Stop Asking Me If I’m Going to Try For a Boy

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It happens like this: I enter a coffee shop/grocery store/playground and a well-intentioned babysitter/passerby/cashier will note how sweet my two girls look together. Yes. Two. Girls. And for some reason, once it’s been determined that I indeed have two children and they are both female — and I guess I still look like a woman with some good childbearing years ahead of her — I get hit with this nugget, “Well, now you have to try for a boy!” Or, the question that makes me even more uncomfortable, “Are you going to try for a boy next?”

A. Boy. Like there’s a universal spirit male that I can somehow channel, and should, so that my overall maternal-ness can finally enjoy a fulfilled, meaningful completeness. “You have to have a boy,” they will say, smiling. “Oh, boys are so different.” “Boys love their mommies.” “Daddies need their boys.”

These comments come out in all different ways, but even if well meaning, I am sick and tired of them.

Here’s what most of these clueless strangers don’t know. My second daughter, Elise, was probably a miracle baby. I have documented my struggle with endometriosis as well as other fertility obstacles. Even if I wanted another baby, I don’t even know that my body could get pregnant or carry another child. But, I don’t want to share my life story with just anyone, so, I refrain. 

More importantly, these observations serve to confirm the scary notion I have that should one or both of my daughters decide one day to identify differently than “classic girl,” there will be tons of people who don’t like it and who have something to say about it.

Also tangled up in this idea that I might want more than my own familial male-female footprint (a boy to follow my husband and a girl to follow me), is my dread that our society is stuck in the dark ages when it comes to gender specific issues. How my own girls might choose to express their “girl-ness” now or otherwise is their own damn prerogative.

Okay. You might think it’s a leap. But the gender pigeonholing starts from day one. If you’re trying to conceive a boy or a girl, you’re told there are sexual methods to achieve a baby of the desired sex. Baby name books talk about more “feminine” and “masculine” names for children. Later, toy catalogues tout pink vacuum cleaners and ironing boards for girls to play with. And, yes, my own girls have a hand-me-down play kitchen that is pink, not blue. But my girls love the color pink. They also appreciate purple, turquoise, any shade of yellow, and all those other fantastically named Crayola colors. Burnt sienna and purple mountain majesty are some of our faves.

I get scared for my girls and their future. They probably see my brow wrinkle up as I read the newspaper and worry over this year’s election, or what it could mean for female reproductive rights. They may note my annoyance when I question why Barbie has to wear a short mini dress and heels in order to perform her job as dentist-Barbie or scientist-Barbie and try to instead steer them toward the mermaid or spy Barbie instead.

Sigh. It’s still so painfully obvious that “boys versus girls” presides today. So much so that the old lady pushing a stroller next to me on the sidewalk can’t resist telling me I should “Try for a boy!”. She will tell me that boys are different than girls and I should want a boy seeing as I already have girls. That this is somehow the appropriate response to a family with even one girl is beyond me (and I have plenty of friends with one daughter who get the same question). Or that even “having a boy” baby is supposed to mean something so fundamentally different and important than having a girl baby. Seems patronizing, paternalistic, and dismissive to me.

Maybe you think I’m being too sensitive, but I am used to that comment. Girls get it a lot. The next time someone asks me (or tells me!) about having a boy next, I’ll calmly point them to my two daughters. While one loves princess dresses and tries to sneak my lip-gloss, the other is interested in trucks and soccer.

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Photo: Getty