when i was pregnant with shoshanna, i was so certain she was a boy that i only bought a few girly clothes - a brown and pink winter hat, a little shirt with purple owls on it. when she was born on a bright sunday morning in may, i was so busy gazing into her face for the first time that i didn't even know whether she was a boy or a girl, until our midwife asked with a smile, "so...what did you get?" who cares, i thought dreamily, this baby is perfect. but i have to say, when we peeked and found out she was a girl, that was a pretty awesome moment. A GIRL! we kept saying, as if she was the first girl ever.
still, there were many moments during her babyhood where i truly thought of her as neither girl or boy, but merely as a tiny soul new to this earth. maybe it was because i mostly dressed her in white (my favorite look for a newborn, besides naked) but her boy/girl status just didn't factor into my thoughts much. judging by the number of babies i see dressed in head-to-toe pink and ruffles, with little bows glued to their bald heads, i believe this is a fairly uncommon way of thinking.
having known shoshi for more than two years, i can really see now why i thought she was a boy. she has a fierce air about her much of the time, like this morning when she crouched down next to my cat eugene and watched him devour a bird, leaving nothing but a squiggly mess of entrails and beak behind. ("birdy sad? birdy feel sick dis morning?" um yes, i'd say that's a fairly safe bet.) she is really at her happiest playing in the mud or looking at bugs. but here's the thing, she also has this side to her that's the girliest girl i ever did know, a hardcore PINK fanatic who loves mincing around wearing a fancy pair of my shoes and three different purses, who insists on having her nails painted regularly, who loves ballerinas and strawberry shortcake. this side of her has honestly come as a huge shock to me, maybe because it's so different from my own pink-hating tomboy experience growing up, or maybe because i see it as being in opposition to her own tomboy side.
i wrote an article about raising powerful girls recently, and while i'm proud of what i wrote - mostly pretty tomboy-centric stuff about girls playing in the dirt - i wish i'd talked more about the girly girls, how they can and should be perceived as being just as strong and powerful as the girls who are out there gutting fish (or watching birds get gutted). it bums me out that sometimes it's the girls who are doing traditionally male activities (climbing trees, throwing rocks) who are praised for being strong and tough. isn't it also important, strong work to carry around a baby doll, pretending to mother it? (i can't think of much that requires more bravery than motherhood.) or to prepare food for your loved ones in a play kitchen? to create a cozy home out of blocks, or serve tea to your teddy bears? isn't it a perpetuation of the very gender stereotypes we're trying to fight, to praise the tomboys and leave the girly girls behind?
all i know is, the pink nails on those grubby hands of shoshanna mary make her the toughest broad around, in my book. she doesn't try to deny any side of herself or offer any apologies for the way she is - juxtapositions, pink nails and all - and that truly makes her a force to be reckoned with.