Tuesday 16 January 2007

Red and yellow and pink and green, purple and orange and blue...

We've been going to post-natal classes. At which I have discovered that our child is a non-conformist: when surrounded by screaming babies, stays silent; when all is quiet, starts to yell. Of course, I quite like this trait.

The health visitor running the thing asked for our top tip. I repeated a Useful Thing that a friend had said to me many weeks ago: "Remember that everyone drops their baby on its head at least once." Luckily nobody was horrified. Actually, my own top tip would be for night-time breastfeeding: for handy low-level, easy-access light, use your mobile phone. It also means that you can check the time. I've got so used now to feeding the infant without really waking up at all that I don't really know, come the morning, whether it woke up and ate at all, or how many times. When people ask you if your baby is sleeping through the night yet, they somehow don't expect the answer "I don't know"...

All the babies at the post-natal are boys except Sasha, whose sex we declined to reveal as part of our ongoing experiment. A thinks they'll all have me pegged as a kook, but I like to think we're just charmingly eccentric. When the babies got weighed we got a lot of attention as they all had to be stripped. However, they all seemed to HATE it, so it seemed to me a bit pointless: I'm not obsessing about the child's weight, so why make it miserable by stripping it? We bucked the system and got weighed fully clothed. He he. Apparently a full nappy could weigh about a pound. Oh well. I don't know what I weight either.

I can't decide whether I'm overweight at the moment, or just a bit blubbery. My stomach went down impressively quickly, but has stayed a smallish paunch, squidgy to the touch. Fingers crossed that the answer *isn't* pull-ups. I do hope I'm not just fat. I've discovered in later life that denying myself any food at all makes me enormously cross: presumably the result of a lifetime of not dieting and never having to worry about my weight. Or it may mean that self-denial simply isn't of any interest...

A's aunt asked me to take the child along to the nursery she works at, to show it to the children. This was fun. There were about ten kids there, all very bright and appealing. All the girls except one had long fine hair that kept falling in their eyes. All but two were dressed in pink. At least one was in tights and a mini-skirt. A's aunt was saying that it made quite a difference to the group when there were more boys. But I was thinking that it's just too easy for people's observations to match their preconceptions. If all the children had sensible short hair and practical clothes and pink and blue were banned, you wouldn't know instantly which were girls and which were boys. Would you be able to tell by their behaviour? I'd like to try this. I would bet that actually, it's like horoscopes: you notice the bits the confirm the stereotypes and ignore what doesn't.

So the problem with the sexist clothing is that it lets people confirm their stereotypical expectations. But it's also wretchedly impractical, which gives you a vicious circle: the girls can't see past their trailing locks, can't climb because their skirts hide their feet, and are struggling with the ever-descending crotches of their tights, and footwear that's chosen for prettiness rather than functionality. No wonder they're less good at physical activities than people who are allowed short hair, flat shoes, and trousers.

The boys lose out too. They're practical, but they're so *dull*. Blue is often the brightest colour they're allowed to wear. Brown, grey, black, beige: it's a monochrome world if you've got a willy. No flowers, no frills, no fun. Who decides that all this would threaten their fragile masculinity? Who decides that the girls need to be swathed in pink impracticality? Most children seem to have their clothes chosen by their mothers. But their mothers have benefited hugely from feminism and are mostly - in the circles in which we move - competent middle-class professionals. So what are they up to?

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