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Someone To Look Up To

Last Friday, my dad turned 68 and the Harlem Globetrotters played in Austin, TX. And in Waco, TX. And in Bowling Green, OH. It seems the Globetrotters have multiplied, because when life gave them Meadowlark Lemon, they made Meadowlark Lemonades…and they sell them for $10 a piece, in three different locations, on the same night. (They actually don’t sell MLLemonades, but they totally should. You can completely steal that idea, Harlem Globetrotters, you’re welcome.)

So yes, my brother and I took my dad to see the Harlem Globetrotters for his birthday…with the grandkids and spouses and God and everyone. And it was a bit of a Full-Circle-Moment because my dad had taken my brother to see them for my brother’s 6th birthday. And okay, sure, I realized after we’d arrived that this might be a more of a dream present for a 6-year-old birthday than a 68-year-old birthday, but whatever, there was popcorn.

The grandkids loved it, especially my son Harry. Because he’s six. I sat between him and my brother, who could remember a remarkable amount about the game he’d attended 32 years earlier, and, since this was my first Globetrotter gathering, he kept me apprised of what to expect. And he was right. Because there, on the court, few things have changed in the last three decades. Besides the aforementioned multiple teams of today, the show is still basically the same. They did the same tricks and gags, pulled down players’ pants, threw buckets of water that magically turned into confetti. The rad stuff that six year olds love, and Harry was laughing his ass off.

One of the best parts for me though, happened before the game started. To warm up the crowd, a hip hop dance troupe came out and performed and few numbers, moves, dances, whatever. They were good, but the most outstanding things about this group…they were not female, and they were not wearing low-cut, satin + fringe bikinis. (Now before his goes into some kind of anti-satin-fringe-bikini thing, that’s not my point. Because A.) Whatever. They’re everywhere. They’re boring. B.) I have a boy, not girls, so my thoughts are in different directions and C.) That’s another post entirely.) These were just some young guys, wearing normal clothes, dancing with impressive talent. And my son was riveted. RIVETED. He’d never seen a bunch of guys perform in such a way in front of so many people. He takes a hip hop class, but it’s taught by a girl, and boys are in the minority…and frankly…can I just say this?…is this where this post is going?…okay, then…It’s so freaking good to see a bunch of guys rocking it out somewhere.

Okay, okay, okay, I know men are everywhere. They still make more, they still rule the world, etc. But then again, more girls than boys are going to college, and there are tons of stats that prove that males are trending toward aimless, and hopeless, and less in general, etc. Also. This post isn’t about that.

The reality: 1.) So much has changed and so much progress has been made in gender equality in America over the last 50 years. 2.) And sure, more has to be done, and yeah, and also, and that, of course. 3.) And true, for there the be anything anywhere near equality, the pendulum has to be swung…intensely, purposefully, and radically. Etc.

But, I’ll just say it, it’s a little weird to look at the world through the eyes of my little boy during the pendulum swing.

You should know I was in the United Center when this was filmed/when Beyonce performed this for the first time. And I was screaming my head off. Even now as I watch that, I tear up. Like, as I’m writing this, tears are in my eyes because I just watched it again. It was incredible. (And oh my, Beyonce was pregnant in her first trimester when she did that y’all. All I did in my first trimester was eat peanut butter, watch American Idol, and sleep.) I love that song. I love that performance. But the first time my son watched this and heard this song, he was super sad and troubled. “I don’t like this song. It’s mean. Why do they say only girls run the world? What about boys? Boys can run it too, can’t they? Why can’t it just be people run the world?”

And as much as I love girl power, the boy’s got a point.

Point 2: Remember, this is coming from a kid whose only understanding of the world began in 2005…and let’s be honest, he’s only started to understand a PBS-Kids-version of the world since about 2008. So he has no concept why one gender would need to be encouraged over another. But there’s a lovely purity there. A pure viewpoint of how things could be. This is also the kid who was utterly confused last week why “none of the people running for president on TV have dark skin.” The world according to Harry: “It’s weird, Mom. They all have white skin and they’re all boys. None of them have dark skin like our normal President. That’s weird.”

Point 3: Also last week, Harry asked me if boys could be “principals of companies like girls can.” Because he thinks his school principal owns the school and is the boss of the school, and you get it. I told him that of course boys could own companies. He is confused. “But all my principals and teachers have been girls, and you own a company, and NaNa is the mayor, and all the girls own things and schools and companies and no boys do.”

And of course that isn’t exactly true in his kindergarten world. But that’s how he understood it.

And that’s for sure not true in the world at large. But that’s how he understands it.

Because that’s what he sees. And that’s what he hears on the radio. And that’s what he reads on T-shirts. And I hate that for him.

So as we celebrated my dad’s 68 years, I thought about the changes he’s seen since 1944. There’s no question the pendulum has swung. And thank goodness, because that world was bafflingly bizarre at best. So go Beyonce. Go girls. I’m right there with you.

But until we find our balance, I see so clearly that my son’s current 3-foot-and-10-inch viewpoint is discouraging. And I hate that. I really hate that.

Of course he’s not thinking about any of this. The next day, he gleefully told a couple of strangers…born in the 1940s themselves…that he had the best time ever at his Pop’s Birthday Party. His report: “We saw the Olive Godtrotters! And they pulled their pants down! And it was awesome!”

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