Still, instead of shooing away his comment or prattling on about all the great new shoes for boys on the shelves these days, I remembered a man about my age who wore a skirt and a blouse when I interviewed him last fall.
But he never went home to Wisconsin dressed that way when he visited his retired parents who lived in a Catholic, blue collar part of town.
And he visited them very, very rarely.
Then, he was off to review the A,B, Cs and 1,2,3s.
My oldest son already has taken to many things.
He loves to stare at dinosaur skeletons overhead at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science; to “Superman fly” when I hold his hands and push him up with my feet; to splash around in water, no matter how cold.
And if he takes to girly sandals or dresses or purses?
A couple of summers ago, I read “The Help” — a novel by Kathryn Stockett that revolves around the lives of black domestic servants living in Jackson, Miss., during the civil rights era.
In one section of the book, she recalls a boy whose father would beat him in the garage with a garden hose if he came home from work and caught the child playing — at age 3 or 4 — with dolls.
Something about the brutality and terror in that scene stuck with me more than any speech on tolerance.
The marketplace senses this.
In 1963, Hasbro unveiled GI Joe to recover some toy market share eaten up by Hasbro’s wildly popular Barbie doll.
But the company took care not to call GI Joe a “doll.”
No. He is an “action figure,” which makes him a safe play thing for boys.
I am still so thankful that our pastor resisted passing judgement. Instead, he led our church family to build a unisex bathroom just off the fellowship hall to spare this child awkwardness in that place.
After Carl’s sandal comments from the back seat of our car, I took my three sons shopping.
“Mom?” he said. “Mom?!? I don’t want these sandals. They’re pink. They’re for girls.”
He left for the boy’s shoe department, and I followed him.
“I thought you wanted pink shoes,” I said, pointing to those rows.
“No, way. Those are girly shoes. I want these,” he said, holding up a pair of black flip-flops with an orange-and-yellow swirl design.
“See? These are easy on, easy off. I like them a lot,” he said, walking up and down the aisle for a comfort check.
I did not need to feel relieved.