This may make some folks mad, but I don’t understand what’s happening. Being an old guy, long in the tooth, it’s hard for me to understand that everything I have been taught about boys and girls is wrong.
When I was born, WWII was still being waged. It would be four months after my birth when Hitler killed himself and eight months after before the atomic bombs brought Japan to its knees. My mother and father gave me a boy’s name. Girls were always given girls names, although there were names that worked for both sexes, but usually spelled differently, like Shirley and Shurly. In my early years, I remember best the women in my life who taught me useful things such as manners. My mother was the most prominent, followed by her sister Aunt Helen, and Grandmother Bryant. I called her Mamaw Bryant. In the Fischer household, it was dad’s sisters, Aunt Jackie (Jacquelyn) and Aunt Ruth, and my grandmother who I called Mamaw Fischer. These ladies taught me manners and could correct me with just a look and a raised eyebrow. I was spoiled by the Fischer family because I was the first grandchild. The ladies on both sides of my core family taught me how to dress and how to be polite in company. They also taught me how to hold a knife and fork, although they cut my food for me. I was taught not to slurp my milk nor chew with my mouth open. I never quite figured out how my grandfathers could sometimes do both with impunity. Potty training was team effort with men and women pitching in. By the age of 4, I had the potty pretty well mastered, but was still learning to get dressed. That’s when I began to find out who and what I am. I knew I was different from the ladies. They smelled good, and dad and I didn’t, they were pretty, and we were plain, and they were always washing their face and hands and putting on lipstick and rouge. I only painted my face at Halloween usually like a clown. My dad did none of these things so well thought of by the women.
The division in labor between mom and dad was different. Mom did the housework and grocery shopping, sewing, cooking and canning, while dad worked at his job, did yard work, carpentry, carried in the groceries, killed spiders and removed dead mice from the mousetrap. He also changed tires, tuned up engines, and got up at night and investigated strange noises. He taught me to bait a fishing hook, shoot a BB-gun, catch snakes, sein the creek and dig worms for bait. When I was older, he taught me to cut the grass, carry out garbage cans, open jars, kill spiders and remove dead mice from the mousetrap, as he prepared me for manhood and marriage with these skills. Dad also taught me how to spit watermelon seeds. He could spit watermelon seeds so accurately he could kill a fly at 15 feet. I never got the hang of it and onetime hit Mamaw Fischer’s cheek with a seed while she was sitting beside me. I didn’t help myself when I told her I was sorry and told dad she was so fat I couldn’t help but hit her, all in the same breath.
The things the ladies taught me mostly had to do with manners and dressing. I was taught to button my shirts starting with the top button and going downward to the next button and so forth. The girls were taught to start at the bottom button and button up their shirt, called a blouse. The boy’s buttons were, and still are, on the left side of their shirts, and the girl’s buttons are on the right side. Incidentally, why does a girl shirt have a name different from a boy shirt? The girl’s zippers were on the right side, and the boy’s zippers were in the front. Sometimes, a sort of half zipper was in the back on the girl’s jeans, but never in the front. Girls always wore dresses and skirts, and boys wore pants or slacks. Why was this important? Both wore short pants called shorts, “short-shorts” or Bermudas. It was important because it was necessary for the sexes to be identified by their hair length, clothes, names, necessary work assigned them because these things were biologically suited differently to the girls and the boys. We were put on this earth to be fruitful and multiply. Boys needed girlfriends, and girls needed boy-friends. All of this training was designed to keep the sexes identified for future marriage. (See, part two next week, the plot thickens)