Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fashionistas, and Chopped Thai Salad

Hello?  Is this thing on?

Right, then.

I keep thinking that perhaps I will have something profound to say, and defer writing until that moment.  Of course, we all know that brilliance doesn't happen on demand.  And if my colleagues are all off writing books and monographs, the least I can do is see if I still have readers.


We're winding down the school year here, making the transition from school to summer camp.  My daughter now dresses in her bathing suit in the mornings, and we have the pleasure of slathering her (or spraying her if she doesn't move fast enough) with sunscreen before she leaves.  My son will join her in the ritualistic anointing on Monday morning, and I can say with some authority that we're not looking forward to sunscreening two kids in the morning.  If I could make an extra lunch, or do extra laundry, to avoid this, I think I'd be willing. (Parents' collective, anyone?)

My daughter, who has long cared a lot about her clothes (despite the fact that her closet is stocked with hand-me-downs), had taken caring to new heights.  She refuses to dress in shorts (opting almost exclusively for dresses), is in love with her pink jelly flip-flop-sandals (wants nothing to do with the more sensible sneakers and water shoes), and had a complete meltdown the other morning about wearing a particular mismatched not-skirty-enough bathing suit.  That particular scene was accompanied by screams so bloodcurdling we're still shocked that DYFS didn't come knocking that morning.  I feel like I spend such an inordinate amount of time trying to talk N. out of attaching importance to her clothes, and that I might as well be tilting at windmills, but what's a parent of an image-conscious young girl to do, when it feels like these are the opportunities for foundational lessons in self-confidence?  Why do I need to tell her, in response to her demands for clothing compliments, that she is always beautiful, even when she's naked?  Am I unnecessarily overthinking my messaging?

That same morning, my son informed me that he needed a pink shirt to wear to before-and-after-care, because all of the classes had been assigned a color of the rainbow for spirit day.  I had known vaguely about this, but was wilfully ignoring it because a) he's there for barely three hours during the day, and b) ... pink? I tried to talk him out of it, find a shirt that was multicolored; he was nonplussed.

Battling one child over clothing (we literally had to hold her upside down to get a bathing suit on her, and don't even ask me how we applied the sunscreen) left me feeling pummelled, and I caved, assuring him that if we could get out the door early, and if he promised the he would wear it again after today, I would take him to Walmart and look for a pink Tshirt.

My mother would have told me to go jump in a lake, I thought.

"Pink is my second favorite color," he assured me, confidently.

I was surprised by how easy it was to find a pink shirt in the boys' section.  He grabbed it triumphantly.

At the checkout, I found myself worried that he'd be teased at school, and tried to think of something preemptively constructive to say.  I had nothing.

In the car, I told him to stick his blue shirt in the bottom of his backback, since we weren't going back hom.  I didn't tell him that his friends might tease him (because maybe they wouldn't).  Instead, I looked in the rearview mirror.  "You look good in pink," I said.  Because he does.

"Of course," he replied.  "Because it's my second favorite color."

I have been thinking a lot about gender conventions, given the impending changes to Title IX policy at universities, the recent shooting in Santa Barbara, the federal government's monitoring of the way universities are responding to sexual assault.   I think about how much there is to teach my kids about being in the world in a way that is kind and nonjudgmental while also helping them to protect themselves against people who didn't learn those things, and I know that it's going to be a lot harder than trying to get a bathing suit onto a trenchant preschooler.

Do you find yourself overthinking these lessons?  Or am I the only one?

Chopped Thai Salad
We make this kind of salad on hot days when we're running late, we're mentally tapped out,, and it's too much work to do anything else.  The variations are endless: Greek, Italian, Thai, Japanese ... the only rule is that everything has to be small enough so that a representative biteful fits well on your fork.

1/3 c. canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 T. low sodium soy sauce
2 T. white distilled vinegar
2 T. honey
2 t. sesame oil
2 T. lime juice
1 t. grated lime peel
5-6 cups baby kale
3 large carrots
2 bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow)
1 c. cilantro leaves
3 green onions
3/4 c. roasted cashews, minced

Whisk together ingredients from oil through lime peel in a measuring cup or small bowl. Taste and adjust to fit your preferences.

Chop the kale, carrots, peppers, cilantro leaves, and green onions.  If you have a Cuisinart, toss the carrots and peppers in there with the "shred" disc, and save yourself some chopping time.

Toss the vegetables with cashews in a large bowl until well combined. Drizzle with the dressing, toss gently a few times, and serve immediately.
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  1. Clothes is one battle I will rarely fight. (Like, I told LG that no she could not wear white gym socks with black patent leather shoes to go to a party!) At N's age she wore the same sundress pretty much year round, just with a sweater in the winter. We got a lot of "oh, you must have dressed yourself this morning honey" comments at the grocery store in that era :)

    We might be coming your direction in mid-Aug. Will you be around?

  2. I went to a baseball game with a group of friends, and took all the kids over to the play area for while. One of the girls chose to spend her tickets on facepaint, and she asked the artists for "Barbie Princess Makeup"

    After much consultation, the girl, almost 8, was done up in lots of pink. The artist is very good, and the face paint was charming, but when the girl saw herself in the mirror and her face lit up and she exclaimed, "I'm beautiful!" I felt the need to point out that she was always beautiful, even without the make-up.

    I don't think she even heard me over the sound of her barbie princess make-up.

  3. You are not the only one who over thinks the message. I do that all the time. Lately I've been catching myself referring to my daughter as a "good girl" when she is cooperative and helpful. I'm trying SO HARD to change that to "making good choices" and i hope I haven't said "good girl" enough in the last four years to have scarred her in some way. My daughter also loves to wear dresses, but hers have to be princess nightgowns. I sometimes catch myself saying that she looks beautiful in something and then I want to hit myself because that is NOT the message I want to convey, but clearly it has been hammered into my own head. I usually catch myself and add, "of course you ALWAYS look beautiful" but I'm sure at that point the damage is done. I'm just hoping she grows out of her "princess" phase soon. She already likes so many other things, I hope they crown out the princess in the next year or so. We shall see.

  4. Yes, your readers are still here and always delighted to read your words!

    As a woman who puts on heels, skirts and sometimes jackets most business days, I will speak up for the power of clothing. I consider it my warrior wear and it gives me a bit of extra confidence in the few moments I need that- not because I need a crutch, but because it makes me feel my most authentic.

    A wise boss once told me that your clothes should project how you envision yourself but not get in the way of how others envision you (meaning they should still be able to hear your important words and not be thrown off by your looks). And while I'm perfectly comfortable in grungy clothes, I do think of clothing a lot like art- a form of creation that I get to play with most days. I can reinvent so much of how people view me or proclaim (as I believe I do) that I am a confident woman that isn't afraid to use symbols of femininity in my heavily male-dominated industry- and that is powerful stuff. How many of our daily acts have so much power?

    Yes, I lament the yucky princess culture (but more because it comes with a message of entitlement than the issue of frocks), just as I lament all the messages that tell my 5 year old boy that he must be the battling knight, when really I know he loves for me to paint his toenails and watch Frozen. But, I've recent met several transgendered people who have made me think long and hard about how we express our gender and the use of symbols. There are once-men who literally face death threats for the right to express themselves as a princess.

    While I too worry that my son will be taunted sometimes, how can I say no to a little manicure for him now and them? And if taunted, and he grows up to be an average guy, perhaps these small acts will make him just a little more tolerant of things that are on the outlier side of the gender spectrum. And what if he gets lucky and sails through life with no taunts at all? Wow.

    I don't know the right answer, except to say people can be over concerned about clothing and use them in an over prescriptive way. But don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Clothes can be wonderful tools for self expression too.


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