"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.
"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".