortality, kindness and mindfulness.

The day after watching, on the way to school, my younger kid asked, “Why do dogs have many lives but humans don’t?”

We then had several blocks of talking about profound human beliefs. That led to more spirituality, speculation and religion after I said, “Religion is often what comes from people asking un-answerable questions about the world and about life and particularly about what happens to beings after death.”

He responded, “Uh-huh.”

It was 8:15 in the morning. Too much for him, too.

Anyway.

Talking about the life cycle while watching A Dog’s Purpose when children ask “why does he have to die?” and “Oh, good, he came back to life.”

It’s tough to chat with children about death, but there are beautiful and constructive ways of doing so and develop constructive life-long coping mechanisms. Death is part of life. We shouldn’t deny that fact from our kids.

Kindness entered our post-viewing conversation as we observed the treatment of the dogs by their owners. Some were neglectful, some strict, some were…uh…euthanizing, but most were quite loving. Kindness isn’t a hard concept for children, but it’s often glazed over or discounted. We all could use more modeling of kindness, right?

Finally (and most profoundly for me): mindfulness. Throughout the movie, Bailey is on the search for his (and in one life her) purpose. Discussing with children, “Why am I here?” and “Do I have a purpose in life?” ain’t easy. It’s tough for adults, too. But  it’s a question that renders life stimulating for our feeble brains. (That old “the unexamined life…” adage.)

By the end of the movie, Bailey shares with the viewer: “So, in all my lives as a dog, here’s what I’ve learned:”

  • Have fun (obviously)
  • Whenever possible, find someone to save, and save them.
  • Lick the ones you love.
  • Don’t get all sad-faced about what happened and scrunchy-faced about what could.
  • Just be here now.

Be here. Now.

Isn’t that simple and wonderful and pure?

Life would be so much better for us all if we relentlessly sought a purpose, played more, didn’t get scrunchy-faced about the past or the future and learned to be here – now.

Simple and thought-provoking, A Dog’s Purpose is a must-watch for families.

Netflix’s “Klaus” will Delight, Confound & Tickle

Netflix’s “Klaus” will Delight, Confound & Tickle

A surprising (and unconventional) re-telling of Christmas legends with a cheeky tone leaving you thinking “huh – that was better than I expected.”

Kid will love it – but this review is for you, not them.

Netflix’s ambitious jump into the animated waters is exciting and hilariously convoluted: it’s simultaneously quirky, dark, sophisticated, and cliché.

Another “origin of Santa” story that blends time periods, technology, and even some proletarian messages about haves and have-nots. It left me frequently thinking, “Huh?” but then made me chuckle . The right amount of Where is this going” that I kept engaged and never rolled my eyes.

Your children are elevated because it’s not a vapid movie of inane Santa clichés. It makes them stretch and engages them on a higher level with an invented story involving many societal elements that might confuse them – but the animation keeps them riveted.

Synopsis – Jesper (voice by Jason Schwartzman), an entitled son of some Scandinavian gentry, fails to succeed at Postal School, he is sent to a remote arctic island as a last chance to prove his worth with the challenge of increasing postal use on the island. His own disdain for his job is superseded by the bizarre hatred all citizens of the island hold for each other. Tone changes as he befriends a local teacher (Rashida Jones) and is intrigued by a toy-making carpenter recluse (J.K. Simmons). Comedy ensues and hearts will be warmed like stockings hung by the chimney with care.

Made by the creators of “Despicable Me”, the humor is cynical and funny. So it’s not a Hallmark schmaltzy bit of predictable nostalgia, but it definitely provides the right amount of holiday clichés to warm your heart and bring Christmas cheer.

Give it a try. You might be surprised by the circuitous and fresh take on the over-mined Santa origin story. But it’s not a waste of your holiday time.

Santa Ruined My Kids

Santa Ruined My Kids

Technology arrived through our chimney, this year, and I question whether Santa ruined my kids forever.

I questioned it before letters were sent to the North Pole or credit cards were swiped. “Should we really be doing this?” I asked my partner. “I feel like we’re definitely crossing the Rubicon.”

When they opened their individualized packages (replete with Santa’s “special” wrapping paper) their ear-piercing, sustained screams were unforgettable: what to their wondering eyes should appear but a Nintendo Switch.

I’m certain they will never forget this.

And I’m fearing I’ll always regret it.

Christmas morning was filled with the blissful calm of techno-absorption punctuated by child laughter. It was a lovely morning – I was able to read a book for more than four minutes, sip multiple cups of coffee, and watch them not get bored within five minutes of opening their presents.

But I’m just afraid we’ve crossed into a world with less creativity, increased demands for outside stimulation, and higher-priced games requiring plugs and batteries and screen that keep anyone from looking at each other.

Though I begged and pleaded, I never got a Nintendo as a kid. (Truth be told, I’m so old I wasn’t allowed a Nintendo or an Atari.)

Though I felt deprived, I was fine. Consequently, I don’t care about video games – which is a good thing; I’ve got no skill.

So this year, Santa also brought my kids ice skates (purchased from a second-hand kids’ store, because unless they’re actually hockey players, nobody needs to buy new skates, amiright?)

Near our place there’s a marsh maintained in winter as an ice-skating pond. We spent an hour as newbie skaters. Because these were hockey-style skates, the kids were much more adroit at standing straight up. They actually were pretty good, there were lots of laughs and races and falls that miraculously didn’t result in tears.

A few hours later, we allowed another half hour of tech gaming, after which I cajoled us into some old-fashioned gaming. We huddled for our go-to card game, “Avocado Smash.” The kids like it, it’s quick, it’s not mind-numbing for the parents, and usually creates plenty of laughs.

Even if it’s “No! You slapped, last! It’s your pile!” kind of arguments, at least there’s interaction and eye contact.

But it’d been a tiring day. We played one, half-assed round. And they were done.

Later, I kissed them both goodnight and told them, “Today was such a fun day. You got so many awesome gifts. And I loved ice skating with you.”

I wasn’t coaching them to answer, not in the least.

So I asked them, “What was your favorite part of the day?”

“Getting the Nintendo Switch” they both answered.

Sigh.

I know they’ll never forget the ice-skating, either.

Ultimately, I don’t want my kids to be Luddites. I embrace technology. I hope they’ll be programmers and understand how to use technology to enhance their lives and increase their communication with me.

If gaming allows them to do that, so be it.

After two days of technology in the house, we’ve spent more time with less conflict, but we’ve also spent less time looking at each other.

That makes my heart hurt just a tiny bit. Grrrr. Santa ruined my kids.

Any suggestions for dealing with tech beyond “setting limits” and “earning screen time”?

frozen

frozen

You won’t love it.  Kids will basically like it.  Conversation starters:  Exploitation of indigenous people.  The importance of spirituality.

Rating:  3 bears (out of a possible 5)

Disney is not known for making kids more woke. Sure, they are often on trend for cultural movements like being super queer friendly and paying lip-service to environmentalism (Pocahontas, Moana). But with Frozen 2, Disney has blown up princess tropes and jumped feet-first into seriously complex themes of world society. We saw Frozen 2, this weekend. We spent a lot of time time with Arendelle Royalty several years ago. There was no way not to catch up with the Norwegian gang.

Frozen 2 blew my expectations to smithereens by (making kids more woke).

(And I was out for blood.)

Don’t get me wrong: over all, it’s fine. Frozen 2 is often ridiculous (a fire-creating chameleon? WTF?), perennially frustrating – seriously with the Barbie doll figures and ginormous eyes?), and occasionally touching (here’s looking at you: Olaf animators.)
But my main takeaway was the dense story. Frozen 2 dives into pagan nature worship and the betrayal of indigenous peoples by Western society. It’s utterly over the kids’ heads, I’d say. But down the line, the movie is making kids more woke. And I am HERE for it!

Exploration of pagan spirituality.

Frozen 2 has a through-line celebrating the nature-worship of the Northuldra, an indigenous tribe based on the Scandinavian Sámi peoples. (It was this culture that inspired the opening song in the first movie.) The Frozen 2 writers and directors signed a contract with the Sámi to avoid appropriation and respectfully celebrate their indigenous culture. Throughout Europe before the continental subversion of the Catholic church, pagan societies worshiped nature. They turned with the seasons, lived as one with flora and fauna, and shared a spirituality with the energy flowing throughout the world. These people worshiped five elements of nature: water, fire, wind, earth and then that “fifth element” nebulously defined as love/humanity/spirituality. (Yes, Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is about this spirituality albeit set in the future.) It is these five elements of pagan worship that drive the plot points of Frozen 2. There’s never been a Disney movie that dives so deep into environmental spirituality. But then, with the growth of the Catholic church across the continent, competition and domination were the operating forms of societal organization. A symbiotic relationship with nature was replaced by fear and avoidance of the natural world. (Don’t stray from the path, avoid the wolves, “be good, don’t be wild”, state all of our nursery rhymes and fairy tales from Western “civilization”…and further developed by earlier Disney movies.) Anyway. Back to the five elements. We come to find that Elsa’s frozen magic has come from the marriage of her Arendelle father to her mother who was part of the Northuldra tribe. And her magic came from this environmental worship of the four elements. She is, in fact, the fifth element, placing her next to Milla Jovovich’s character in Baz Luhrman’s Fifth Element.

Betrayal of indigenous populations.

Further, Frozen II allegorically addresses the betrayal of indigenous populations by Western conquerors. It turns out that Arendelle society harnessed and limited the magic in nature when the “old white patriarch” literally stabs the indigenous leader in the back. Modern world civilization has been built on the backs of Native American genocide, African enslavement, and Asian colonization. Western societies have profited from the stabbing in the back of indigenous peoples throughout the world. All of these societies had symbiotic relationships with nature. (Meanwhile, Western/European society has always tried to harness nature.) The themes of the five elements and subjugation of indigenous peoples is not fully fleshed out in Frozen 2. It’s a movie with complex themes shoved between tongue-in-cheek 80’s power ballads and whatever tangent Olaf follows. But I appreciate that I will be able to point my kids to Frozen 2 for a simple jumping off point for deeper exploration of life’s complex themes. For that, I thank you, Disney. You done good.

Exploring All the Pronouns

Welp, we’ve hit another funky milestone.

We’re trying on different pronouns in our household.

Before school started, my partner and I asked the big kid, “What would you like to say, this year? ‘He’ or ‘she’?”

Kiddo answered sheepishly, “She.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

An hour later, we were discussing my show, Head Over Heels,in which a trans actress plays a non-binary character. My older kid is officially obsessed with this gender-bending character (played by Peppermint, the drag queenfamous for her stellar turn on RuPaul’s Drag Raceas well as for being the first contestant who was outwardly trans beforecompeting on RuPaul.)

In the conversation with my kiddo, I had to backtrack withhersaying, “But wait. You know Peppermint is a trans woman playing a non-binary role?”

“Yeah! A ‘they’. Like me! I’m ‘they’!”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

An hour later, I sat with her/theyand said, “Now, sweetie, do you want me to say something to your teachers about how you want to be addressed?”

“Daddy,” she/they said, “can we stop talking about this? I’ll handle it.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

The first day of school passed uneventfully.

On the second day, while walking back from school, I had both kids with me and inadvertently referred to she/they as ‘he’, at which point I turned to she/they, again, to ask, “Wait, honey, where are we, now? ‘She?’ ‘They?’ ‘He’?”

“Whatever,” she/they/he responded. “I’m flexible.”

Oh. Okay. So there we are.

The more time passes, the more I feel like I’m betraying her by ever calling her him. “Her” feels more right.

Which leads me to our milestone: we alerted the teachers via email about my kid’s fluid self-expression and let them know, “We’re just rolling with it. Hopefully you can too?”

There are times it’s cool to be flexible. And then I realize (as much as I’d like to live in a world without definition) that people need labels and definitions so we’re all speaking the same language.

Yesterday, my kid was benevolently outed by an old friend in class to one of the new friends. The old friend said, “But he’s a boy. He just likes to wear dresses.”

The new friend said, “But she talks like a girl and dresses like a girl.”

Which then led to a cavalcade of questions for the teachers, which freaked them out (understandably) because we were all just “going with it.”

Suddenly, my agenda became very clear.

I want my child to be proud of who she is. I want her to celebrate her differences and never feel defensive or shamed. I want her to be able to speak about who she is and inspire the truth in others.

I don’t think she needs to be locked in a box of hyper-definition. In fact, I don’t think my kid can really be defined, right now, except as gender-fluid. Nor need she be.

So my partner and I put our heads together and strategized how to let our precious first-born write her own narrative, be in charge of her story, and define herself for others.

The worst thing would be to pretendshe never was a boy. I don’t want her peers, teachers, friends or acquaintances to think she’s keeping secrets or making things up. We have old friends at school who know from whence we’ve come. There’s no reason to shun/deny/erase that part of her history.

What she isis what she’s choosing to be, right now; and we get to celebrate it and show how badass she is for choosing to be her.

Suddenly, in discussing this with her (which is taking time) I’m this over-aggressive tiger dad suffocating my child in inspirational sayings like “you’re all the morespecial for being so brave and special!, for choosing your own path which isn’t always clear or easy. But you’re doing it! That makes you so awesome!”

She is FULLY giving me the rolled eyes and begging me to “stop talking about this.”

Sorry, kiddo. Can’t stop; won’t stop. Because I’m doing my best to armor you for a tough world – and it’s tough for allof us. So you might as well suit up, now. Because you’re way ahead most of the rest of us in terms of knowing yourself and speaking your truth.

And I’m so proud of her for that.

So that’s where we are, now.

Break Some Rules Kids – Please?

I’m nice and I strove to please my teachers.

But nice people who please teachers don’t paint the Sistine Chapel. They don’t break sound barriers. They don’t develop Apple Computers, right?

Crazy people who break rules and smash conventions do big shit.
I say that I just want my kids to be happy.

But also kind. And smart. And independent. And creative. And change the world. No pressure, kids.

Of course I want my kids to be trailblazers.

Like the kids about whom the teachers throw up their arms and say “what am I going to do with you?” And then they end up being Einstein.

But aren’t genius/artistic/world-changers often miserable, asocial sad-sacks destined to substance-abuse who cut off their own ears and live within prisons of their own artistic genius?

So then will they be happy?

Maybe we should just hope for nice.

But am I trying to raise  nice kids? Those rule-following, vanilla, boring goody-two-shoes?

(Who wants to be nice, anyway? Nice is so…insipid. Do you ever want to share a drink with someone first described as NICE? Zzzzzzzzz.)

This reminds me of a hilarious recent tweet I saw: “Parenting looks so hard. You need to raise your kid with just the right amount of trauma so they end up funny.”

Because funny is more interesting than nice.

I’ve been thinking about achievement in the context of my older kid’s soon-to-be immersion in the ballet world. He is going to begin the first ballet classes of his life and, while I’m excited for him, my Libra nature has invented this dilemma: “Do world-changers come from ballet class?”

Think about it: the point of classical ballet is to conform, to dress identically as surrounding dancers, to dance with perfection so that not one pinky finger is ever out of place.

The dress code for these classes is rigid, for both boys and girls. (More on that in my next posting because do not get me STARTED about the anxiety I’m feeling in saying to my kiddo, “sorry. No tutus in this class. It’s white t-shirt and black pants.”)

At least there’s no hair protocol for these little boys. I guess my little gender renegade will be able to rock a ballet bun.

My French sister (the witch) talks about the point of nursery rhymes was to separate European society from nature so that Little Red Riding Hood stays always to the path (dictated by the church) to never stray (citizens shouldn’t color outside the lines) and to always fear the woods (because nature is bad) and always be nice.

Oh, and sex. Because duh. Nature = sex and sex is bad and the church and society need to tame sex and pleasure. Because people should be worshipping the Church’s appointed dogma, fighting wars, and making stuff for the nobles. Not having sex.

(And of course – burn the witches. )

And I see her point. Nursery rhymes teach children the way to be good. To follow rules. To conform. To obey. To be the perfect ballerina/o in the back line.

Now…we all want our kids to be good and obey their parents.

But it’s true – the world is more colorful with the rule-breakers, by those who stray from the path, think differently and write their own destinies.

I suppose it’s all a balance, (Please reference aforementioned Libra nature.)
My kiddo already writes her own rules evidenced by her entire comportment.

So maybe classical ballet will be the perfect balance for her? You gotta learn the basics…

So then you know what rules to break and re-write.

Right?

That Damn Elf on the Shelf – (or: Our Transgender Shelf Elf)

That Damn Elf on the Shelf – (or: Our Transgender Shelf Elf)

That damn Elf on the Shelf. Just recently we gave in and followed the crowd.

My kindergartener came home with a friend for a playdate. Within minutes, the friend asked, “Where’s your elf?” (as matter-of-factly as if he’d asked, “Where’s the shitter?”)

And my kid responded, “We don’t have an elf,” (as matter-of-factly as if he’d said, “we eat cauliflower on Thursdays.”)

Up to that moment, avoiding the damn elf on the shelf nonsense had been a point of pride. Friends were in awe at us having avoided the charade. I thanked my lucky stars as I occasionally scrolled social media documentation of elf creativity I never want to emulate.

But when my kid showed no sense of betrayal or disappointment, I felt all the more guilty that I’d deprived, neglected, abused, manipulated, and robbed his childhood of the true meaning of capitalist Christmas: the damn elf on the shelf.

I pledged then and there I would join the crowd. No longer would my kid need to accept being short-changed by Christmas (corporate) magic.

The next day, I zipped right over to Barnes & Noble. (When was the last time you made that statement. Poor big box under-dog.) It was already December 19th, so elves were in short supply.

I’m sure all of you know that elves come in different genders, skin tone and eye colors. (That was news to me.)

This day all they had were blue-eyed boys. How…ironic? Typical? Dated? Pathetic? Socially irrelevant?

I grabbed a stupid WASPy elf.

And then I noticed the accouterments shelves. AYFKM? There are wardrobes and accessories for these dumb-ass symbols of capitalist excess?

And then I was inspired! I’d get a “girl” set to make our elf at least interesting.

I s’pose I should give you some context for this need to make our elf “interesting”.

I was in the Broadway show, Head Over Heels. Quick explanation of the show: “punk Shakespeare set to the music of the Go-Go’s and smashing the patriarchy.” The plot smashed the hetero-normative paradigm with gender-bending and gay love aplenty. And one of the stars of the show was Peppermint, made famous by her turn on RuPaul’s Drag Race as the first openly transgender contestant. In the show, she played a non-binary character.

Further, my older child is gender-fluid. Our current line in the family is that she has a “boy” body and a “girl” brain. She latched onto this line, herself, after reading I am Jazz, a wonderful picture book about a transgender girl.

So my point is, my 2nd grader and kindergartener are totes woke. They grasp nuances of gender identity and a non-binary world better than 90% of adults.

Back to the damn elf on the shelf.

The next day, walking home from school, I told them to expect a surprise.

We walked into our apartment, and on a shelf right inside our front door is our elf on the shelf.

I am not exaggerating when I say their heads almost exploded.

Even if just for that magical moment, I’m so glad I joined the insanity that is the damn elf on the shelf shenanigans.

Right away, my older kid (while jumping uncontrollably) asked, “What are we gonna name him?”

Younger kid enthusiastically agreed and they started running through names.

Rudolph? Santa’s Helper? Jeff? Red Tiger?

They assumed elfie was a he, despite my shelling out for the dumb-ass $20 felt skirt and scarf…accessories I could’ve sewn, myself. And I can’t sew.

So I pointed out, “Well look, kiddos – the elf seems to have short hair.”

“Yeah?”

“But is also wearing a skirt.”

“Oh.”

“I mean – it sort of looks like a boy and is wearing a skirt? Or maybe it’s a girl with short hair?”

The kids pondered and stared for a second.

And then my younger kid – the five year-old who tolerates the insanity of his dads and drama of his gender-fluid older sister – shouts:

“Maybe it’s trans-ginger!”

Yes. Trans-ginger.

The kid said trans-ginger.

Then, my non-binary badass shouts, “It’s name is Trans Ginger Jingle! But just “Ginger” for short.”

With that, I became a disciple of that damn elf on the shelf.

From Fear to #MeToo

From Fear to #MeToo

I’m fascinated by the ongoing societal discussion of sexual harassment and worldwide reckoning with the thousands-year exploitation of women.

The movement makes me think about a badass dear friend of mine, Charlotte, who talks about the dawning of the age of Aquarius (unrelated to the song) and who’s personal mission is to reunite people with their inner divinity.

I’m not well-versed in astrology, new age intellectualism, or vortexes. But I do believe there is a deep energy force that connects humans to each other and to nature, and is what orchestrates the harmony with our Mother Earth (however unharmonious we humans try to make it.) Call this energy what you will. I’m fine with calling it God.

So Charlotte is the leader (she hates that term but I’m proud to call her that) of an ever-expanding “circle of women”. They believe in the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine (which are vastly different from the notion of gender roles) and seek to harness the power (or divinity) within human beings to reformulate a more peaceful, energy-focused, divine world that’s less fucked up by humans and the institutions that screwed it all up for us: government, church, corporations.

Or, if you will, organizations constructed by men.

All of these institutions are elements of un-divine masculinity: a perverted basis of power, competition, destruction and war that didn’t always dictate humankind.

For example, Charlotte talks about how Europe in the “Dark” Ages was actually much more matriarchal and not “dark”, at all. The women had deep knowledge of nature, plant remedies, and energy forces. Society was egalitarian and symbiotic. There wasn’t ownership of land by individuals since villages had to work together to survive. And women were leaders in their communities.

Sure, there were invading Huns, pestilence, and life was about survival, with much less pleasure. But what we call the “Dark Ages” wasn’t a time of universal suffering; it just happens not to be an era defined by conquer, control, competition, ambition, and domination. Life in fiefdoms was marked by fewer historic milestones, so the men writing the history books considered it a dark time. But “normal” life was not “dark.”

But then societal institutions (church, government, and “companies”…meaning private ownership of stuff) became fearful that they couldn’t keep control. So they move to repress. And these organizations run by men certainly couldn’t have women’s input. They were afraid of losing their grip on power, so these organizations acted as tyrants and demagogues, harnessing power and competing to be top dog.

Bringing that closer to home, “masculinity” (power, competition, domination, war) has screwed up society and men. This last-couple-millennia age of war (as opposed to that of Aquarius) has meant a distorted notion of masculinity has screwed up men, our notion of manhood, and gender roles.

And we men are so very screwed up. We have impenetrable emotional walls, we are afraid of showing vulnerability or proclivities other than the mainstream. In general, we lack the intimate friendships that bond women to each other. We focus on competition instead of mental health, domination instead of mutual benefits, defensiveness instead of openness.

And we are afraid. So very afraid – of not being the strongest, the fastest, the smartest, the richest, the manliest, the most virile and most respected. We fear NOT being top dog.

But what does being the top dog get us? – things that really matter in life?

We have manipulated our worlds into that of power and conquest – leading us directly to the scandals du jour of rampant sexual harassment. Instead of sex being a mutual bond, it’s about domination and conquest.

And I believe that’s directly related to sexual harassment. We have unhealthy perspectives of sex and sexuality that have been bastardized by the institutions that control society and norms and laws…those aforementioned institutions meant to control society and created by, yes: men.

(Andrew Sullivan has written a myopic account, recently, talking about the different genetic programming between men and women and that men are programmed to compete and dominate. I don’t dispute that. And he points out that gay men are a microcosm of competition and domination without women’s influence and basically, “It’s just fine.” I’d argue that, sure, men and women are genetically programmed to act differently and that men are naturally more competitive and seek dominance. However, it can be combined with respect and self-control. Healthy approaches to sex and being in tune with one’s own ego doesn’t mean undermining our genetic predisposition. Come on, Andy. You can’t excuse unwanted groping as being acceptable because of genetic programming…for women or men, gay or straight.)

But I digress.

I used to think the “Age of Aquarius” was hippy mumbo-jumbo. But, maybe we are finally turning a corner from an age of destruction toward an age of, I dunno…construction? You wouldn’t think so with the saber-rattling of international leaders. But let’s think big picture – 51% of the world population is acquiring more influence and proving more than adept in leadership positions. For the first time, possibly in history, societies are legislating parity.

We know we need to collaborate to save the delicate world that sustains our existence.

We know we are economically interdependent and need to wage cooperation, not war.

This dawning age of cooperation is a marathon, not a sprint. It might take decades (or centuries) to establish. But war makes less sense. Domination and selfish competition make less sense.

Is #MeToo leading us closer to Aquarius where men can re-discover the “sacred masculine” (without fear “compromising” a 2018 sense of “masculinity”) and women can settle into the “sacred feminine” (or men can embrace their inner femininity without fear and vice-versa for women?)

The new possibilities are limitless in a world with less fear.

What a world that could be…