Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fuckin A

If you follow me on Twitter you'll know I've finally caught the Dexter craze.

The flipside of it all is now I open my mouth and sound like Debra Morgan's chela.

This is annoying Vicky.

On the other hand it is awesome to swear. I do swear and Vicky would tell you I never stopped but I haven't sworn like this in six or seven years.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pink

If, as a child, there was a colour that defined me, that colour would have been pink. I wouldn't change a moment of that. I was into all things Barbie and would (and do) still recommend Barbies. There are reasons for this:

1. Barbies got me sewing. I can cut, tailor and embroider, darn a little, sew on a patch and even do plain knitting. I would have been taught this in school and obviously I was heavily influenced by the fact that my mother and aunts were adept needlewomen but my dolls gave me the impetus to sew -- today I consider sewing a life skill.

2. Barbies engendered a lasting love of miniatures. I have a dolls house and even though I haven't played with it in years, I still pick up the right sized furniture for that and my Barbie flat (a shelf in a cabinet.) Thanks to this interest I learnt to make my own dolls furniture, picking up basic craft skills along the way.

3. Barbies were all about role play, from my Wedding Midge to my Barbie babies. I loved every moment. I celebrated all festivals, decorated their flat more than I've ever bothered with my own homes and in general picked up a lot about life just because I wanted to live out all of theirs.

I do not recommend buying up the trash that passes for Barbie merch these days. Just a doll and lots of clothes is a great start, especially since furniture can be made or picked up dirt cheap at fairs.

I belonged to the Barbie Fan Club and hoarded my pink giveaways. (This January I finally gave them away to another pink-crazy girl, our friends' daughter Chinky.) So you see, pink, lavender, mauve -- these were all my default colours. I still love them but like PinkStinks, I am horrified at how insistently they are now thrust on our girls. I do read a lot into how toys are conceived and structured and I was glad to find a piece that mirrored my own outrage at the insidious ways in which toys are marketed to us and our children. I used to get terribly offended at how my brother got all the soldiers and cars and I was not even allowed to look at them because I was only a girl; now I get offended with a society that teaches my son to not 'cry like a girl' or 'wear girly colours' or 'play with girl toys'.

You know something? Little boys enjoy dressing up every bit as much as little girls do (i.e. some do and some don't and gender has nothing to do with it.) My son has always noticed my clothes and my hair and my jewellery and I noticed when he stopped commenting on them. When I asked him why he said that his classmates had said those were 'girl things' and he must not bother with them. Why are we teaching our sons to stop noticing beauty? This was when he was three and in preschool and over time I noticed he developed a dismissive attitude to women. My opinions were worth less than his father's, my needs mattered less, his grandmothers were recepient to more rudeness, it was a very clear gender line.

Last June he joined big school. In a few months I was delighted to see his tune had changed. The little girls in his class are all about attitude and he took a licking but learnt that girls too were fun and interesting and it was as much as his (school)life was worth to air his MCP views there. I cannot tell you how much this pleased me. Now his friends include as many boys as girls and he speaks of them all with equal respect (which is to say, none).

I don't say my ways are perfect but here are ways in which my friends and I fight against excessive 'genderisation' of our children:

1. Buy them the toys they want as well as those they should have. So buy your sons the kitchen sets (mine didn't know he wanted one but he proudly made me tea and omelettes and pancakes with his) and your daughter the handy-man kits. My son has a Barbie and I gift his female friends Hot Wheels. At this age, a toy is a toy is a toy. Also, I only ever got gifted one car in my entire childhood and that bloody rankles.

2. Give them the entire rainbow in their wardrobes. Don't restrict your shopping to the gendered aisles. As a baby Rahul wore the most adorable colour block onesies and tees in pinks and mauves and soft greens (I found some in Mothercare); as he grew older I found him baby pink skivvies and cream cords and fire engine red jeans from the girls' aisles; right now he has skinny purple jeans and I think a sweater that were intended for little girls. While shopping across aisles I also discovered that little girls' trousers have ridiculous cuts (why give little girls low rises that fall off their poor bums? Or legs too tight to run in?)

3. Watch your conversation and behaviour. Vicky says "Don't cry like a girl." I never do. Not because I think it's OK for Rahul to be a watering spout but because I don't want him to think that emulating a girl could ever be wrong. Cousin J (a girl) said, "You throw like a girl." I stopped her because, with no false modesty whatsoever, among Vicky, Rahul and me, I play more and harder than my boys. So yeah, I might throw badly but I can play more games and sports than Vicky ever has and Rahul may ever learn. I make it a point to say these things out loud. When Rahul grew goggle-eyed because I was driving despite Vicky being in the car, I was proud because it taught him that no, driving was not a man thing. His father is the better driver probably because he's been at it longer, not because he's male. Let me clarify that I don't set myself up as a standard against which mere males must measure up. What I do is try not to unnecesarily drag gender into conversations. Sometimes it's necessary, but mostly it's not.

I still love my pinks but then, today, when I think of pink I think of them and her as well as my beloved dolls. It's all about the balance.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Nagging Worries

I bumped into this site on 'love languages' this morning. You may or may not know this about me: as a teenager I would take every test going and get my horoscope cast wherever I could. Something about this site woke those old feelings in me. Before I knew it I was merrily clicking along, waiting to discover my 'love language', whatever that may be.

It turns out that to me love is "Acts of Service". To quote the site, the words I most want to hear are, "Let me do that for you."

The site is quite right. Not for nothing does Vicky call me Princess. I myself have always felt that I was born to be served, not serve. My tragedy is that the world refuses to acknowledge this.

The other interesting thing the quiz pointed out even before the results were announced was that I don't much care whether Vicky tells me he loves me, praises me or buys me gifts. It's strange, because I always thought these things mattered greatly to me, but as I chose my answers I couldn't miss how in every given situation I would always prefer to have him do the chore himself rather than tell me how well I do it or how much he loves me for doing it. Strange, huh?

[Weird. I thought I posted this but I found it in my drafts. Stupid net conn.]

Thursday, April 26, 2012

He's messing with my head

I kicked the beetle off our blacony this morning. I kicked it gently. It practically floated away on the breeze. I'm sure it landed on its feet and has now gone to stay with its Baba and Babu and friends. I'm sorry. I know you were expecting me to save it for you till you got home from school. Yes, I know he liked you and you liked him and you were best friends. I just wasn't thinking.

...

I'm practising my apology for when he comes home and finds that damn beetle missing. To think a woman can't even absent-mindedly kick a beetle off her balcony these days.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Conversations I would like to have out loud

1. Yes, I feel it too. It doesn't change anything but you're not alone.

2. I think we should meet. Name the time and place and I'll meet you.

3. Look, get over it already. So I'm not your cup of tea and you're not mine but we didn't choose each other so let us blame the person actually responsible, shall we?

4. It was too long ago and I don't remember what fucking happened. I'd like to be friends though so can we start again?

5. I honestly don't care who you support or date or vote for. I really don't. I call you a friend and I'm willing to consider those irrelevancies in the face of our friendship.

6. Call me. Please call me. I can't call you so please pick the damn phone up and call. I hate it when you're stubborn. Just because you've won every fucking round does not mean you do not call or text. It's me, remember? You know I'll always answer.

7. I can't stand you and I refuse to put up with your shit. You are not allowed into my house and ideally, I don't want you anywhere near me or my family. I am tired of you pretending to blame me for your problems. Honestly? I don't know why I've put up with you for so long. You're a loser and for the record, I'm tired of covering up for you. I think I'll stop. Oh wait, I've already stopped.

8. I wish you'd just shut up and kiss me.

9. I really want to hurt you. Stop treating me like this.

10. I don't care about the circumstances of your birth, you're mine to love and I love you.

Thank god for blogs.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Unfair Age Gaps? CSAAM April 2012

Last Thursday, in between running around The Reluctant Detective events (Kiran was in town), I caught the second show of the Paper Faces version of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Dana was performing so there was no way I would have missed it anyway but I'm glad I went. It was an extremely well crafted production, well thought out, well directed, well executed. One of the most gruesome parts of an anyway gruesome musical was the sub-plot centred around Judge Turpin. The Judge, who adopted Todd's baby daughter after getting rid of both the parents, is now in love with his sixteen year-old ward.

What caught my attention was that this attraction is presented as creepy and possibly morally incestuous. However, this is an age difference that is constantly celebrated in our songs, in the romance novels we devour in large quantities. In older books that we consider classics, Daddy Long Legs, for example (a book of which I am personally very fond) or in new ones like Twilight, we willingly accept girls as young as 16 or so marrying men old enough to be their uncle (Daddy Long Legs) or great grandfathers (Twilight *cough*). Often the men are in positions of authority over their wards -- is the creepy situation depicted in Sweeney Todd then so very different from those in my Harlequin period romances?

I argued with myself that there is one vital difference: Judge Turpin in Todd is shown to be forcing his ward and Todd's daughter Joanna to marry him, a definite abuse of authority and seniority such as in Lolita, whereas in the romance novels the attraction is usually depicted first from the teenaged girl's side, with the older man often in conflict between his morals and his feelings. But the bottomline is, what if it were my daughter? Or even a cousin or a niece or a friend? In such a case I would be extremely uncomfortable with the May-December difference. The age gap would bother me less than the age of the girl (or the boy, if the genders were reversed) because honestly, I don't think at 16 very many of us really know what we are getting into when we embark upon a physical and emotional relationship with a person of so much more experience than us. Sometimes it works out but at all times it's a worrisome thing. And sadly, I think I would always hold it against the older partner for not waiting a few years, giving the other person time to experience the world and come back to him/her.

It's an odd thing to say given that all of us can think of grandparents who were married before 16 and probably had children too but if you think about it, our grandparents married entire joint families. Children who enter into such skewed relationships usually do so against popular opinion and frequently have nowhere to go if things go wrong.

I hesitate to term this CSA but if it isn't, it's certainly paving the way for potential abuse. What can you or I do? Not much, to be sure. We can present the desirability of waiting and if that doesn't work, well, we can always hope for the best and keep all lines of communication open no matter what.



Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Keeping My Child Safe: CSAAM April 2012

We started this morning with some wonderful news about the CSAAM app. Go on, click over and find out more. (You can come back read the rest of my post right after.)

Last year I wrote about why CSA means a lot to me personally and also how I have worked out a set of guidelines for Vicky and me to follow as our little boy learns to find his place in the world. This year's blogathon (hosted with Blogadda), prompted me to explore how my 'guidelines' change and expand as Rahul grows older.




Rahul is now five and a half. While he is still inherently shy, he is also quite outgoing once the initial barriers have been breached. He is now that age where he questions why he can go out with some people and not others, and is still not quite old enough to understand the answers if he gets them. Worse still, it is not improbable that he will discuss my explanations with these people. He also started big school last year and very happily made friends with older kids who introduced him to Big Questions.

1. One of the most important lines we are drawing for him these days is the boundary of personal space. Since he is still young enough for a lot of roughousing this is a little difficult ("Yes, I can tickle you here but no, you may not tickle your grandmother there.") His earlier notions of bodily privacy have loosened somewhat and he is also showing a great deal of curiosity. As a parent I am also learning to discipline myself. If I don't want him touching me in certain areas then I remind myself to be careful not to touch him into those areas either except, say, during a bath or while applying medicine.

2. Good touch-bad touch was an elastic concept earlier, as I mentioned in last year's posts but now it is vital that he understands that bad touch is any kind of contact that makes him uncomfortable. I have expanded the concept to include verbal exchanges including teasing as well as actual bodily contact. He is encouraged to discuss everything with us. It's not always easy and it's certainly not comfortable but at least this way I know more about what he is exposed to.

3. He is now old enough to be sent out to play and too old for me to tag around behind him on the playground. So I stay on the sidelines or within shouting distance. We are in Vizag right now and the kids in my parents's complex play in around the parking areas. It's all open and it's a big bunch who seem friendly and welcoming. Given my tendency to paranoia I had to really psyche myself up to walk away and leave him alone with those kids downstairs, but it's all good. And it ties up with something else that I believe -- we should encourage our older children to look out for the younger ones.

4. We went a little crazy at the beaches yesterday afternoon. At one point Rahul got so soaked we took his tshirt off and then his soaked shorts were sliding off too. He wasn't wearing underwear so we didn't take the shorts off. He took some convincing to go back into the water without his tee, which I was glad to see. Ideally I would want a world where none of us is constrained to wear more clothes than we like but if Rahul had been my daughter instead of my son I would have worried about her playing in the water with unknown older boys (as was the case) topless.

None of these are major changes in my lifestyle or thinking. If anything, our guidelines are a result of tweaking our usual behaviour mildly to suit Rahul's age and exposure to the larger world. That I believe is one of the keys to limiting CSA potential. None of us can completely protect our children but we can ensure that we teach them to stand up for themselves, loudly and strongly, and that we are never too far away either mentally or physically.

If you have something to add to my thoughts I'd be happy to hear and if needed share them. Do feel free to join the CSAAM 2012 blogathon, twitter chats or the conversations at our site.