I was standing in line to buy a wildly over-priced sandwich at the O’Hare Starbucks; the boys were sitting by our gate eating junk food (yes, Michael Pollan, yes, I did buy my children “Old Macdonalds,” as Caleb likes to call it. Which they ate with LOTS of extra ketchup and LOTS of extra salt. What can I say. It had been a long day and we weren’t even on the plane yet).
So I’m in line. There’s a pretty mom ahead of me, younger than I am (most people are these days), and her little girl is sitting on the floor by the counter. The little girl is still in diapers, which I know because she’s sitting on the floor pretty much flashing everyone her pink Pampers pullups.
Her mom scoops up her mochiattalattatinolofatsoya whatever and looks down at the little girl. “Stand up!” she says. The little girl says “why?” The mother stares at her a minute and says “because it’s not ladylike,” and then the two of them walked off to their “final destination,” as they say in the air.
For a moment, I thought I was back in Bettydraperland. “It’s not ladylike?” I didn’t think anyone said that any more, at least, not without big ol’dollops of irony. But then again, I don’t have daughters, so maybe parents do say that and I just don’t know it.
Then, of course, I looked over at my own children, sprawled on the floor happily dragging french fries through ketchup and slurping their milkshakes while they blathered on about obscure Yu-Gi-Oh cards. It crossed my mind that they might benefit from a little dose of “ladylike” themselves
I wonder if Ru-Paul is available for etiquette lessons?
The gender element of this is creepy. Although it’s especially problematic that girls would be called on this kind of thing more, the whole body-regulation regimen seems tricky to me. (I don’t have kids, so this is from experience and observation.) I can remember being called faggot for delicacy and lumbering ox for clumsiness in the same day, and I can’t count the times that someone complained I was too loud (usually laughing), including several times this summer. Getting away with sprawling is largely a power question (thus the gender inflection), but it’s also class- and race-marked. I suppose I want simultaneously to have grown up without self-consciousness about these things but also having developed a repertoire of strategies, and I’m not sure you can have both.
Pinch me HARD if I am ever heard saying this to Mathilda!
sprawling does seem a very “male” behavior, in public at least (let’s all reflect for a moment on the spread-knee subway sit, wherein a male body takes up at least three seats). And I can’t even count how many times a day I tell the boys they’re being too loud, but I think that might be kid-oriented at this point, not gender-specific. The whole “gay if you’re not a brute” thing really worries me – I know it’s coming, probably for both boys, and then I will have to be VERY unladylike and go rip off the head of whatever kid was stupid enough to say such a thing.
@HW: don’t worry, if I ever hear such a thing being said to M., I’ll do more than pinch you. : )
Oh, good lord, this is a can o’ worms, this is. I have three girls, don’t think I (or my husband) has ever told one of them to comport themselves in a more “ladylike” fashion. We talk a lot about manners in general, but manners specific to girls? Nope. But here’s another thing — my youngest girl prefers boys’ swim trunks — the floppy shorts bottoms and the clingy tops. She’s 8, so this isn’t a big deal, but I confess I’m trying to ease her into girls’ suits. Because . . . because other kids will think she’s weird, that’s why. Is that so different from telling her to be “ladylike”? Hmm? See above re: can o’ worms.
Ru-Paul? I am off to bed laughing. As for ladylike? Not in Pampers, even if they are pink me thinks…