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Breeding Sissies

At the birth of her son, Kris Berggren already had “plans” for him, big plans: “My boy would,” she writes in her column in the National Catholic Reporter (Dec. 8, 2000), “grow up to be a fine, compassionate human being, raised in a non-sexist atmosphere where he would never be pigeonholed into playing with guns and trucks while his sisters got Barbies and ballet classes.”

Kris reports with satisfaction that “Today at age 10, my son is a compassionate and fine human being.” Moreover, he’s “gentle.” More than that, he “never scans the box scores in the sports section of the newspaper or pines after a certain hockey stick or baseball glove.” Then Kris tells us: “I bet he couldn’t name five professional athletes. But he loves to dance. His face lights up when it’s time to go to [ballet] practice.”

Kris admits that “even his [school] teacher wondered aloud if there was something we could do to ‘toughen him up’ just a bit.” That wise and pointed nudging seems to have left Kris unfazed, for she tells us that she’s “fortunate to travel in circles that include lots of creative types…who applaud my son’s interest [in ballet],” and so Kris has plenty of support for her experiment in androgyny. Indeed, Kris is not only unembarrassed by the way her son is developing, but positively proud. She says her “dream” is that someday other moms can “rejoice…proudly” with their “son the dancer” the way they now do with their “son — or daughter — the goalie or shortstop.”

We aren’t big on teenage rebellion, but there’s such a thing as healthy teenage rebellion. We can just see her son rebelling against his “non-sexist” upbringing: When the boy turns 15 he burns his ballet slippers in the backyard, at age 16 he buys an Oakland Raiders jacket at an NFL shop, at age 17 he subscribes to Guns and Ammo, at age 18 he pines away for a turbocharged Porsche with a six-speed manual gearbox, and at age 19 he joins the Marines. Oh, what liberation — what self-discovery — that could be for the boy! Then, to quote Rudyard Kipling, “you’ll be a Man, my son!” — or at least you’ll have a much better shot at it.

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