My husband whips his head in my direction. I know what he’s thinking. We’re both doing the math. We could sell our home in Orange County, California, and buy a nice home on a few acres here with cash. What would we do for work? How are the schools? How are the winters? Would my new wardrobe be rustic vintage gypsy cowgirl or bohemian cowgirl chic?
We’re so caught up in thought that we don’t address C.J’s statement. I flash forward 10 years and know for certain that if C.J. continues being gender-creative, this small town would be the absolute worst place to bring him up: The population of 1,500 is mostly Ute Indians or white, unemployed single people living below the poverty line.
You know how people move from, say, California to Alaska because skin cancer runs in their family and they want to save their children from the disease so they flee the sun? If moving from California to Colorado would change our gender-nonconforming son into a gender-conforming one, would we move?
Rewind to five days earlier when he wanted to pack his hand-me-down pink flower girl dress (a gift from my goddaughter, who was cleaning out her closet) and new tap shoes for his trip to the wilderness. This town is tiny in population but big in backwardness. And, they obviously take consumerism lightly: The nearest escalator is an hour-and-a-half-away. There is no department store, no Target, no Wal-Mart, no K-Mart, not even a Costco. They recently got a Sonic, but the locals boycott it in favor of the local malt shop, which is named, aptly, The Malt Shoppe. There are no paid firefighters, they’re all volunteers. Should a blaze be set aglow, this small town would be screwed. The local police officer lives down the street. If his car is in his driveway, it’s a good time to commit a crime.
Then, I got to thinking. Even I like boy stuff more in Colorado. I ride ATVs, I shoot guns, I zipline, I hold a pole and pretend to fish, I even had a sip of beer. I’m gender-nonconforming in Colorado. Put that on a t-shirt and I’ll wear it to the local PFLAG meeting. What’s that? They’ve never heard of PFLAG? Added to all of that, the toys that my mother-in-law keeps at her house are for boys, because that’s all there is in the family. And, then, along came C.J. To a family and a piece of the state where men are manly…and so are the women.
My best friend’s husband, Timmy S, joined us for a few days in Colorado this year. He was there as C.J. cried and flailed as we removed him from an ATV. He wanted “more motorcycle rides.” Timmy S. looked at me and amusingly said “Uh, oh. What are you gonna do now?”
Is my little rainbow turning all blue?
Not so quick. When the rest of the family was making the NRA proud and shooting guns after lunch, C.J. refused to wear ear protectors, until he saw that one pair had a pink sticker on it. He claimed those real quick. At night we’re covered in filth. C.J. eyed Grandmas pink soap rose petals and candles and had a bath by candlelight with floating pink petals nightly. Grandma has two sets of silverware, one more modern and one with lots of scrolls and roses. C.J. will only eat with the frilly ones, because “they are da ones da princesses use.”
I’m feeling bad. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Last year when we were in Colorado, Uncle Uncle and his boyfriend were house-sitting for us, which really means that they wanted to sit poolside in The O.C. and drink our liquor. Anyway, I called them halfway through the trip and instructed them to hide all of C.J.’s girl stuff. Strawberry Shortcake, Barbie, Tinkerbell, all of it. They all went headfirst into a trash bag and were suffocated in a dark corner of my closet. C.J. didn’t ask for them when we got home. Outta sight outta mind. He played with all of the girl toys that were left out because Uncle Uncle and his boyfriend apparently did a shitty of job on the simple task of identifying a “girl” toy, putting it in a bag and putting the bag in my closet. They really did try, they swore.
As the weeks passed, I slowly reintroduced some of the hidden contraband back into C.J.’s life on the sly, because it was cheaper than buying new toys and because I felt guilty. Ah, a mother’s guilt. Some of the toys I threw away because they were old and overused anyway.
This year, in a flash of stupidity, it crossed my mind to do the same thing. But, I learned my lesson and resisted the urge. C.J. can like girl stuff in California and boy stuff in Colorado. He can like whatever he wants in whatever state he wants. I’m just glad that he gets the opportunity to be exposed to it all. That’s what I want for my kids, to be exposed to lots of different things and choose their own bliss to follow out in the sun. No more suffocating dolls in the back of a dark closet at home.