I opened the door to Kai's classroom and saw children running around with headbands made of paper and colored feathers. It was three days before Thanksgiving.
"Kai," his teacher said, "would you like to make a Native American headband?"
"You are going to play Indians today, Kai!" I exclaimed and instantly congratulated myself for speaking to him in Slovak, so that nobody else could understand me. You don't say "Indian" nowadays, do you? Isn't it politically incorrect? I wish I knew. I get terribly confused about these things. Thinking about political correctness, I panicked. "Should they be allowed to wear these at all?" I thought, recalling Victoria's Secret controversy in which a model wore a Native American headdress on the runway. The show sparked a public outrage. Both the retailer and the model had to apologize. Sure, my son is not a scantily clad model, but he still pees his pants occasionally. Could that be offensive enough? When we got home that evening, Kai ran to his Dad to show him the headband. "Kai," I said, "tell Daddy who wears these." "Naked Americans!" he yelled proudly. "Native, honey, not naked." I corrected him.
Just before Halloween, Julianne Hough drew criticism when she dressed as "Crazy Eyes" -- a character from the hit Netflix series "Orange Is the New Black". I saw the headlines and -- I admit -- I was puzzled. "Does this mean I can never be Michael Jackson for Halloween?" I asked my husband, and before he could answer, I added: "Actually, he would be the only black person I could be, since his skin color was the same as mine." Then I sat back and wondered how many offensive points I just ranked up.
"Do we order 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Holidays' cards?" I asked Peter yesterday, worried that my ignorance might get me in trouble.
"I don't know," he said, "it depends on who we send them to."
"I have some Jewish friends that will be receiving them," I said.
"Then 'Happy Holidays', I guess...even though we celebrate Christmas...I don't know," he admitted and I felt so much better.
As I was driving to Kai's daycare last Valentine's Day, I remembered I needed cards for his classmates. I ran into the supermarket and grabbed the first box. "No Valentine's Day would be complete without you to make it extra sweet", I read back in the car. Crap. Is this too suggestive? Will my son get suspended on the grounds of sexual harassment when one of the Dad's interprets the card as Kai's effort to get into his daughter's pull up? Nonsense, I thought, they are three years old. Then again, they are not allowed to pretend that they play with imaginary guns. Of course, they can get real ones for their first birthdays. Can you see how this gets confusing?
"Don't kill yourself over it." I commented on my friend's Facebook status update. Then I promptly deleted it. He wrote a bestseller about a girl who committed a suicide.
Then there is the whole gender equality issue. You are not supposed to tell girls they look pretty anymore, because if you do, you are stereotyping and thus ruining their future of an electrical engineer. She will never have the self esteem necessary to pass the physics class if you comment on her good looks rather than on her smartness. I believe this applies even if the girl is 16 months old and all you see her do is to throw cooked peas on the wall. Children's place was forced to pull girls' T-shirts that claimed math was not their favorite subject - shopping, music and dancing was. "It's neither funny nor cute to suggest girls can't -- or won't -- like math in school," Huffington post article claimed. I personally think this shirt would be perfect for me, but by now we all agree that I am a troll that probably likes to torture kittens in spare time.
When I took 2-month-old Fiona to a public gathering in a pink and black checkered shirt and black pants, she was mistaken for a boy. I don't care, truly. At that age all babies look the same. But the lady who referred to her as "him" was awfully apologetic. "You see," she explained, "I saw the checkers and assumed it was a boy." It seems that pink finally made it across the border and is now acceptable for both boys and girls. Poor checkers, on the other hand, still have ways to go.
And how about selfie - the word so brand spanking new that my spell check still doesn't know it exists? "Selfies aren't empowering; they're a high tech reflection of the fucked up way society teaches women that their most important quality is their physical attractiveness." says one article. "Selfies give us a chance to show the world how we see ourselves. And that is giving us back the control that is often stripped away from us." says another. Being a selfie enthusiast, it has never crossed my mind that I was crying for attention or taking back control. I thought I was taking a photo of myself that others might find silly, amusing, cute or interestingly composed. Now I can't decide if I take them because people were telling me I was pretty when I was a child, or because they failed at saying so. I just don't know.