I am still learning about men.
I was one of four daughters, attended all girl catholic schools my entire life, never knew what a jock strap looked like, have no idea how to change a tire and never experienced the bright stadium lights at a night-time football game. My father did put up a basketball hoop once in our driveway, short-lived when the ball sailed through the glass pane of the garage door. There it stood neglected for years a sad testament to the son my mother never had.
My Scottish reared father never once expressed regret at not having a son. Rather, he reveled in his four daughters and life among them. He loved his girls. Though there were times we tried his patience. A flashback of his screams from the shower after being cut by a worn down razor blade used on too many female teenage legs. Or his aversion to the smell of nail polish remover. He hated the smell of nail polish remover. He was equally content watching a rugby match as he was a cooking show.
During his daughter’s bridal showers, all four of them, rather than fleeing for the afternoon as most men might, my father would delight in being part of the celebration. There he would sit center stage, in his recliner, newspaper in hand (a ploy to feign disinterest) among the squeals and chaos of thirty females. Every now and again as a new gift was unveiled he would lift his head up casually and remark “Ah what’s this one? Hold it up a little closer Kath…”
My sister Sheila, too experienced this sometimes disadvantage of not having grown up with or been schooled among boys. When she and my mother visited Lord and Taylor to buy her first boyfriend a birthday gift, the saleswoman paused in puzzlement as she inquired as to where she might find the men’s “blouses.”
In addition to my father there was in fact one other male in our family. A big, beautiful Irish wolfhound, brought back from a holiday in Ireland. I recall listening in on a now famous conversation in our family between my mother and the vet. “I need to bring Connell in to be spayed,” The vet’s patient reply: “You mean neutered Mrs. Dickinson.” My mother’s reply “Oh, yes that is when they fix his vagina?” My sister and I stared at each other, and then burst into laughter. We thought that something must have gotten lost in translation as my mother, Irish-born, often had her own interpretation of words. Looking back however, I think she simply believed Connell like the rest of us, female, at least in theory.
I married and ironically, have two sons. My husband has taught them the things his own father taught him; how to throw a ball, using common tools for simple jobs, being kind and respectful. My sons are equally in touch with their feminine side and have as many female friends as male. They have five female cousins whom they see frequently further adding to their comfort level with girls, not to mention the added bonus of always have a date for the prom.
But I guess in at least one aspect boys will be boys. Despite my pleas, they still on occasion leave the seat up.
Our toy fox terrier Anabel however, is female. Score for my side.