Boys and belles, I hate to do it, but I feel the need to rail against the system. Polite Society is governed by a set of very strict set of rules and I normally don’t have a problem with most of them. I’m not the most extroverted individual on the planet and I’m usually more than happy with a set of rules—or blueprints, if you will—to deal with social situations. “Yes ma’am,” “No sir,” “thank you” and “please” are just super damn fantastic and you’ll never hear me speak a word against them.
The problem I have is with the lack of gender equality in the rules of Amy Vanderbilt, Emily Post and all of the extrapolations therefrom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind having my door opened for me or a chair held while I sit down. We are Southern Women and we at least deserve a little bit of deference, but there has to be a better way to raise little boys and belles where the rules aren’t stacked. I freely admit that I don’t have an alternative plan to offer—I certainly wouldn’t turn down any suggestions.
There is an honest to God infuriating speed bump in the path to gender equality in etiquette and I guess the best way to describe it is through my experience:
While I was growing up, I had a curfew. It was usually 10:00 or 11:00 PM and I was told more than once that the locks would be changed if I was so bold as to be late. Furthermore, I practically had to submit a “Field Trip Proposal” for any evening outing. What time was I leaving? How was I getting there? Who was going with me? Where were we going? Why? What exactly was going on at our point of destination? What was the anticipated roll call at said destination? What was the phone number? How long would I be there? How was I getting home?
On many occasions, there was also the time honored traditional question of: “You’re wearing that???”
I wasn't a wild child in the least, but I had a curfew for prom. When I went to college, my parents signed a form available at the time that forbade me to go off campus in the evenings. College...COLLEGE I say!
Now let’s talk about my brother. Ethan is four years younger than me. Please bear the aforementioned plethora of questions in mind when you read the dialogue that took place upon Ethan announcing his evening departures:
Ethan: [Walking through the house without breaking stride] I’m gone.
Parents: [To Ethan’s exiting back] Where are you going?
Ethan: [Still walking] Out.
Parents: When will you be back?
Ethan: When you see me. [Cue slamming door.]
That was it. No fussing. No fighting. No grounding. They didn’t even so much as issue the threat about the locks being changed on the doors. Zip. Zippo. Nichts. لا شيء,. Ничего не.
I can barely envision myself in Ethan’s place, but when I do, I picture convents, secured boarding schools and undisciplined child hearings in New Hanover County Juvenile Court. It just wasn’t my character.
A couple of years before the arrival of the Baby Belles, we were out with friends and I recall railing against the inequality of rearing the genders. I cited the perceived inequality of my situation and vowed most solemnly that, if I was ever blessed enough to have children and had a boy and a girl, the disparate treatment would not be tolerated in my house. Daughters would have the same curfew as sons.
Immediately after my bold declaration, someone said, “Well, then I guess you want to be the world’s youngest grandmother.”
What the hell? Girls have to be kept in a pin or outfitted with a GPS chip because they might get knocked up? Perhaps someone who makes such an ignorant statement hasn’t been keeping up with the scientific advances of the 5th Century B.C. where it was definitively proven that it does, in fact, take two to tango.
I’m not the brightest bulb on the shelf, but I’m pretty sure that if my son got a girl pregnant that I will also be a grandmother.
I can also whole-heartedly assure you that my make-believe son would have his hind quarters tanned six ways ‘til Sunday and what was left of him would be chained to a coal mine earning a living for his brand spanking new family with the occasional furlough for OB visits, the actual birth and 3:00 AM feedings. Also, having actually been in labor twice in my life, I can confidently tell you that the theoretical son o’ mine would still have it comparatively easy, so I would furthermore consider attaching a hog shocker to his testicles and giving the controls to Baby Mama so that she could zap him every time she felt a contraction.
I’m a fair person and I think that sounds perfectly reasonable.
As fate would have it, I had girls and I couldn’t be happier. They will be taught that they deserve the same respect as boys (if not more). I still don’t have a solution to my equality dilemma, but—for now—I think that their prospective suitors will have to be contractually engaged to be in their own homes no less than fifteen minutes after they drop my babies safely at their door because it's only fair. Either sign on the dotted line or Zip. Zippo. Nichts. لا شيء,. Ничего не.