Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In which the tirade on the subject of gender comes frothing forth

So there's this baby growing inside me. Have you heard? Would you like to tell me if you think I should have a boy or a girl? Apparently everybody would like to tell me. Why don't you join in the fun?

See, here's the thing: that this baby already is either a boy or a girl -- that's a done deal. So if you tell me I should have a boy, and she is a girl, have I now done something wrong? Done it badly? What other implication should I find in your words? You tell me you think I should have a girl. Was there a Project Runway-style catwalk on the horizon of my ovary? Were you there telling this sperm, "you're in?" and that sperm, "auf wiedersehen?"

You know the catchphrase: One day you're in, the next day you're another societally-unwelcome vagina.

If, apparently, gender selection was on the table, why were you entitled to a vote? Why wasn't I?

Even better than the shoulds are the hopes. You hope I have a boy? You hope I have a girl? Why would you hope that? Why would you hope anything other than for us to have a healthy baby, and for our own hopes to be realized?

Let's break it down.


By far, the most common comment is that I should have a boy. I guess two girls is enough. Nobody needs more than two girls, apparently.

The most common reason given is that my "husband must really want a boy," or my "husband will be so much happier if you have a boy," or my "husband deserves to have another man in the family." This insults my husband, for it presupposes that you know his desires better than he. For The Record: M has said repeatedly that he does not have a gender preference. Do you need me to insist to you that I believe him? Even more deplorably, this insults our beautiful daughters. Are they somehow inadequate? I certainly don't believe so, and neither does my lovely husband. And incidentally, let this serve as a warning to any person who would revere a boy-child above and beyond our precious girls that favoritism will not be tolerated.

"But don't you want to have at least one of each?" Am I sweater shopping? This is such a lovely cable knit. I'll take it in both the pullover and the cardigan. Thanks. Oh, look. Red apples and green apples are the same price this week. I'll put them both in my grocery cart. I'm not discounting the notion that parenting the different genders might call for some different kinds of parenting. But what I believe in far more strongly than that is that parenting different children requires different parenting techniques. Every kid is different. What cajoles E will induce a flailing tantrum in L. I don't need to try my hand at parenting a boy, I just need to try my hand at parenting a third kid.

"But the family name..." If the first comment feels the most insulting, and the second one the most ludicrous, this one feels the most exasperating. Having a son is no guarantee of maintaining the family line. He could (God forbid) not live to adulthood. He could decide to take his wife's name. He could decide to hyphenate with his partner's name. He could decide to move to an ashram and legally change his name to Fluffy Cloud Moonsilver. I'll love him as Fluffy Cloud, and it's certainly not my fault that M's family didn't produce any procreating paternal cousins. And conversely, I'd like to point out, one or more of our daughters might decide to retain her name of origin, and might even decide to bestow it on children of her own one day. Just as a son doesn't guarantee the continuation of a name, a daughter doesn't guarantee the extinguishment of a name, either.

The comments in favor of girl have been so rare. Most girl-oriented comments are not exactly enthusiastic per se so much as pragmatic, or even filled with cringing and hand-wringing. "Three girls: that would be so cute!" is no more common than "Three girls: that's going to be an ugly house when they're all teenagers!" Um, thanks? The best anyone has to say is "Three girls! Well, you sure wouldn't need to buy anything!" Well, that is true. You have heard about the illegal price-fixing, yes? It's been confirmed: the Zero Population Growth movement is behind the high cost of those blue onesies.

What we want, and all that we want, and what we really, really, really WANT, is a healthy baby.

But also, if it wouldn't be too much to ask, it would be so pleasant if all the thoughtless comments and unwarranted opinions stayed out of my earshot, and out of my womb. Pin It