Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Diva goes national--AOL ParentDish features my tale of our Chicken-turned-Princess

I'm thrilled to be the first gay dad ever writing a same-sex parenting column for a national mainstream media outlet. Alternating weeks with lesbian mom Valerie Rhodes, I'll be chronicling adventures with my diva at ParentDish.com, an AOL site. The first column is up and begins below. Follow the link for the whole read.

When my daughter was not quite 3, she told my husband and me that she wanted to be a chicken for an upcoming costume party.

We thought this was hilarious and I found myself snootily proud of her choice. See, my kid's no joiner. Let every other girl be Cinderella; mine is going to be a chicken. I did what any self-respecting gay dad would do next: I bought feathers -- lots of them -- and began sewing the bantam costume of her dreams. But then, the unthinkable happened: She came home the next day saying she wanted to be a princess, instead. How did this happen?!

She'd gotten the idea from day care, though it was never clear whether the mastermind had been a teacher or playmate -- toddlers can be so vague! Either way, I was outraged and disappointed that she'd been led away from her perfectly original first idea and steered down the conformist path. So, as excited as she was about her new choice, I didn't exactly run to a fabric store to make her a fabulous ball gown.

We live in the liberal Northeast and move in circles where princess culture is viewed with deep suspicion, as the embodiment of old school sexism mixed with naked consumerism. My husband and I boasted that our daughter wouldn't be the princess type -- we were raising a strong girl with independence and spunk, not a damsel in distress waiting to be saved.

So, I put off her costume request, hoping it would go the way of the chicken, soon replaced by something else. Instead, she dug in deeper -- and so did I.

My husband broke the stalemate. He pointed out that if we'd had a son who wanted to dress like a princess, we'd have said yes in a heartbeat, proud of ourselves for supporting his self-expression. Yet, we had trouble supporting a girl who wanted the very same thing. What sense did it make for gay dads to tell their daughter she couldn't be whatever she wanted?


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