Patriarchal Bullsh*t Begins In The Home
Just, like, right in your kids’ books.
I turned my back on my kids for maybe two seconds and they got super rude. I dunno, I think when the second one got old enough to know her own mind is when I lost some of my iron-fisted control, and now they regularly yell at the table and smear yogurt on their mouths, and I’m over here hollering and KNOWING IT HELPS NOTHING and yet unable to drag myself down from my pinnacle of rage.
But I have girls and I am treading that superfine line between teaching them not to be egregious assholes and accidentally socializing them to be deferent at all costs. On the one hand, don’t be rude to strangers! On the other, if some motherfucker tells you to smile, you CUT him.
So I turned to the library, like, Please advise, and we took out a handful of books on manners and a lot of them are fine! I mean, they make me mildly uncomfortable, because on the one hand they teach about manners drawing attention away from, say, what your elbows are doing on the table, and focus it on the food and the conversation, which I am DOWN with, but on the other hand I am deeply leery of teaching my daughters not to draw attention to themselves at all, and then I am MAD because here I am just trying to raise some non-hellions but THE PATRIARCHY has turned the flip side of every good coin into some oppressive garbage.
*breathes into bag*
Anyway! So we’re reading Mary Wrightly, So Politely about a little girl who goes to the store with her mother to buy her brother a gift. She gives her seat on the bus to an old lady. So polite! She doesn’t sulk when other people unwittingly grab the toys she has her eyes on for her brother. I meeeeeeean, I would have preferred her to speak up but they weren’t deliberately wronging her so ok.
But then. ‘She didn’t complain when a boy stepped on her toe. In fact, Mary Wrightly, so politely, said “I’m sorry.”’ ‘WAIT, WHAT?’ I read-scream. ‘This book is wrong, Mary was wrong,’ I say to the kinder. ‘What is the right thing to say when someone steps on your toe.’ ‘You say, excuse me, you stepped on my toe and it really hurt, you need to say “sorry” to me’ says my one kid. ‘Oh thank God,’ I say. ‘You are absolutely right. You never apologize when someone else hurts your body.’
‘”Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Mary Wrightly, so politely, squashing herself against a shelf to let a man pass.’ ‘WHAT ARE THEY TEACHING THE CHILDREN,’ I shriek into the ether. And then I break off the book to have a conversation with my progeny about the responsibilities of adults and children to watch out for each other in public spaces, and who shoulders the greater burden of that responsibility HINT IT IS NOT THE SMALL CHILD.
I am trying so hard, here. I want my kids to be pleasant because I have to hang out with them all the time and I like pleasant people. But I don’t want them to feel like their pleasantness is the most important thing about them, and I firmly believe that bitches get shit done, but ALSO that bitches aren’t bitches to their friends, except in such cases as when it’s fitting, ugh it is all so complicated.
I suppose it’s all a matter of understanding context, which is ultimately what having manners boils down to anyway: knowing which fork to use if you’ve been served a salad, knowing which of your achievements is suitable for a resume, knowing that ‘Fuck you’ isn’t appropriate at grandma’s but is perfect for when that dude won’t back off.
Seriously tho books u r not helping me here.