One of my personal favorites. Happy Year that is New . . .
Girls want their ears pierced because we dress them in pink as soon as they can breathe and burp; that’s what my women college professors taught me in the post-apocalyptic world following the bra-less sixties. Boys become boys because we tended to hold them by one leg and dangle them over toy fire trucks. Girls become girls because we didn’t toss them in the air high enough or let them bounce when we dropped them. That was the theory—sort of.
After thirty years of being married to a boy, thirty years of raising two boys and a gaggle of grand boys, and about a thousand years of interacting with boys and girls of all ages in my society, I would like to go on record. The theory that boys and girls are exactly alike is craziness brought on by pre-menstrual cramping.
When I was still newly hatched, recently married, and without personal offspring, I continued to cling to echoes of my college discipleship; I was very young. I was idealistic. I was a bright light of feminist idealism. My boys were going to cuddle dolls and reject catapults. I believed that—right up ‘till the boy/girl twelve-year old canoe trip.
My worldview flip-flopped when I went on a church canoe trip with twelve-year old boys and twelve-year old girls—true, whatever gender identification damage caused by pink and blue booties had already been done, but they were a fairly typical bunch of human offspring. I was in charge of the pink bootie crowd.
What I learned about twelve-year old girls at the time included: they cannot canoe; they can bounce off of things while in a canoe (the bank, the other bank, and the giant felled tree in the middle of the river); they worry about snakes, alligators, bears, goats, and humidity’s effect on ponytails; they tire easily.
What I learned about twelve-year old boys still haunts me.
As I piloted my little ship-load of chirping girls up the river and back to base camp, I noticed one of the boys seemed to be dangling like a piece of loose fruit from a gnarled tree branch stretching out over the river. He also seemed to have no pants on. The reason he seemed to have no pants on is because he didn’t.
The dangling tree branch boy was . . . hmmm, how to be delicate when discussing the antics of twelve-year old boys? The mind staggers, but I make the attempt. One of those boys, the dangling one, was in the middle of producing a certain organic by-product by hanging his bottom over a tree branch and allowing the organic by-product to drop into the water—just ahead of us, near a bend in the river.
Please note: This organic product is produced when enormous amounts of Papa John’s pizza are consumed around a campfire and . . . oh, forget it.
He was pooping in the river. This idiot kid was hanging his butt over a tree branch and pooping in the river.
Twenty-two seconds later, coming toward our canoe was a nightmare torpedo of slow moving, softly bobbing, and horror evoking—poop.
One of the more highly emotional, hysteria prone, sharp eyed girls in my canoe screamed, “It’s coming straight for us.” Then she pointed.
The pointing was not necessary.
Then they all began to scream—to a woman. I confess I may have yelped.
As the leader, I attempted to steady the crew. “Stea . . . dy. Steady. Steady on, ladies.” The poop torpedo bobbed closer, and ever so slowly—closer.
Now the point of all this is to simply say that I have never, ever, in my life heard of any female of my acquaintance say, “Hey, Emily, climb up in that tree yonder, take a dump in the river, and then we’ll hang around in the bushes to see what happens.”
That’s what those blue bootie-wearing boys did; instead of hiding their faces in masculine shame, they hid in the bushes to see “what would happen.”
I’ll tell you what happened. I dug my paddle into the water once the danger had drifted passed after bumping our hull once or twice, and yelled, “Paddle harder girls! We’re going to kill us some boys!”
So when my daughters have come to me over the years to complain about some inexplicable quality of incomprehensible maleness, I simply make sure they understand some basics.
“Boys are disgusting and they have poor potty manners.”
Then I look my daughters, square in the eye, and sigh, “And yet we still want one.”
It has ever been thus . . .
Linda (Run Silent, Run Deep) Zern