Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Conversations with my daughter

So there we were, enjoying a sunshiny, blustery walk along the seafront at [local Seaside Town] in the company of Zanna, her two Small People and about a million grumpy-looking pensioners (a bit too bright, wasn’t it? Too cheerful. What’s wrong with some nice rain?), when the following exchange took place:

Small Person (out of left field): Mummy, what does “gay” mean?

Me (caught utterly off-guard): Eh? What do you mean?

SP: “Gay”, Mummy. What does it mean?

Me: Um. Well. I’d have to know what sort of sentence it was in.

SP: Rachel said my hat was gay, and she laughed.

Me (with that feeling of middle-class liberal relief that washes over you when you realise that all you have to do is go all sociological on a Small Person and the world instantly becomes a better place): Oh, I see. Well, you know we had that conversation where we talked about how it isn’t just men and women who fall in love with each other*? And we talked about how men can love men and women can love women? And how they can get married** now? Well, the word that describes that is “gay”. And some people think it’s funny to use that word in a way that means something is silly, or wrong, or something you shouldn’t do. It isn’t funny, because being gay is just part of who a person is, and there’s nothing at all wrong with it. Does that make sense?

SP (thinks): Oh. Rachel said it meant “happy”.

Me: …………………………

* What? Doesn’t everyone have this conversation with their six-year-old?
** I know. But “Civil Partnership” is surely a topic for when she’s older. Maybe when she’s seven….


Blogger First Nations chimed in with...

you do realize that she is going to enlighten her friend as to the real meaning now. and all her other little school chums. the Amazon and I had a similar instructive little conversation when i exclaimed aloud when a transvestite of my acquaintance appeared on a national television show, with my daughter present in the room... and then had to explain transvestitism to my daughter. the next day at school all the other first graders had an entirely new perspective on gender appropriate clothing.

03 April, 2007 17:22  
Blogger claire chimed in with...

eeech. kids are too much work.

you gotta feed them and clothe them and then you have to tell them all about all the different kinds of people and that you shouldn't say this or that and be nice to so and so..

it just sounds like a pain in the ass.

03 April, 2007 18:05  
Blogger Billy chimed in with...

Aagh, the alternative meanings for gay. It's all so confusing!

03 April, 2007 20:44  
Blogger violetforthemoment chimed in with...

I think that was a very sound explanation, surly. Much better than the one my mum gave me when I read the word 'homosexual' in a newspaper aged about 4 and enquired of its origin in front of my grandparents and lots of their friends. Oh, my mother was judged on that performance. She had a job of work doing the social-conditioning thing with me.

03 April, 2007 21:02  
Blogger Vicus Scurra chimed in with...

Oh My GOD! You make her wear a hat? What is wrong with you?

03 April, 2007 21:55  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

see, that's confusing too. she doesn't have a hat at the moment.

sheesh. if it's not Deep Questions, it's surreptitious hat-wearing. what's a parent to do?

03 April, 2007 22:05  
Blogger frangelita chimed in with...

Is the gay=happy definition even still in the dictionary?

And I would definitely keep an eye on this surreptitious hatwearing....

03 April, 2007 22:28  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

apparently eight-year-olds are saying "gay" but are not able to back it up and are thus reverting to the "happy" definition, as advised by scared parents. it seems that i am alone in my liberal we're-all-friends-here approach among small person's social set...

aren't i great? etc, etc...

03 April, 2007 23:05  
Blogger Homer chimed in with...

As someone who spends a lot of time with small people, I suspect that the "friend" was indeed using gay in the perjorative sense but when Small Person called her on it, she told her the meaning that wouldn't get her a right royal rollocking if the teacher overheard.

Sneaky little madam.

04 April, 2007 08:26  
Blogger Femme Fontanelle chimed in with...

Hmmn. methinks Homer has a point there. Or possibly Small Person has the sharp wit of her mother and wanted to see the look on you face when you gave the (easily predicted) Surly definition of the word Gay. Was returning videos to my very favourite and very camp Video Store Assistant, when my eldest caught on that he (VSA) was gay. He said "Mummy's friend calls her a faghag. That's when you are sort of gay like you.". Queue Tumbleweed and lengthy re-explaination on journey home as to the meaning of "faghag" and whether it is an appropriate word to use in conversation with relative strangers.

04 April, 2007 10:07  
Blogger Donna chimed in with...

I applaud you. I always give my boys an honest explanation of these things. They've watched 'Trans America' with their Dad and could ably describe the difference between transexual and transvestite.

I suspect femme f's on to something there. She's a very clever small person and probably thought it would be hilarious to ask you.

04 April, 2007 14:13  
Blogger 007and a half chimed in with...

On the escalator in the middle of Canary Wharf a week ago, loudly:

"Mummy, what's foreplay?"

Imagine if you will, the rigid straight ahead gazes of a dozen besuited men pretending not to have heard.

So my small person said it again, only louder.

Ho hum and fiddledeedee, I am sure that is a word that had not entered the playground vocabulary when I was young.

04 April, 2007 21:27  
Blogger Shell chimed in with...

i have no clever comment to make on this because i'm still howling with laughter at the whole scene and your wonderful telling of the tale! thank you!

05 April, 2007 00:15  
Blogger Donna chimed in with...

So go on Surly ... tell us how you would have explained 'foreplay' ... I'm cringeing thinking about what to say when that one comes up!!

05 April, 2007 09:51  
Blogger rockmother chimed in with...

My son said to his friend's (his friend is mixed race) mum yesterday

Excuse me - are you Finlay's mum?

Yes - she said nicely

Are you sure? he said accusingly(much to my creeping horror)

Yes - she said laughing

So why are you skinny colour and he's brown?

That's a difficult question to answer - she said

I was going to chip in and say not really but detected the mother looking really awkward and uncomfortable and realised I better not say anything at all.

Needless to say I dragged my son away and got him in the car as soon as possible to strains of But Mummy - why? But she IS skinny colour.

Yes ok - get in - stop shouting - I'll tell you later etc etc...

05 April, 2007 11:20  
Blogger clodhopper chimed in with...

Foreplay is a period of warming up before strenuous physical activity. *cough*

06 April, 2007 11:19  

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