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reading tiger

Two or three things clanging together in my head -- in this case, Brave and my flippant comment about stories concerning mom-and-daughter battles over tropes of femininity, and then this poem that Shweta Narayan linked to today. Possibly with a dose of Are You My Mother? mixed in.

My mother never forced tropes of femininity on me. Au contraire, and not in a theoretical hippie "Free to Be You And Me" sort of way. (I did not grow up with "Free to Be."). I have often remarked in the past that my parents are kind of genderbent, but I say it in a light way when I mean it in a deep way. My father was a social worker. He has deep empathy and is also, how shall I say this? Emotionally oversensitive and bad at emotional boundaries.

My mother trained in math and engineering. She is relentlessly logical, uncomfortable expressing emotion. She is also very uncomfortable with performative femininity in just about all its respects -- struggling both with a desire to feel more feminine, and a distaste for how that plays out in this culture. There was no way she was going to try and impose those tropes on me. She (and my father) were quite concerned with teaching me how to pass, as it were, how not to catch negative attention, how to make a space where people would ignore me long enough to do what I want -- or, how to attract attention for A so that they would let B slide. They were also willing to teach me B if I wanted, or if I felt I needed it to get by, but their skills and expertise might be limited and they let me know that, too.

I feel like I need to say this out loud today just to counter some of the more familiar stories. Sometimes those stories are familiar because they're easier - not more true, just easier. Blame the mother. Even if you're sensitive to her own caught-between-worlds plight, focus on the mother. Not the rest of it. It's too big. It's too intimidating. It's too much to deal with. The mother. An easy target. The corsets, the ballet slippers, the mother.

No. Not always. No.
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My mother never forced tropes of femininity on me, either. In fact, I was the one who regularly surprised and confused my mother by making a beeline for femininity, and I clearly didn't get most of that from her. My mother is emotional, but also very very practical.

My father has difficulty talking about emotions, but he composes poems and sends them to me, hand-written with pastel glitter gel pens.

Our stories are often more complex than the mom-and-daughter battles over femininity would have us believe. Thanks for reminding me of that.
Glitter gel pens! I am unutterably charmed.