Monday, April 26, 2010

If I Were a Boy

One of my favorite pop songs of the last few years is Beyonce's ballad "If I Were a Boy." I even like the version on Ainsley's Kidz Bop CD. So sue me.

It has me from the first line:

If I were a boy
Even just for a day
I'd get out of bed in the morning
And throw on what I wanted
And go...

Ain't that the truth.

Before you boys out there get your boxer briefs in a bunch, I'm not saying you all always have it easier. But think about just this one thing: I bet every one of you readers of the male persuasion hates shaving in the morning. You wish you didn't have to do it, that society and white-collar jobs didn't demand clean-shaven men. That's just your faces, though. We have to do our legs. Which covers, for some of us, a considerable surface area. And our underarms. And...other places during swimsuit season. And let's just be honest here: some of us have to do something about our beards and mustaches, too. I'm just sayin'.

And that's just for starters. That's just the basic grooming.

The idea of the Beyonce song is that, compared to what we women have to deal with in maintaing our appearance and maintaining our relationships, you menfolk have it made in the shade. (I could go on and on about other ways I'm bitter about how it's tough to be a girl, but that's another post for another time.) The whole keeping-up-appearances thing was made abundantly clear to me last week when I took Ainsley shopping for a first communion dress and related paraphanalia.

I'm not really a girly-girl. My wedding dress was the second one I tried on and I didn't make a big production of dragging 20 of my closest friends to a bridal shop to sip champagne while I shopped for 3 hours. But my daughter is a girly-girl, so there was something fun about going to our local Catholic uniform store and spending some bonding time in a rack of white, frilly dresses.

For those of you who are un-Catholic, first communion dresses look like bridal gowns because, like a bridal gown, they represent purity and the entering of a young lady into a sacred union. Just instead of a husband it's, you know, The Church. I wasn't raised Catholic, so it strikes me as kinda weird, too.

There was something tear-inducing about taking Ainsley's three favorite white gowns into a dressing room and watching her twirl around in front of a mirror in a sea of satin and tulle. It won't be long before we are at David's Bridal doing the same thing.

And probably not spending that much more money.

Even using a 40% off coupon and choosing a mid-range-priced dress, I gulped a little at the total. Because you can't get out of there just buying a dress. You also have to buy a veil, and dainty white dress socks, and white shoes. Optional are a purse and gloves.

I put my foot down at the purse and gloves.

On our way out, with my arms full of dress and veil, we passed one small rack close to the girls' communion wear section. There was one row of tan ties with a little cross emblem embroidered on them, one row of navy ties with the same embroidery, and a few rows of brown and black and navy socks.

"What's that stuff for?" Ainsley asked.

"That's the section for the boys going through first communion."

"All they have to do is pick out a tie and some socks?"

"Pretty much."

We both sighed.

If I were a boy, indeed.

I'm a little envious of the moms who, on the day of their son's first communion, just have to iron a shirt and some pants and make sure their little darling scrubs the dirt from under his fingernails and puts on his black atheltic shoes instead of the white ones. In the meantime, I will be unwrapping Ainsley's hair from the foam rollers we'll wrap it up in the night before, probably only to have all the curl disappear right under my fingertips. I'll be taking whatever coils are left and trying to do arrange them in some girly way that will hold the veil in place, and Ainsley will be squirming and offering "helpful" suggestions the whole time. Then I'll put that expensive solid-white dress on her and pray that she doesn't brush up against a dirty car on our way out to our car or into church. I'll be readjusting the veil every time she looks down or up and listening to complaints about how those pretty white patent-leather shoes are rubbing blisters through the pretty white socks with the crosses on them. The dress she loved so much will start itching her about 15 minutes in, and she will remind us of this every minute on the drive to church.

And when it's all over, she won't be able to get out of that dress fast enough and it will hang in the closet never to be worn again unless someone decides to ask her to be a flower girl sometime in the next 6 months before she outgrows it.

It's all part of the girl experience.

I think back to proms, and wedding party participation, and our own wedding day, when I have painstakingly prettied myself up in formal wear, enough makeup to spackle the accent wall in our living room, and an abundance of various hair products. I've had fake nails put on and used self-tanner to try to cover up the white spots that show up in sleeveless, backless dresses. I have spent a lot of money on fancy gowns I've only been able to wear once and spent hours in dressing rooms and at seamstress' homes getting these dresses fitted and altered. It takes a village to get a woman ready for a formal event, it really does.

Yet in every one of these instances, all Jason has had to do is pick up a tux, shave, put the tux on, and then go take it back the next day. That's it. And he looks fantastic in two simples steps: shave, get dressed. Because that's all you boys need, really. A clean-shaven face and a tux does it for you almost every time. And for some men, the clean-shaven face isn't even a must. Scruffy Jon Hamm, anyone?

In the meantime, we lose a couple of hours of our lives to "get dressed."

It's not fair, but it's just how it is.

Ask me about this later, though, when I see Ainsley walk up the aisle of the church to receive the body and blood for the first time, looking like an angel. I won't be thinking about how hard it was to curl her hair, or to find a dress, or convince her that her Crocs, while comfortable, wouldn't be appropriate. I will be thinking, "What a beautiful little girl I have," just like all the other parents of the little girls joining Ainsley in that sacrament.

Being a girl may be difficult. But it has its rewards.

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