I kept hearing it with baby bump number three: “You trying for your girl this time?” they’d ask.
And I’d giggle nervously, because that’s what I do instead of punching strangers in the face, all the while hoping my two lovely, muddy, marker-bedecked sons hadn’t heard.
No, we weren’t trying for “our girl.” We were praying for a boy. And that’s what we got — thanks to God and quick sperm — and two years on, I’m still as thrilled to be the mama of three boys as I was when I saw the man parts on the 20-week ultrasound.
Some people want girls. They yearn for them — with their pigtails and princesses, that mystical mother-daughter bond. They hunt down expensive ruffled dresses, bliss out on Barbie … and they have every right to those feelings.
But me? I prefer boys. I always got along better with them. In college, most of my friends were guys. I’m always the one to talk to my mama friends’ husbands when they’re standing around looking awkward. I’m louder than most women I know, and I say the f-word far more often. I find guys emotionally easier.
That’s partially because I got some nasty bullying at the hands of Queen Bees. It started early, in second grade; girls called me ugly and made fun of my name. They excluded me from our social circles. When I cried to my mom about it, she said, “Well, you didn’t have any friends last year, either. It’s your fault you don’t have any.”
For years, I believed I was incapable of making female friends.
Middle school only intensified the problem: I shaved my legs late enough for ridicule, girls threw my coat on the floor, one girl told me I’d never have any friends because I was too ugly, and, oh, I was the teacher’s kid, which didn’t help matters. I cried every night. The boys weren’t innocent in my torment, but they weren’t nearly as vicious or as unrelenting.
The bullying continued in high school. I never knew how to put on makeup (gay men eventually taught me long after), so my lack of girly primping earned me torment. I got called ugly — as in, when I went to answer a question in class, I heard, “Shut up, you’re ugly.” I got cut out of teams and tables. A group of particularly nasty chicks convinced me I was going out with the hottest boy at school, only for me to find he was oblivious to the whole charade.
Now, I did have some girl friends then, but even my best friends were on-again off-again. I never knew if they would like me from one day to the next. We fought over stupid stuff, like notes and wrong tones and he-said-she-said. Every day, I went to high school petrified I’d have no one to sit with at lunch. Our friendships seemed to revolve more around TV and music than actual, you know, friendship. We seldom speak now.
I’m still slow to warm up to women. I’m wary, waiting for the other shoe to drop and for the malicious laughter to boil up from that mean Queen Bee place.
I didn’t want to be slow to warm up to my child.
Obviously, a daughter wouldn’t pop out of the womb as a mean girl … but wounds run deep. I’d prefer not to deal with a girl. It feels safer, more comfortable, to deal with boys (and I didn’t have to pay therapists hundreds of dollars to help me through it).
Boys are easier for me. I’m comfortable dealing with head-bashing, stick-throwing, and pine cones-to-the-eye. I’m not okay coping with relational aggression — the you-can’t-play-with-me, I’m-your-friend-now-I’m-not that can categorize many little girls’ play.
Not all girls, of course, but some.
I find that kind of stuff triggering. When my boys do it, I’ve got the distance of sex to keep me from unraveling. But if my little girl was left alone crying about mean girls, I don’t know if I’d go all Hulk or curl into a little ball along with her.
And what definitely would make me curl into a little ball is the thought of having to raise a body-positive girl. I got told I was ugly enough for it to sink in. Whenever I try on clothes, my main question is, “How fat do I look in this?”
It’s much easier to hide that from my boys. I wouldn’t want my daughter to see me pinching my muffin top or lamenting that my jeans don’t fit. My boys don’t wander in and out of my bedroom, and hence miss the drama of fat and thin, of Spanx and waistbands. A daughter would come in. A daughter would see. And I wouldn’t want her to.
So no, I wasn’t trying for “my girl.”
Quite the opposite, actually. I have too many specific neuroses from which I’d have to shield a potential daughter. And though it’s true that I’m in therapy, therapy can only go so far.
I’m happy with my three boys. I don’t find them triggering, and I can parent them without worrying about my issues reflecting back at me. It’s easier this way, really.
Maybe one day we’ll have a daughter, and I’ll need to suck up and deal with my problems. But until then, we’re a happy man tribe and I wouldn’t have it any other way.