Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ben and the Mink

I know the world is going to hell in a hand basket. Citigroup lost billions. Stock market is tanking, oil prices rising, and average Americans who thought they might retire someday are realizing it's a ridiculous, outdated notion.

I know there are bigger fish to fry, like Mitt Romney over pretty much anything that comes out of his mouth. Or Huckabee's connection with various religious extremists. Or McCain's inability to string a sentence together without the clear desire to use a profanity.

Not that I mind that- it actually makes me like him.

But today I realized, I have to do something about my son Ben and the mink coat my mother left me.

He was on his way to pick up his brother's at after school- it's a block away from home and he is old enough to do this "errand" for me. He opened the closet for a coat.

Mom? Can I wear the mink?

I paused a moment- it is an expensive coat. Not that I ever wear it.




Then he paused a moment.

Nah, just kidding.

He looked longingly at the coat in the closet.

Should I just give him the coat? Take it somewhere and have it refashioned into a men's style?

The gender rules he's struggling with right now are so painful. I know he wants the coat. I know he wanted to wear it, just the way it is. It's soft, smells great and is so warm. When he puts it on, he does a little twirl.

He loves it.

(All the PETA members can settle down- these minks have been dead since about 1950. The coat has been refashioned more than once. Let's not have the minks have died in vain.)

On one hand, you don't hand a kid who never hangs anything up, a coat worth a lot of money. In our neighborhood, no one is walking around wearing mink coats. Not adults, not kids- no one.

On the other, for him it's a beautiful thing. It's secretly feminine in his mind. No one knows it's a "girl" thing and he can get away with it. It's like being a lesbian and wearing men's boxer shorts.

Not that I know anything at all about that.

I want to help him find ways to express himself that won't get him teased, taunted or humiliated. He's riding high on being "popular" and it's a position that he's worked hard to achieve. It also makes him tense about every moment and every choice around his presentation in the world.

It's not earth shattering, to be certain. It's only a coat. Ben is 12 and he's been making these choices since he was two years old. He's struggled with what is expected of him as a boy, what his heart tells him and the reality of him having to make a choice to express it. Our society accepts masculine girls (as long as they grow out of it) but not feminine boys. Go to any preschool and count the girls in jeans and sneakers.

Count the boys wearing dresses and tights.

I want him to grab the mink and wear it. And my pearls, which he's eyed at different times. I want him to say fuck it to all the rules and be who he wants to be, wear the clothes he wants and do his little twirl in public. It doesn't make him gay, it doesn't make him unmanly, it just makes him someone with a highly developed sense of style and fashion.

And I know what would happen if he did.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hands down, this kid is lucky to have you as his mom. How perfect -a lesbian mom for a boy who throws traditional gender norms to the wind! May he enjoy minks, lace, silk, frills and a pint of haagen-dazs for, you know.... those "I- will-get-over-you-before-my-spoon scraps-the-bottom-of-this- container" moments. Voila!

6:59 PM  
Blogger Ulla said...

How about you hash this out with him, openly, like a practical issue? Maybe you talk about it explicitly already, but if you don't, it's about time. He'll be relieved.
You just be honest: honey, I see you like the mink, and its not as if I use it, but it's expensive, and you don't take care of anything. If you would promise to take care of it, we could have it refashioned for you, maybe? But then there is the issue of it being really unusual around here, and especially for boys - etc.
Ask what he thinks. Let him be the judge. Let him sleep on it. Let him decide what to do.
When the issue is on the table, he can come to you and ask your advice. He may choose to conform for a while, or in some circumstances, or he may choose to wear what he likes best all the time - either way, he'll know that you know that there's a "him" and a public persona.

3:04 AM  
Blogger willa said...

This is a very difficult one. I always wondered what I would have thought if my mom had noticed and approached me early in life. I certainly would have freaked, but also I may not have been so crazed when it was finally time to set the family down and layout what was going on. I had been transitioning for a few years before telling my family. I was already living as a woman in public, and being dressed exactly the same, as a man within the family. I thought that they must be purposely not seeing me.
Now I wonder as a transexual, lesbian, mom of twins, what I would do if one of my girls were to find herself floundering in the gender pool. Maybe it would be easier having me as a mom. (Of course that may be one of the few things easier about having 2 moms one of whom grew up as a boy...) Who knows. There are not likely any easy answers.
I agree though that Ben is lucky to have you :)

11:16 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

Oh yeah, you can have a disapproving and worried expression on your face whenever you're in the same room. That always works well.

He'll become who he'll become, and along the way, he'll be who he'll be. Growing is what people do. Yeah, you can push your thumb on his head and stop him from growing. That works well, too.

OBTW, my older son took a drive from LA to the Sonoma alley wine country yesterday.

He's 40. I worried. I always tell him drive carefully, but even when he was an infant we took him everwhere. It's kinda late to be wrapping him in cotton.

Come to think of it, 12 is kind of late, too. Well, not too late to yell at him for if he plays with tigers!

There'll always be assholes, and there'll always be friends.

Sorry for sticking my nose where it didn't belong. But I gotta say this: you're doing it right, just make sure you don't look like you worry and disapprove when the truth is, you'll love him forever, no matter what.

Rev. Bob

9:25 AM  
Blogger RonGav said...

Sara, first you are wonderful in allowing Ben range in his choices as he learns more of himself and the world around him.

I had a mother who was so homo-phobic, fearing I would not be a true "man", that I lived much of my early life in fear of her. That insecurity in trusting my own preferences in life stuck with me well into my adulthood.

However, she had nothing to fear in that regard. I am very straight, I love woman, am a great lover, and in every way a male.

That said, as a child, I grew up loving furs -- for whatever reason. It might be sort of a fetish thing, but not really in the clinical sense -- I just like the look and feel of a fur coat. I love the look of a woman wearing fur, and I would love wearing a fur coat myself on a frigid day. Thus as a boy I desired a fur coat of my own, in fact, I ALWAYS wanted a raccoon coat. (I felt I grew up in the wrong decade.) However I NEVER would speak about my interest in furs with my mother for fear of retribution. Had I asked if I could wear her mink coat ... Well I can't think of what she would have done. That's why your response to Ben's interest in the mink was so refreshing.

However I was confused at your describing the coat in his mind as "secretly feminine" and a "girl thing". Maybe I missed earlier posts about Ben, but could it be he just loves the tactile nature of the mink for what it is -- soft, warm, and sensual? Pretty much all kids love the feel of fur. I could describe my feelings toward fur as being comforting and sensual, not too mention wonderfully warm.

Regardless, I am jealous of Ben -- having an understanding. open minded Mom such as you, Sara. Bless you for that. You will allow him to grow to whomever he wants to be. That is a very special gift in anyone's life.

And Happy Birthday to Ben (Oct 15, 2008) I know he would love that mink as a special birthday gift. However, you're right -- it might not be appropriate to wear a mink in your neighborhood -- and he'll destroy it anyway. Perhaps you might consider a more manly coat like raccoon or coyote for him someday. Great deals can be had on eBay -- specially in smaller sizes.

Be well.

2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a great mom,you put the mink on him,hug him and give your approval.introduce him to it at bedtime,tuk him in one nite ,suprize him and cover him up the mink side on top of him,thats how i started,im hooked forever.what a great feeling.

5:45 AM  

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