That Blue Uniform
March 13, 2006

You can be anything you want to be.

Is there any bigger lie we tell kids?

I learned very early on that this is not strictly true.

In kindergarten, the big thing was what "group" you were going to join. Now, I don't mean the popular group or the nerds or anything like that. No, were you going to be in 4-H? How about Indian Guides/Indian Princesses? Brownies? Cub Scouts? Boys & Girls Club? What were you going to join?

My first choice was 4-H because you got to be outside and do things with animals. My mother quickly nixed this as "too hick." My second choice was Cub Scouts.

Now, this may take some explaining as I rarely talk about my gender or my sex on my blog. First, just to get things straight, sex and gender are two different things, to my way of thinking. Gender refers to a societal construct and there are far more than two genders in the human race. At one extreme you might have the 1950s-style Barbie-housewife. There's nothing inherently wrong with that. Then you might have a woman who enjoys working with her hands, and still enjoys tending her children and her husband. Likewise, the other extreme might be a man who's the Iron John man's man, banging a drum and his wife and hunting during the fall. And you might also have a man who enjoys fashion, how fabrics look, and also enjoys hunting and taking his wife out to the movies.

Then you can start shading in all the variations in between. Straight, gay, stereotype and those who might feel like a complete contradiction to those at the extremes. That's gender for you: how we perceive how others are fitting in to our perceived social roles of male and female.

Lecture over. :D

So, back to the Cub Scouts and being anything you want to be.

Yeah, there's just this little detail that kept me out of the Cub Scouts. The Cub Scouts were for boys. Brownies were for little girls.

I stormed, I wailed, I screeched about "you can be anything you want to be, you SAID" all to absolutely no avail at all. I could not be a Cub Scout.

Now, I wanted to be a Cub Scout for a few good reasons and few umm, well, childish reasons. One, Cub Scouts got to do outdoors-y things (this was a constant battle in my life � I wanted to be Kit Carson and explore the Wild West � I was crushed that I was over a century late to that party � then I found out more about Kit Carson later on and � well, that's another story for another day). Also, Cub Scouts got to build things like the little soapbox derby cars. How cool was that? Build it, paint it with cool flames and then RACE it! What could be better, I ask you?

The silly reason was, well, they had the best uniform out of all the groups I'd seen. That blue and gold? Classy, man, classy.

Eventually, my mother was able to convince me that I was not allowed to be a Cub Scout. Some already highly suspicious part of me, though, still suspected that this was simply one of Mom's crazy rules and not something "real."

So, I decided to be an Indian Guide. Of course, there were a couple of problems with this. First, it was Indian Guides and Indian Princesses, not just Indian Guides. Girls were supposed to go to meetings with their fathers and be princesses and boys were supposed to go with their moms and be guides. Not a bad set-up really, but certainly not one in which I would ever fit in real well.

First, Mom tried to talk me out of it because "You know your father �."

He was rarely around in the evenings, working late instead. Actually, I was beginning to suspect, even at five years old, that he was not working all of those hours. Not when he would often come home after ten, loud and obnoxious and violent. And I'd been around long enough to know that this was how he acted after a Saturday of beer-drinking and yard-work.

So, I made my pitch directly to Daddy, who agreed that he would make the organizational meeting with me. We were all essentially ignoring the Guide/Princess bit. I, for one, was utterly convinced that once I was in the group, I could certainly talk them into letting me be a Guide instead of a Princess. I mean, come on, did I act like a frigging princess???

Pins and needles the night of the meeting.

Bed in utter tears. Mom tried to console me, but at the same time, she just kept making excuses for him and "you know how he is."

You can only be who you want to be if those around you let you and encourage you to be who you want to be.

Posted by Red Monkey at March 13, 2006 6:04 AM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


L said:

nice post-- I can relate :)

March 13, 2006 11:26 AM


Mona said:

"You can only be who you want to be if those around you let you and encourage you to be who you want to be."

I see it being true to me because if it wasn't for my DH's encouragement to change careers, it would have delayed my start but I would have made the change regarless of what others thought.

I think that is why my thinking is more of a socialist stand point. You need other's to help you meet your goal or help you understand how the game is played.

March 13, 2006 10:08 PM


Jenn said:

I think I was fairly lucky in getting to do what I wanted to do (even when it came to learning to play the piano vs. learning the theory), but there are always limits in what is available. The running joke with my parents is that I never got to take ballet (which, as a tomboy, I would have hated) but, the catch is that there was no one teaching ballet in the town I grew up in. And, at the time, I certainly had absolutely no idea that I could or might want to take it - among many many other things. So, there's let, encourage and, I think, gentle kick in the pants as well.

End of opinion! :D

March 13, 2006 10:40 PM


Rob In China said:

You CAN be anything you want to be; the only obstacles I see are physical limitations. If you are 5"1, you just can't become a NBA player....

Not enough children are taught that they can be anything they can be. As a result, they grow into adults doubting their abilities and settling for just being average.

My other take on this from observing others is that in reality most people do as well or below, but never exceeding the parent of the same sex. The parent of the same sex is essentially the most powerful role model for children. Since this is just a theory, I am not sure how true it is.

March 14, 2006 4:20 AM


red monkey said:

Not everyone can be anything they want to be, in my opinion ... and it goes beyond the physical requirements of a job.

While we hear stories of this person or that who escaped some dire circumstance to reach their dream goal ... those are the exceptions rather than the rule.

I suppose, really, what I'm talking about hinges on one word ... "can." Technically speaking, it is possible that we can be anything we want to be.

But is it probable that we can all be what we want to be?

Do we emphasize enough that you can be what you want to be ONLY if you REALLY want it and work to the exclusion of all else? And what if your life, to be honest, has never really had serious challenges? What if the only challenge you've ever had is to that one thing you want to be? Maybe that makes you resolve harder to attain that goal ... maybe it means that you just don't have the skills to attain that goal now.

It's not as simple as the cliche makes it sound ... I suppose that's what I really think the lie is and why I think it also revolves around how your support system supports you (and that support system may change until you find one that supports you!).

March 14, 2006 5:49 AM


Indigo said:

Very interesting post actually, and it's bringing back all the memories of the various things I wanted to be when I was growing up. :-)

March 14, 2006 12:32 PM


Flo said:

I wanted to do what I'm doing now from age 9.

Before that - professional footballer.

I had simple needs.

March 15, 2006 6:45 AM


Sally said:

I believe you can be what ever you want to be, you just have to have the dertermination and motivation to do it.

March 15, 2006 12:54 PM

You are very right, and while I have no personal reference (that I know of) for being gay or transgendered, or whatever, I am happy for kids who grow up today, because I think it is more accepted today to be who you are. We certainly have a LOT more to go in this regard, but even in my small, white-bread community, I see kids beginning to open their eyes and be excepting. For example, in the 6th grade right now at my school, there is a girl who is clearly not a girl on the inside. She is wonderful, popular, talented, and best of all, accepted for who she is. I also have a neighbor girl who is the best little wrestler I have ever seen, and the reason she is that way is that that's who she is and her parents encouraged it. There are still millions of kids out there struggling to know who they are or BE who they are. I'm glad there is some growth, if not enough.

May 12, 2008 4:55 PM
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