During the first five years of my life everyone thought I was a boy. I didn’t have hair longer than a fresh haircut until I was maybe three, and I didn’t have hair long enough to be recognizable as a girl until the first grade. And then I think I cut it off. On picture day. Because that’s what kids do. Judging by photos of me as a young child I didn’t dress particularly girly, mostly because I was probably wearing hand-me-down clothes from my brother and sister, and also because I think I was allowed to dress myself so usually looked like a German tourist.
I remember playing on the parallel bars at school with three other girls and a boy came up to us, pointed, and said “Mrs. T, Mrs. T, Mrs. T,” to the other girls, and “Mr. T,” to me. Later my kindergarten teacher asked my mother to send me to school wearing dresses because everyone thought that I was a boy. And during nap time a girl who napped next to me never failed to point out that she could see my underwear.
Now I have so much long and beautiful hair and often wear two dresses at a time, have given birth, get paid less probably, and have less rights than other people in Virginia, so yeah, I’m a female. And so is my daughter.
I don’t plan to work hard to prescribe or deny my child anything that girls usually do (although, please don’t be into horses, that’s a rich girl’s hobby). Sure now she’s into cars and dinosaurs, but she’s only recently behaviorally different from our dog so I imagine that eventually dolls and boys and princess stuff will be in the mix. That’s fine.
But, like me as a child, and most babies, really, she has very short hair, and like her father as a child, it’s almost white so she looks hairless. If she dressed like a boy she could pass as a boy, but we dress her like a girl (also: after 12 months, baby clothes are sized differently for gulls and buoys, so she has to wear girl’s clothes even if we wanted to let her wear anything). No matter. Bright colors, fun animals, skirts, dresses — she is always mistaken for a boy (today she got a “you go, little man!” from someone in the Target parking lot). Even yesterday a waiter bothered to ask if she was a boy or girl, and after we said “girl,” he said “boy?”
Often with infants I can’t tell if they’re boys or girls, but instead of guessing incorrectly I just pretend I don’t see that the person has a baby. I feel that is more polite.
It’s one of those things that’s not really a big deal. I don’t bother to correct them because I’m not interested in giving her stats to strangers anyway. It’s just puzzling that a sweet little girl, dressed like a sweet little girl, is 95% of the time mistaken for a boy. Maybe it’s because she sometimes wears a ball cap (though, let’s be fair, it’s not that boys her age actually like baseball so sports shouldn’t be assigned to either sex at this point).
Also, maybe it’s because I take photos like this:
Please note that as soon as people realized I wasn’t a boy, they just assumed I was my sister.