While not particularly athletic, Jessie has always loved to ice skate. We are fortunate to live just moments away from one of the most beautiful outdoor rinks you’d ever have the pleasure of skating on. As a little boy (yep, did that on purpose) we used to take George to the small area alongside the big rink which was populated with milk crates. We would (not always so) patiently direct him how to use one to balance his parka-ed, mittened, snowpanted self from falling on the ice, although with all his added bulk and short distance to the ground, no tumble was ever too significant. It took only two or three such visits before he was raring to get onto the big ice with the big kids and whiz around…the faster the better. With a ridiculously reasonable $5 admission fee, it is perennial weekend favorite for the entirety of its season (which also manages to sneak in a little exercise with the kids none the wiser).
A week or so ago, Jessie unearthed her skates from last winter and announced that she was unable to wear them. Since they are your traditional black boy’s hockey skates, I assumed that she was rejecting them for what they represented to her. I was also acutely aware of her not so thinly veiled goal of attaining a new pair of white figure skates to accompany her pink jacket/hat/glove ensemble. Noting my disbelief, she angrily attempted to pull one on and son of a bitch, despite having bought them with “room to grow”, the damn boots were two sizes too small. So new skates it would be…just not quite yet. She went to the rink with Rich and rented skates; an exercise which offended her as it seemed to suggest that she is not a “real” skater. Fair enough, no one likes skating around with their shoe size emblazoned on the heel, old laces and dull blades. It was agreed that she needed new skates.
Fast forward to this morning: a perfect outdoor skating day. She initially declined the invitation to glide around the rink reminding us not only of her disdain for the rental skates but also (not so) gently reminding us of our promise to purchase a new pair. With only a moment of hemming (we never got to hawing) it was agreed that she would get new skates before going to the rink today provided she promise to use them often in an effort to offset the hefty price tag. With her pinky promise on the books, she and Rich headed to Dick’s Sporting Goods armed with $150 in gift certificates that Rich had been given as a corporate reward from work close to five years ago. Even better: freebies… this wasn’t gonna hurt a bit. (Now might be a good time to mention that it was discovered the hard way that the certificates were only good for online purchases…damn.)
About an hour later, they arrived home toting a large box and sporting an equally large grin. I will admit to bracing myself in anticipation of white figure skates being pulled from the package. I will even admit to being grateful that I was not a part of the shopping experience. And I will further admit to be confused, happy, bewildered, dismayed and curious when she proudly displayed black boy’s hockey skates. But, WTF?
This is the kind of thing that trips me up. I know that plenty of girls opt for the boy’s hockey skates. I know that it is probably a meaningless gesture. I know that it doesn’t matter. And I know that it messes with my head. There, I said it.
There is lots of discussion among the transgender community about the very real existence of “gender fluidity”; it’s meaning self-explanatory. While I am fully prepared to be chastised for saying this, I have to say that, for me, “gender” and “fluidity” in the same breathe is much more difficult to reconcile than transgender. More than that, it jars me in a fall-flat-on-your-butt-on-the-ice-and-get-the-wind-knocked-out-of-you way. Lest you think that this is always easy and that I am this wonderfully accepting mother, let this serve as admission that I am not. I am attempting to negotiate these waters and finding that there are pockets that are frozen solid, ready for skating enjoyment and others that are just waiting for someone (me) to fall through. I feel the potential to be the moron we see every winter on the news who charges out onto the half-frozen pond only to need a team of EMTs and first responders to pull them to safety. And it sometimes makes me wonder if there is any sort of solid ground beneath me anymore. I know it was just a pair of skates…but those blades are sharp.