On this international day of happiness let’s let a boy be a “brony”
When I was a child, I didn’t have many dolls. As a matter of fact, I had one rubber doll that I named sleepy and whose hands I bit off. Once in elementary school, I started building model T cars. I loved the mechanics, precision and beauty of it. No one ever told me that I should play with dolls and leave the cars behind. Perhaps they knew then that my fascination with cars would always just be that of a historical nature.
One so-called girlie thing I did love while growing up was the dollhouse. I would dream of owning a dollhouse where I could put stuff, lots of stuff. Instead of being a very girlie fascination, I was probably being a typical New Yorker dreaming of a living space larger than 200 square feet. When I go to Toys ‘r Us or FAO Schwartz nowadays I still longingly look at the dollhouses wishing I had one. I swear some really are bigger than a New York City studio apartment. What I love even more than the dollhouse is the accompanying wide variety of dollhouse furniture. Oh, how I long for space for a piano, indoor movie theatre and a floor just for a shoe closet.
When my son visits these toy stores, he has oftentimes headed to the play kitchen areas. The play kitchen was his favorite area of his Pre-kindergarten class. Some would say (well namely his teacher) that he was obsessed with the kitchen. I joked it was because he never saw me in that room other than when to microwave something. Thus, kitchens are a mysterious entity to him and would fittingly entice him. I am not convinced that the teacher cared for my explanation or sense of humor.
Two Christmas seasons ago we got him a play kitchen which we set up in the basement. He loves making me lattes. He occasionally throws in corn, oranges and pizza into the mix. It is all pretend delicious. We got him a sign to place over his kitchen in the basement that reads “mancave”. This semester, we enrolled him in after-school cooking class called “kids in the kitchen”. There is about six of them and half are boys. Growing up in the South Bronx that would have been a rare sight. Especially considering that little girls such as me were constantly told we needed to learn to cook in order to please our future husbands. Partly because of that constant reminder, I refused to learn to cook. Nowadays, I believe (and hope) that no one is perplexed by the fact that there are boys in the cooking class. It is interesting to note that many of the top chefs in restaurants are men. What an odd contrast with some long held household beliefs.
As sure enough my son’s mancave has a kitchen, there are other similar boys out there. In the news this past week a nine year old boy in North Carolina had his lunch bag banned. The lunch bag didn’t have peanuts. It didn’t have a knife or other weapon in it. It didn’t have inappropriate magazines. What it did have was a My Little Pony emblem on the side of it. The school banned the boy from bringing a My Little Pony lunchbag out of fear that he would bully. It is great that the school is looking out for and trying to prevent bullying behavior. However, does this not further stigmatize kids who don’t necessarily conform to prescribed gender roles? Sadly, another 11year old boy in North Carolina tried to commit suicide because of the intense bullying he faced as a result of visibly loving the My Little Pony character. I personally do not get the My Little Pony enchantment. However, I do get that it is just a toy based on a television cartoon character. I also am given to understand that there are many boys out there that like that pony and are now referred to as “bronies.”
My son is not a bronie and I am cool with that. I want him to enjoy whatever toy he likes which as the moment consists of a lot of ninjas, hedgehogs and zombies. He tells me that the My Little Pony is for girls. I told him the story of how not so long ago I was told kitchens were for girls and not for little boys. He stares at me in perplexed contemplation and notes that kitchens are not for girls; that kitchens are for everyone.
Today is the international day of happiness. Let’s give happiness a chance.