My Son Wants to Buy a Dress

A rainbow-colored dress

I told Zach that I had written a blog post about his friend who likes to wear dresses, and he asked me to read it to him, which I did. A couple of days ago, he said he’d like a dress too. I’ll be honest, a bunch of sphincters inside me noticeably tightened.

It’s one thing to be fiercely supportive of another kid’s choice to buck convention and defy people’s expectations, it’s another to be complicit in sending my own child on a journey through possible bullying, ridicule, and condemnation by both children and adults.

I’m struggling with a bunch of questions my friend Mara Migraineur and her husband probably did with their son. Is it okay to tell him he can wear a dress? Am I going to do him some harm by letting him do this? Is it more harmful not to let him? Is it okay to tell people he’s doing this?

I think of discussions I’ve had with Mara about how her son is a pioneer, and how much I admire her and her husband’s support and acceptance of him. I was quite content actually to let her son be the trailblazer while my family watched from the sidelines.

I hesitated when Zach asked if he could have a dress. Then I told him he could have one, and I’d take him shopping the next day. Honestly, after all we’ve been through with his friend’s family, how could I have answered any differently? I would have been a hypocrite, and I would have been opening his friend up to criticism and judgment.

Honestly, I didn’t really want to say, “no” anyway. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with kids wearing T-shirts, shorts, pants, dresses, vests, whether they’re a boy or a girl. Clothing “rules” are somewhat arbitrary as far as I’m concerned. I’d rather concern myself whether it’s weather-appropriate than whether it’s “appropriate” according to someone else’s opinion.

The day we were supposed to go dress shopping, he said he didn’t want to go. We went home, and he explained that he wanted his friend with us, because “he could give me ideas!”

I admit I’m still hoping Zach might:

  • change his mind and not want to try on dresses
  • decide after trying on a dress that it’s not for him
  • be satisfied with wearing only one dress (I’m not looking forward to buying a whole new wardrobe for him)
  • only wear dresses at home

Whatever happens though, I know it’s going to be okay. I have an advantage Mara’s family did not. We already know a family with a boy who wears dresses. If anything, their family has grown stronger because of it. I think our larger community has grown stronger too.

So, next week I’m going to take Zach and his friend dress shopping. I’m trying to think of how to respond if any of the store employees or other customers make disparaging comments like, “dresses are for girls!” or “pink is a girl color!” without getting all aggressive, spitting in their faces, “You do NOT tell my son or his friend what they are allowed or not allowed to wear. It is none of your damn business!”

I’m hesitant even to show this blog post to Zach, but of course I have to. I have to show through my actions and my words that I approve of him and his choices whatever they may be. As long as there isn’t a safety issue, I want to encourage him to explore his environment and his identity. He is a great person, and it’s to everyone’s benefit for him to express how great he is however he chooses to.

How can I reply to people’s comments and questions about my son wearing a dress without being defensive?

Tagged: , , ,

9 thoughts on “My Son Wants to Buy a Dress

  1. Frankie Laursen January 29, 2014 at 8:56 pm Reply

    I did read this post to Zach before I published it. He said it was okay for me to publish, and when I asked him what he thought, he started talking about some game the kids at school are playing. I’m not sure he was able to absorb the whole thing, but I think he knows how much I love and appreciate him.

  2. Mara Migraineur January 29, 2014 at 11:46 pm Reply

    Ah, Frankie. There is more than a comment can say. I will say that we have gotten few disparaging remarks – and not while out shopping. Looks, yes. Those I give the mental finger. Have you asked him why he wants to wear one? That is what has fueled our answers: because he wants to! Boys can wear dresses, too. Mostly, remember what you have told Zach when he asked about Boyo wearing dresses. I have found that most of my anxiety was unwarranted – and in the beginning I always brought an extra outfit for him to wear if he decided to change his mind.

    Don’t worry. I will go with you and most likely, Boyo will have an answer to anyone who has questions. 🙂

    But I’m just answering your questions. What I haven’t said is how incredibly, deeply moving this all is to me. I am big mess over here. I am SO MOVED. These boys are going to change the world. No matter what it’s about, these boys are showing that they know what the world is like and they don’t give a damn. It makes no sense to them, so they’re going to make their own rules. I am absolutely blown away by their courage and love.

    • Frankie Laursen January 30, 2014 at 10:45 am Reply

      I asked Zach if he had any favorites of Boyo’s dresses. He said a purple and blue horizontally-striped one. I get the impression: he wants to wear them, and if he can, why shouldn’t he?

      Thanks for the tip about bringing extra clothes if he wants to go out in a dress then changes his mind. That makes sense, especially at the beginning.

      Thank you for coming with us. That’s good to know that most people don’t say anything. I’m pretty fierce if someone messes with my little cubs. I’m mostly worried I’ll embarrass them by overreacting.

      I’ve always thought of Zach as a follower. In this, he is following Boyo, but he’s still taking active steps forward and away from the “safest, easiest path” and for that I am extremely proud.

  3. CJ January 30, 2014 at 6:44 am Reply

    I blogged a few months ago about my 4yo son wanting to wear a sports bra. He’s since also asked for a dress. He’d worn some of his sister’s dresses around the house, but she’s four years older than him, and her dresses were all too big. So, I took him out to buy a dress in his size, haunted by a lot of the same concerns you have. Once we got there, he didn’t like any of the dresses and chose a pair of pink pjs and a pink hat, scarf, and mittens set instead. The saleswoman didn’t give us a second glance except to compliment him on his sequined hat, which he wears everywhere.

    We’ve had a few remarks from kids when my son wears his sister’s old Daisy Girl Scout tunic when we’re out and about, or when he insists that he’s the “queen of the mountain,” rather than the “king of the mountain,” but adults have been incredibly—and surprisingly—supportive, even the dance teacher who saw him changing into his sports bra after class. We’ve only lived in New England for a couple of years, and I wasn’t at all sure how people would react, but they’ve been really great—better than I’d dared hope.

    Of course, I do wonder if this niceness will change once he gets older, and I worry about what sort of things he’ll hear when his dad or I aren’t with him. But I’m really encouraged by how many other parents of my generation and from all around the country are supporting their boys in dressing how they choose to dress. Maybe we’re getting to a point where the division between “boys clothes” and “girls clothes” will become less distinct, and where people start to recognize that the person under the clothes is more important than the clothes themselves.

    • Frankie Laursen January 30, 2014 at 10:55 am Reply

      Hi! Long time no talk! I still remember how helpful and encouraging you were when Zach was first born and I was having trouble making enough breast milk.

      Thank you for sharing about your son’s experience. I’m glad that it’s been so positive. Zach and his friend are 6.5 years old, so I do worry that people will be less accepting, but his friend seems to be doing pretty well, only a few cases of kids giving him a hard time.

      I do wish the stores would just organize the clothes by type rather than boys or girls. It’s not even as if boys are girls are all consistently shaped. If they used measurements for the sizes, anyone could figure out what size they were.

      • CJ January 30, 2014 at 11:34 am

        Seriously about the clothing organization in the stores. My daughter was always stockier than they seem to think baby girls ought to be (which was just exacerbated by the cloth diapers), so we always had to buy pants in the “boys” section…or buy capri pants two sizes up so she wouldn’t trip over the cuffs.

  4. Shaking With Love | My Migraine Family January 30, 2014 at 4:49 pm Reply

    […] Thus began my shaking. Being so overcome with emotion that I am shaking isn’t exactly my norm. Days later, I still start shaking and get choked up with tears when I think about this. This, in my opinion, is huge. The other little boy is one of my son’s closest friends. He and his family have stood firmly by our side as we came out to our community. This isn’t to say that no one had any questions, there was a learning curve, similar to our own, but this boy readily accepted his mother’s explanation that my son was wearing a dress simply because he wanted to. [You can read her account of the story at Pretend You're Good At It.] […]

  5. […] posts (When Sexual Fantasies Get…Complicated, Ridiculous Conversations from a Marriage, and My Son Wants to Buy a Dress). It feels really validating to have professional editors choose to promote my […]

  6. […] February 6, 2014 Leave a comment I wrote recently about my six-and-a-half-year old son Zach asking for a dress. I took him and his friend shopping at Target, and it took all of about five minutes for him to […]

Leave a Reply to Ultimate Blog Challenge Recap | Pretend You're Good At It Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: