Heart's Desire

Take a little trip with me.  Indulge me for a moment,if you will, as I revisit our life's journey.  First, of course, we are born.  Thrust into a foreign land and expected to explore, discover and make our way in this world with nothing but ourselves, and one or two ambassadors to the earth to aid our journey.  With me so far? 

At this point we are our truest selves.  Whatever we've been given in this world, our genetic make-up, our souls, our heart's desires...it's pretty much agreed that at this time in our lives we are closer to these powerful gifts than we will ever be at any other point.  We are most in touch with what we truly want, and who we truly are.  And one of the first words we learn to empower ourselves, is "no"!  We need this word.  We hold it close to us as everybody, even  those well meaning ambassadors, will try to dictate our lives.  They will push things on us we do not want, and take things from us we do.  These things will be done in our "best interests" so we can learn how to get along in a world of rules and societal laws.  They are meant to teach us the fine balance between getting what we want and giving the world what it wants.

In this process we are shamed, we are scolded, we are "gently redirected" toward more socially acceptable behaviors.  We are put in school and molded into people who will keep the status-quo.  There have been a lot of studies on what happens to our creativity, and  intelligence as we go through the schooling process.  Consensus?  The more schooling we get?  The more we lose our unique perspective and the outside of the box thinking we are born with.  Sometimes we don't even realize we are losing it?  But we grow up, feeling something is missing.  We lost a piece of ourselves at some point, our "inner child", and we spend our whole adult lives trying to get in touch with him, to get back what we lost.

With me so far?  Experienced this in your life?  Most people reading this will silently respond with a great big "hells yeah"!  You've seen it happen in your lives and you ached when it happened to your children.

My personal journey was that of what has come to be known as the "gender nonconformist".  And it showed itself in many forms.  For example, I loved purple.  Loved it.  And at age four, when my Uncle asked what my favorite color, I had no trouble telling him.  Imagine my surprise when he responded with... "no, you don't like purple, purple is an old woman's color".  I still remember him suggesting that I like brown.  BROWN??????

When Christmas rolled around and the big fat Sears catalogue came out, I immediately circled the Emerald City playset and Wizard of Oz dolls.  I described it to everyone who asked me what I wanted most.  This went on for years.  At age four, Santa asked.  I told him.  At 6, when our first grade teacher asked us to draw what we wanted to get for Christmas, guess what I drew...


At eight?  When my parents took me to Universal Studios and I saw these toys at the souvenir shop, guess what I wanted to buy?  Yep.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

When it came to movies, I loved fairy tales, Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.  At play-time?  I wanted to play Cinderella, and wanted to be no one but her.  When I played by myself on the monkey bars?  I was Cat Woman, lithe and cunning, outwitting Batman at every turn.  At dress-up, I always chose the most beautiful gown my friend had in her dress-up trunk.  Thank God I grew up around women who were, for the most part, willing to let me explore this part of myself and indulged my nature in spite of any secret concern they may have had.

That was my inner child.  Those were my heart's desires.  They were gentle, creative, craft and art oriented.  They had nothing to do with wars, with guns, with cowboys or Indians.  And, in spite of my mother, aunts, and grandmother, I quickly learned that they were not approved.  I got schooled by just about anyone, and most of the time this was done by kind people, gently but firmly. 

The oldest boy in my babysitting group heard me pretending to be the Mama dog and took me aside to tell me that I shouldn't be that any more.  A friend's parent saw me in an oversized dress and yelled at me that boys did not wear girls clothes in her house.  My mother, when we went to Universal studios took me aside and gently coaxed me into buying Star Wars action figures instead of Wizard of Oz dolls.  And I learned.  I learned to submit to these desires outwardly.  I pretended to be the boy dog until the oldest boy left.  I only wore dress-up boy clothes outside, but inside??  I bought the Star Wars action figures, but the one who got the most use?  Princess Leia.  And it wasn't just older people who taught me this.  It was kids my own age.  In kindergarten, when I wore purple pants to school?  I was ridiculed by someone who I thought was my friend.  This so-called friend then rallied others to join her in mocking me. 

Why?  I ask myself.  What is it that people are responding to that makes them do this?  Here's my conclusion.  It comes not from the Bible, not from their hearts, but from their fears and what society has told them in some of those very innocuous stories that I loved.  Fairy Tales.

Fairy tales were meant to make boys and girls into productive members of society.  And thus, boys in these stories achieved their happily ever after when they gained treasure, slew dragons, won a kingdom to rule.  Girls?  Their happily ever after was when they were won by a man who slew and acquired.  It doesn't take a genius to figure out what the more powerful role is.  But girls were, at that time,  considered weaker than men, and less equipped.  They were not meant for more education than that which made them into the perfect mate.  These ideas continued, largely unchecked, for centuries, until the 1960's, when the women's liberation movement shouted loud and clear that girls could do more than they'd been allowed to achieve.  They could get their own treasure, fight their own battles.  And should!  They should be empowered with the qualities they had so long been denied.  In many ways this was wonderful.  But it led to a bizarre kind of "might is right" mentality.  It led to a raising up of the qualities that had been associated with men and a degradation of those that had once been considered "womanly virtues".  These were considered weaker qualities.  And so when a boy comes along who is drawn to the qualities of the nurturer?  The artist?  The aesthete?  These are qualities that must be squashed. 

Girls who had what were considered "tom boyish" qualities went from being discouraged in these traits to being applauded and encouraged, and this is rampant today in the newest film versions of Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, and modernizations of The Wizard of Oz.  The nurturing, open-hearted, out of the box thinking that was once celebrated has been discarded in favour of battling.  If there's a fantasy with a female heroine, she is bound to don armor and fight a battle at some point.  What do the dreamy boys have as role models?  Ferdinand the Bull, and Charlie,  of the famous Chocolate Factory (thank the lord for him). 

And yet... even though people tried to divert me from the path I was wanting to travel, that couldn't stop the journey.  They could only teach me how to hide myself and my desires, and then, it was only for so long.  Eventually, after a lot of searching myself, and therapy, I journeyed toward finding the perfect balance of both sides of me, one that celebrated that which I'd been denied and yet, didn't overcompensate.  It's been uncertain, and yet centering.  Still, I can't help but imagine what a life would be like for the child today, who grows up with a family more prepared than mine.  More aware, more deliberate?  What would his life be like?  His future.  He would certainly encounter opposition, but would he be more certain in his belief that what he wanted was best?  Could he be just as happy, maybe even more so, than myself?  Undoubtedly. 

So now??  When  when I see little boys wearing pink glitter shoes, or with painted fingernails, I celebrate them.  I gently encourage them because I know how much thought and courage goes into that decision, for them, and for their parents.  I know how vulnerable they are, and how much support they will need to be strong.  And I know that this is not deviance, but an expression of their true selves, and among the purest gifts that they have been given.  These are not weaknesses, but the beginnings of the tools which will help them change the world, and become their truest and most empowered selves.