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On the female gender, of which I might soon be a part January 26, 2009

Posted by markgeil in Family, Posts that remind me of how cool Micronauts were.
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When I was a kid, my older brothers and I thought it was the very height of insult to call each other girl names. My oldest brother Steve became Stephanie. The middle brother Eric was easy – Erica. I became Marsha. Conversations would regularly disintegrate into girl-name calling.

                “You broke my Micronauts Battle Cruiser!”

                “Did not!”

                “Did too!”

                “Dummy!”

                “Idiot!”

                “Erica!”

                “Marsha!”

Wrestling ensued. Suffice it to say, being called a girl was just about the lowest of low. In fact, two gender-related instances from my childhood had such an impact that I still remember them today. The first was in that volatile window between the times when I was old enough to answer the phone and when I was old enough for my voice to change. On several occasions, I would answer said phone in the manliest “Hello” by little voice could muster, and the caller would cheerfully say, “Hey Dot!” That’s Mom’s name. That’s devastation. I mean, think about it (and I did think about it!): a dad, three sons, and a mom. One lone female. Shouldn’t the odds be pretty good that the caller would assume a male was answering? Alas, my crestfallen girly voice would have to reply, “This is Mark. Just a minute.”

The other scarring incident was that fateful Halloween in which I wanted to dress as a ghost. Now, in the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin special, all the kids just cut two holes in a white sheet and they were ghosts (except for poor Charlie Brown, who was not good with scissors). My mother (and if there were ever an appropriate time for the idiom “Bless her heart”, this was the one) wanted to take ghost-costuming to the next level. She designed a masterpiece, with white face paint and fabric and even white gauze to create the ethereal other-worldly effect you just can’t get with a sheet. I was stoked.

First house. Empty candy bag practically bristling with the anticipation of the chocolate goodness that would fill it. First chorus of “Trick or Treat” from my friends and me. The lady at the door starts handing out the goods and commenting on our costumes. When it’s my turn, she uttered the phrase that would ruin my evening, that would haunt me to this day. She did not faint from shock, thinking I was a real ghost. She did not recoil in fear and run to protect her own children. Instead, she said,

“What a beautiful bride!”

Alas, my crestfallen girly voice replied, “I’m a ghost.” And she was not the last to stick that dagger in my heart. The candy must have been good, because I kept trick-or-treating the whole night, finally preempting the costume evaluation with my own declaration: “I’m not a bride. I’m a ghost.” We didn’t say “freakin'” then, but it would have been a good adjective.

I am happy to report that I grew up, and the balance of my childhood was wonderful. My brothers and I manage intelligent conversations now and rarely call each other by our girl-names. We spend more time calling out real girl names. Steve has two daughters, Eric has twin daughters, and I have three! They have sons to complement their girly houses, but not I. It’s all girly, all the time at Chez ATL Geils.

I remembered all these stories today because I might be turning into a girl. I don’t trip over matchbox cars and baseballs in our house; instead, I vacuum up pony-tail-holders. I can even operate a pony-tail-holder, sort-of. I watched figure skating this weekend. Mostly it was on when I was in the room, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t watch a little, mainly looking for the crashes. I even turned it on yesterday to TiVo it for my wife, and for a few seconds there I was alone in a room while a male-ish figure skater with some fishnet glove things over what looked like painted fingernails sat in a chair weeping. I can even paint fingernails, sort-of. I’m even doing a Beth Moore Bible study! My wife bought it, and it’s about John, the Disciple, and he’s my favorite character in the Bible next to Jesus, so I’m doing it on my own time. It’s not intentionally girly, but she’s definitely a woman used to communicating with other women.  And if all that wasn’t enough to irrevocably damage my man card, I went to a concert last night featuring Beth Moore! I’m like one of those women-Beth-Moore-groupies now! Maybe you and I can have coffee sometime and talk about what Beth Moore was wearing and just how sweet she was and how that makes me feel in my emotions and my inner self.

But there I sat, with Beth Moore teaching me a thing or two about the Bible (turns out she’s really good at that), with my wife beside me, Sarah and Hannah down the row, and Rebekah making her way past the lot of them to get to Mommy’s lap. Bek had hit the wall, and when she hits the wall, she falls asleep. No matter where she is. No matter how loud Travis Cottrell is belting the soft-rock praise music. She crashes. And there she crashed, on Mommy’s lap, spilling over onto mine and kicking several people in the process. Her soft blonde hair draped across my shoulder. Her sleepy eyes with their long eyelashes gently closed. Pink crocs slid off onto the floor and she was out. There I sat, Beth-Moore-Groupies all around me, my four girly-girls beside me and even a little bit on top of me, and I prayed, thanking God for this life.

I wouldn’t trade it for a thing.

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