Conversations with Z: the gender edition

"Mommy, is that a boy or a girl?" Z asks me peering over the edge of the Target conveyor belt to size up the check out clerk.

I blanch and peek at the clerk's blank face before kneeling down beside Z to whisper, "Let's talk about that when we get to the car, okay?"

On the way to the car, Z's full of questions, "He had long hair! And sorta some boobies! But a little mustache!"

In addition to talking about death lately, we've also been talking a lot about gender. And just like in our conversations about mortality, burials and whether you can see in your coffin, her curiosity and candor about gender have given me a new lens to look at the world through.

"Well, sometimes it's a little hard to tell, right?" I start. "We can look at some one's hair but both boys and girls can have long or short hair." (I can't help but think about all the times that someone has glanced at Z's short hair and ambiguous clothes and assumed she was a boy.) "And men sometimes have chests that look like boobies-"

"But they can't have bweastmilk!" Z interrupts.

"That's true" I say after briefly considering telling her of the supposed possibility of male lactation. "And many women grow some hair on their faces-"

"Like you!" Z shouts triumphantly, proud to be figuring this all out.

"Hmmm. Yep. Great. Like me," I say, resolving to spend some nap time with Mr. Tweezerman.

"I know!" She shouts, jumping up and down, "I can ask if she has a penis or a vagina!"

"Um, NO. Actually, it's not polite to ask if someone has a penis or a vagina." I blurt out.

"Why not?"

"Because.... well..... those are private parts and we don't usually talk about them with strangers."

"Or let them see them," she notes, nodding sagely.

"Right. I know you're interested in trying to figure it out. Sometimes we have to figure it out in our heads, based on what we know and can see. With our check out clerk, I could read her name tag which said Amy and since Amy is almost always a girl's name, I am pretty sure she is a girl."

"So she has a vagina!" Z trumpets as I buckle her into her car seat, much to the delight of the man getting out of the car parked next to ours.

"Yes. She does." I declare, resolving to leave the conversations about intersex and androgyny and the extremely remote possibility of someone naming their boy child "Amy" for another day.


"It's always boys who come to fix things," Z says when we're waiting for another contractor to come by and take a look at our leaky basement.

"I guess it's mostly been men lately, but it doesn't have to be. Just like Mommy and Daddy can both do things around the house, women can do those jobs, too." CG says quickly.

"Have we ever had a woman come to fix things?", Z asks hopefully.

CG and I both glance at each other before we admit the truth and I mentally start Googling "VA woman plumbers".


Hillary said...

That is hilarious.

I tried to explain to The Boy the other morning, when he said he had boobs, that only girls have boobs. He didn't buy it until I told him Mommas have boobs that babies eat from, but Daddies do not.

Swistle said...

We've had this at our house too. The kids have all taken turns thinking my MIL was a boy because she had short hair.

parkingathome said...

My three year old niece has a hard time with gender stuff too. put her in front of my baby and my sisters' and she has no idea what's going on

Fran said...

Oh, my!! I read this out loud to my mom and we both laughed so hard...but not AT it, since we have been there so many times with my kids. Oh, the things they comeup with sometimes are just priceless.

belinda said...

These will be the fun dinnertime stories you will tell her boyfriends someday. My mother STILL loves to tell the story of when - around Z's age - standing in line in a Dairy Queen I pointed at a morbidly obese woman and shouted out "MOMMY, WHY IS THAT LADY SO FAT?" My mom said she snatched me up by the armpits and bolted out the door so fast there was a draft in her wake.

Good Enough Mom said...

When I was in college, my cousin, who was about 4 then, drew a picture of me...with a mustache! Gad!

Astarte said...

Hahahahaha!!!! Did the clerk hear her ask that question? I found out this year that both my kids thought that Peppermint Patty is a boy! On the one hand, I am a little dismayed, since their powers of perception are probably lacking, but on the other I'm pleased that they didn't think twice about a boy calling Charlie Brown up and trying to date him. Hell, sometimes *I* have to look twice to figure out what people are.

Michelle said...

This made me laugh out loud at my desk. Loudly.

I love her solution: I'll ask them if they have a penis or a vagina.

Sarah said...

What a clever little girl! I love your reading blog because I never know what Z will say next!!

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