Little Johnny started to reach for Margo’s pink doll, being pushed in the doll stroller. “NOOOOO!!!! JOHNNY!!!! THAT’S A GIRL’S DOLL!”, yelled his mother. At first, I was sure that Little Johnny’s mother meant it was “*THE* girl’s doll” (I knew that English was her second language), so I just smiled and said, “Oh, it’s ok, he can play with the doll, Margo won’t mind.“
Just at that moment, a surfer friend of Little’s Johnny’s parents came walking towards us and said, “Oh, Johnny, NOOOOOO, DON’T PLAY WITH THAT!!!!” Little Johnny was still reaching and screaming for the doll, while his mother was dragging him away. I was being dense and didn’t get what was going on, so I blurted out, “Oh, come on guys, it’s ok, he can play with it, Margo really won’t mind.”
Little Johnny’s mother raised her eyes at me and said, “Look, Johnny, over there,” trying to distract him, “there’s a big truck (the surf lifesaver’s truck), let’s go play with the truck, trucks are for boys.”
**Facepalm, instant stomach ache** I immediately saw what was going on. But, still I persisted, because I knew these people fairly well, they’re neighbors of ours and I see them often.
Little Johnny was on the brink of a full blown meltdown. I offered again, “Isn’t it ok if he plays with it for just a minute? He probably won’t play for long...”
Little Johnny was now sobbing, with tears streaming down his face, while his mother held him back with all of her force. Little Johnny was not to touch this pink stuffed toy… it was clear that his life depended on it.
“No darling,” replied Little’s Johnny’s mother to me, “We don’t want him to play with girl toys, we need to teach him to play with more manly things. Little Johnny has a cousin who isn’t so manly, so his father doesn’t want him playing with girl’s toys.”
“WHADDO-YOU-MEAN?!?!” I yelled, as I picked my jaw off the ground.
Eventually, when Little Johnny stopped crying and stopped reaching for the doll, he went and played with the big ‘real‘ truck.
This is a true story.
This happened tonight.
Little Johnny’s name has been changed for the this story, but he is a real little boy and he is 18 months old. It was as if Little Johnny would have been scarred for life and turned instantly gay if he had touched that damn doll.
My girls have access to all sorts of toys and activities, and never do I encourage ‘boy or girl‘ play over the other. I find that naturally, my girls like to play with more girly toys. They love dolls, they love dressing up, they love pink. But, at the same time, they will very happily go splash in puddles, play with trains and learn about insects. I never even once think about what they’re playing with and if it’s boy or girl appropriate. Toys are toys. They. Are. Just. Toys.
I was absolutely gobsmacked by what I saw tonight on the beach. My husband said, “Kate, 95% of the world thinks that boys shouldn’t play with dolls.” I hope he isn’t right…
I hope that Little Johnny grows up to be the man his parents dream of, with a big hairy chest, and not a girly bone in his body. He’ll drink beer and swear and never cry. For his sake, I hope that Little Johnny never wants to play with a doll again… After all, playing with dolls makes little boys grow up to be gay, right? (insert vomit in my throat)