M. turned six over the weekend. Six!
So I told her she could invite six friends over to our house for a party. But then six became seven, and seven became eight.
No worries, said gendermom, like she’d done this before (she hadn’t). It’s not like they’ll ALL be able to come.
They all came.
As the parents kissed their daughters goodbye and flew out the door, eager to drink in each precious child-free moment, M. and Sophie, her BFF from school, began making farting sounds on their arms.
For two remarkably long hours, I was in charge of nine six-year-old girls. Yes, all girls. As soon as the guest list began to take shape, M., my transgender daughter, had announced a strict “girls only” policy for her party. No exceptions – not even for her beloved boy cousins or her playground sweetheart, the highly huggable H. Having clawed and scratched her feisty way inside the girl camp, she’s going to make darn sure there aren’t any holes in the fence. (What if they let a boy in and then someone kicks her out? Better not risk it.)
When the blur of squeals, cupcakes, and jokes about butts (thank you, M. and Sophie) was all over and done and the last little guest had departed, it was time, of course, for the family party.
On the same day?
Heck, gendermom had reasoned (apparently relying upon a mysterious system that does not actually resemble ‘reason’ at all), Why not get it all over in one fell swoop?
Grandma and Grandpa arrived, their arms full of gifts, along with my sister and her kids and a close family friend who is my parents’ age and who dotes on M. – we’ll call her Auntie S. After dinner (pizza) and the day’s second round of presents and cake, plus a restorative glass or two of cabernet for yours truly, M. stood up on a chair and banged a metal spoon against a saucepan.
“Ladies and Gentlemen! Ladies and Gentlemen! Please take your seats!”
My sister and I obediently joined Grandma and Auntie S. on the couch. We knew the drill: It was Show Time! Grandpa made the rounds with a wine bottle, refilling our glasses.
“The show is starting! Take your seats! Grandpa, that means you!”
Then M. and her cousin, A., treated us to one of those hastily prepared and barely intelligible skits that I remember performing as a kid at family events. M. was the star, of course. I think she was the director, too. She barked orders at her older cousin (“Go there! No, over here!”), who lurked off to the side, obviously not sure this skit was such a good idea after all.
The show turned out to be a gripping medical drama: M., with a plastic baby doll stuffed into her dress, clutched her sides and moaned, then shouted at her cousin: “Husband! Husband! Catch the baby! Catch the baby!” Poor A. was too nervous to join M. at center stage to catch his baby, and it dropped to the ground with a thud. “Again! We need to do it again!” the little director called. They did it again, and this time the seven-year-old husband dutifully snatched his newborn baby and tucked it under his arm. (We recognized the story. My parents’ goddaughter had just given birth while standing up in the hospital waiting room, and her husband actually caught the kid before the doctors showed up to help. I’m assuming he caught it on the first try. M. must have heard us talking about this and mined it for dramatic purposes, which I thought showed great creative instincts, actually. I felt so proud of her, and also really, really sad. I looked around the room at my family: Were they all thinking what I was? That this will never happen? That this is as close as my child will ever get to being pregnant? Or am I the only one who inserts a transgender subtext into everything? And does my daughter really not know yet how this baby stuff works?)
M. bowed (grandly). A. bowed (perfunctorily). The audience cheered, raised our glasses, and attempted to return to our interrupted conversations.M. held the stage. “So… Do you guys want an encore or a different show next?”
I talked with my mom later about how great the party had been and how proud I was of M.’s moxie. I told her how M. had led all her friends in a Sound of Music sing-a-long at her birthday party that afternoon, and then got them to line up and follow her on a parade through the house. “My kid’s a leader!” I bragged. “She could be president!”
Then Mom told me what Auntie S. had said on their drive home from the party. “She remarked on how M.’s energy was so… like that of a boy.”
I told her about how Sophie had stuffed an entire cupcake in her mouth at the party, shocking and delighting the all-girl crowd, and how Sophie had soundly defeated M. in their fart-noise competition. “But no one says Sophie is acting like a boy!” I said. “She’s ‘sassy’ or ‘strong’ or a ‘tom boy’ because she’s not transgender!”
“I know, I know,” my mom said, trying to calm me down. “I’m sure you’re right, honey.”
Last week my cousin dropped off some of her daughter’s hand-me-down clothes for M. These included some cute little jeans with a snazzy rhinestone pattern on the pocket. I pointed out this girlie feature to M. “Look, isn’t this pretty? Why don’t you try these on?”
“Nope. I don’t wear pants,” she said, like a vegan explaining her diet: No eggs, no dairy, no pants. End of discussion.
I didn’t push it. I don’t care, of course, if she ever wears pants, but I long for the day she’ll feel like she can wear them if she wants to. For now, she’s carefully avoiding any missteps that might result in her expulsion from the girl camp: No pants, no boys at your birthday party. But so far, thank goodness, no fear of taking center stage and leading her comrades in song.
Happy birthday, angel. I love you with all my heart.