Gay-torade, Asian eyes, and Bitches, oh my! Or, yet another learning lunch with my children


After my daughter’s guitar lesson last week, we swung by the library to pick up the boy, and we stopped for lunch before heading home.

While eating, the boy hit me with a triple whammy. First, in a conversation about what they’d like to buy at the store, they ruled out all but Gatorade. To which, as he’s trying to make words into jokes, he drew out and made “Gay-torade. …. get it?” I gave him one of my patented looks, and asked him if he wanted to know the origin of the word. Having had conversations that start this way before, and not liking where they’ve gone, he immediately said no. I continued anyway, and told him about the University of Florida’s project to create an electrolyte-balancing drink for their football team, the Gators. I also reminded him that making fun of gay people was hurtful to many people he loves, including his mother, to which he defensively replied that he meant the “other kind of gay.” Really? “… no.” I didn’t think so.

A few minutes later, he was telling us a story of something that had happened on the playground. The story involved being mock-Asian (complete with accent and slanty eyes). NOT GOOD. The boy goes to a school that’s approximately 85% Asian (mostly Chinese). As a dirty-blonde white kid, he is definitely in the minority, and I think that’s such a valuable learning opportunity for anyone who identifies as part of the dominant culture. So I was particularly dismayed by his demonstration, explained why it was disrespectful and racist, and we had a good talk about stereotypes and generalizations.

During that conversation, he called his sister a bitch. Here we go again.

I made sure not to shame him during this conversation, because I want to make sure that he doesn’t feel that he can’t talk to me about other things later, but it wasn’t easy. I know, based on previous situations, that these conversations of ours do stay with him and influence how he thinks in other situations, so I’m really glad that I resisted OMGWTF I started to feel as his generalizations continued. I’m not sure who learns more from these interactions: my son, with his growing understanding of the emotional and social implications of his words; or me, growing patience with working through a situation, and not letting myself default to knee-jerk reactions.

I’ve gotta say, though, that I much prefer when he hits me with these things one at a time. Discussion of homophobia, racism, and misogyny at one meal is a lot for anyone to digest.

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1 Comment

  1. Margie said,

    May 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Oh wowsa. Kids will throw you, huh?


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