Shopping for children’s clothing is a lesson in futility and a refusal to cave.
I can’t have children. I bought way too much for children this year.
Shopping for Christmas gifts lead me into a deep dark hole of educational toys and clothing sets. The toys were easy because the babies have to learn something. Clothing tested me. Because I was reminded of my own struggles with gendered expectations related to clothing.
Every shirt was pink. So much flower print, so many hearts and stars. So many pink flowers and purple hearts. It felt so imposing to choose that for a child at an age when they can decide what they want to wear.
I made the switch from Mom’s choice to my choice when I was 3rd grade. And it was drastic.
I was a little feminist, man. I always fought against these ideas that I supposed to do certain activities because I was a girl. Ballet? Cried at the recital so I could quit. Gymnastics? I mean, Dominique Dawes was #blackgirlmagic but I hated the outfits. Girl Scouts? Girl, bye. I fought against it all. And then Aaliyah happened.
When R&B singer Aaliyah came out in 1994, she became my style icon. She was baggy jeans, hockey jerseys, bandanas and Timberland. She dressed like my favorite rapper and I felt like I found my soulmate. She validated my youthful defiance. She became my visual cosign.
So I rebelled. And I had a choice.
So by the time I got to high school, I was in full force. And my Dad was okay with that.
And my Dad wouldn’t really let me change.
And I didn’t really change until I realized that he couldn’t stop me.
I don’t know if I can even explain my style now. I enjoy dressing up but I do it as an act of defiance. The heels are higher, the skirts are shorter. I do it to fight against this patriarchy imposed on me by my Dad. This fear of me growing up, this fear of me becoming a woman. This fear of me becoming a sexual being. This fear of a man looking at me as a sexual being. My Dad didn’t want for me to grow up. And being a tomboy for him was his way of knowing that I wasn’t going to be any of those things.
I broke free from that feeling. But it’s a choice. I didn’t have a choice.
I never want to impose on my children what they can wear. It’s clothes. I want them to learn what it means to have autonomy over their bodies. Yes, there are things that I would not let them do to their bodies because of their age but I would never tell them that they can’t wear a piece of clothing because society says that it’s “wrong” for them to wear it. Wrong because of rape culture, wrong because of genderism. I’ve seen it.
So I bought a pajama set for my friend’s child. That’s safe, right?