Monday, February 7, 2011

The Puppies

My life has always been uterine. I’m one of three sisters, my closest friends are women, and even my favorite pet was a female Siamese cat.  I went to a private college that, up until about five years before I got there, had been all women so most of the men were either gay, in theater or both.  My entire professional life I have always had a female boss. My current business is me, working for the most part with women, managing a staff of primarily women. I have always been surrounded by women and I am grateful for it.  I love women.  I think we’re the best kind of people. We are pretty and soft and have boobs (and let’s be honest here, boobs really are one of the greatest things Nature ever created).  We’re emotional and we like to talk about it.  We want to know what you are feeling and we want to talk to you about it. We are supportive and compassionate and like things like shopping and manicures, and shoes, and cooking shows and we have Oprah.

Now, I know not all women are pretty or awesome or have great boobs and not all women like shoes and Oprah's no saint.  I know we can’t lump an entire sex into one category and say it’s universal. I know women can be completely ruthless, catty and selfish, back stabbing, annoying bitches.  I know.  But all the same, I am very confident in my conviction that we’re amazing. And so, I’m just going to leave it at that.

My dad tried three times to have a boy and struck out all three times.  To add insult to injury, we were “girly” girls. We were stuffed animals, dolls, unicorns, puffy stickers and rainbows.  We took ballet, dressed up as butterflies and fairies, dreamed of being princesses, lived for glitter and couldn’t wait to wear make-up. I was so girly, two boys in my neighborhood got in a fight about who was going to marry me because I was the only girl they knew who wore dresses. My younger sister was the closest he got to a tom boy and her idea of “not girly” was wearing soft pants and making messy art projects.        

And no matter how much he loved us, not having a boy was disappointing for him. He was never punitive about the fact that he didn’t get his heir, but he was completely honest about that fact that he wanted a boy and was bummed not to have one.  This seemed totally close-minded to me. Couldn’t he see how awesome and fun we are?  So what if we didn’t want to go fishing or hunting.  Hunting and fishing is cruel and gross. Why couldn’t he appreciate how sensitive and open-minded we were making him? Why couldn’t he just get over himself, get more in touch with his emotions?   

It’s because he was a guy.  He didn’t always want to do girl things.  He wanted to do guy things.  He wanted to be in a world that he enjoyed with someone whom he could share it with.  Before I had kids I would have taken his reason as sexist or unfair.  But, now I have two children of my own and both of them are boys.  I, the most girly of girls, have two loud, spastic, vehicular obsessed, mess making, testosterone wielding, penises running around my house.

I have a lot of sympathy for my dad. 

Living in a house full of the opposite sex in many ways puts you on the fringe.  You’re in it, but not always connected to it.  For me, there are days when I am not even sure if my sons are boys because they act more like puppies. When they are excited they chew things. Literally chew things.  They pick up their lovies and bite into them and shake their heads. Like puppies.  They yelp and holler when they are excited. We have to get them out at least once, but preferably twice, a day because if we don’t there will be an accident.  If we don’t run them around at least once in the morning and once in the afternoon, they can’t go to sleep and will literally tear the house apart.  They like to take my shoes out of the closet and either throw them around or hide them.  My older son likes to put his face in my bum and give me a “zerbert”.  The other day, when I gave in and told him that, yes I would buy him canned whip cream, he was so excited he backed his bum up to me and rubbed it on me.  He rubbed his bum on me. They wiggle when they are excited, have control over their feet only half the time and seem to have a limitless threshold for pain.  Just the other day my younger son ran head first into the side of a wooden chair, smacked his temple hard, looked at me, shook his head and kept right on running.

It’s like learning a new language and at the same time trying to teach a foreigner yours. My attempts at crafts, cooking projects and anything non-car related are generally tolerated, sometimes enjoyed, but never really loved. My sons plod through them because they are curious, want to be near me and love me, but their hearts are and minds are always just a Hot Wheel away from leaving me.

It reminds me of my dad’s attempts to include me and my sisters in his world.  Once he took us “logging.” Every fall he would drive out into the woods, find a still standing, but dead tree, cut it down and then cut it into logs for our fireplaces.  One year he decided to take us with him.  He made us wait by his truck while he went to search for a tree.  While he was gone we began to do what we always did.  Make up a fantasy.  We imagined that he got lost and then snatched up by woodland trolls. Moments later we heard the chainsaw and then a tree falling and decided that, oh no! the tree must have fallen on him!  He’s dead! What are we going to do out here in the woods with all these woodland trolls? We started crying and screaming out “Dad, where are you? Are you OK?” He was gone maybe twenty minutes. He’d left three perfectly normal daughters, completely in charge of their own faculties and returned twenty minutes later to find three blubbering idiots, clutching at him, hugging him and dramatically proclaiming how relieved we were that he was still alive. 

I remember the look of confusion and frustration on his face as he said “Of course I'm all right! I told you I would be right back.  What’s the matter?”

He wanted to share with us the joy he got from being in the woods and working with his hands.  We wanted to live in Narnia. This is not to say we didn’t appreciate being with our dad, we just didn’t appreciate it the way he did. 

This is something I would not have understood before the boys.  Before the boys, whenever I heard  the question “why aren’t more men practicing yoga?” my reaction was “Who cares? If they’re too dumb to see how great yoga is, then screw ‘em.” 

But now I get why men don’t like to practice yoga.  It’s too girly.  Many of my teacher trainees use their husbands and boyfriends to practice teaching and most of then will report back that their significant other is doing it simply to please her.  He isn’t really into it.  Sometimes the guy will be outright belligerent and pick a fight with her, telling her things like “will you just tell me what it is I am supposed to be doing! What am I trying to achieve here?”  When my teachers come back with these reports the general consensus is that the men are being pig-headed and need to just learn how to “let go” of that need to achieve. If they’d only “just keep practicing”, they’ll eventually get it. 

I don’t agree.  I think the teacher is being pig-headed.  Men may not want to practice the way women do, but they don’t need to “get over themselves.” The teacher does.  One of my students said her husband wanted direction.  He wanted to know what he was working for. For her that flies in the face of everything she values about her practice and she didn’t want to give him what he needed. Consequently, he doesn’t want to practice and thinks yoga is for girls.

So it begs the question, which is more important; your yoga or his?

It’s important to teach a class that suits the student, even if that student is a man who wants a rigorous, goal oriented one.  The fact that he has a different idea of what he wants out of his yoga is not good or bad, it simply is what it is. It’s the teacher’s job to find a way to make the yoga meet the yogi, not the other way around.   

Take my son and dance for example.  I love dance.  My son thinks “dancing is for girls.”  He will not be swayed if I tell him “No it’s not. Boys dance too.”  The more I say that, the more he is convinced this is just another one of his mom’s (read: girl) things and the less likely he is to do it.  So we created “no dance shame” dance offs.  We crank the disco music and encourage the boys to do whatever they want.  Most of Jack’s dance moves involve guns and kicking bad guy ass and pretending he’s a dinosaur, but in there are some seriously sweet moves. No joke. The kid can get down. But in order to get here I’ve had to learn a few things: 
  • never tell him to move a certain way,
  • never suggest dance move,
  • don’t look directly at him when he’s really grooving (he gets self-conscious),
  • always declare my independence whenever he says “mom, that’s not dancing!”
    “Hey, man, no dance shame here!  This is my dance bubble. See it? This is my bubble. In my bubble, I can do whatever I want. And right now, I want to do this!” 
I’ve had to learn my way around “boy world” to help expose him to something I think is really valuable.  Consequently, he likes to dance.         

Of course there are butchy girls and effeminate boys.  Not every girl wants to play with dolls and not every boy wants to build race tracks. But, no matter how much we want to believe that the differences between men and women aren’t really that dissimilar, we’re wrong. If we don’t acknowledge that we’re not alike we miss out on seeing the great things about each other and maybe even miss out on meeting each other all together.

So if a guy comes to a class with the sole purpose of meeting women I don't think he’s a scumbag.  I think he’s smart.  Of course he's not allowed to be a creepo and the Inappropriate Yoga Guy is never acceptable, but this is a lonely city. What’s actually wrong with a man wanting to go somewhere to meet women? Since when was that bad?  

Instead of trying to make the other be like me, we need to accept that we are different and move forward.  Do I think it’s totally nuts that my kid’s idea of a joke is to shove his face in my bum and blow a zerbert? Yes. It’s weird. No matter how much I love that kid, I am never gonna accept that as a joke.  

But hey, at least he’s house trained.

I mean potty trained.