OK, I May Have Accidentally Raised Mansplainers
When my son was 2 years old, his favorite word was “actually.” I thought it was cute. You would have, too, if you could have heard him.
When my son was 2 years old, his favorite word was “actually.” I thought it was cute. You would have, too, if you could have heard him. A chubby little toddler, red-cheeked and smiling on a walk to the park, turning to you and saying, “Actually, Mommy, that tree is brown, not green.”
When my son would say this, I would smile and, OK, maybe sort of look around in the desperate hope that someone else heard my super-brilliant child use a three-syllable word. I would think, Huh, take that, and conjure up about 10 different names of people I was trying to show off to at the time — a mom at the preschool playgroup, a family member, his father, the list went on.
I didn’t turn around and say to my toddler, “Actually, pal, that tree is green. I was talking about the leaves. You don’t know my mind.” I should have. I see this now because I went on to have three more smarty-pants boys who all loved the word “actually.” And I encouraged them to correct me. Constantly. I reveled in it, even when one of my adorable little mansplainers corrected a fellow student in his kindergarten class on a field trip to the farm. When the farmer asked them all, sitting there on their little haystacks, “Does anyone have any questions?” one sweet little girl called out, “Pumpkins grow from pumpkin seeds!”
And my teeny tiny mansplainer, so stern in his rubber boots and one-piece splash suit, frowned and muttered, “Actually… that was a comment. Not a question.”
And my teeny tiny mansplainer, so stern in his rubber boots and one-piece splash suit, frowned and muttered, “Actually… that was a comment. Not a question.” Happily, the pumpkin-lover ignored him, but what did I do?
I laughed. My God, I laughed.
The trend continued as they grew. Since I was raising them on my own, I guess I had a thing for asking their opinion on stuff. We decided our Saturday afternoons together: park or museum or walk to the convenience store for candy to have with a movie? Place your bets now for what we chose.
We all voted on dinner choices, and this is why I’m walking around with these womanly hips and thighs: The vote almost always came back chicken fingers.
I liked getting their input. I still like getting their input. It’s just that I guess I forgot to tell them that I’m smart, too, so sometimes I can figure things out for myself.
Case in point: dating. No man is good enough for me. This is my opinion some days, too, but not all days. My sweet, thoughtful, protective mansplainers can plead a persuasive case against anyone I’ve ever dated. All, like, four of them in 20 years. They say things like “I’m just worried that you don’t think you deserve any better,” and when they say this, I know it to be true.
So maybe that’s not mansplaining. Maybe I just wish I thought of it first.
They’re clever about their mansplaining on account of having all that good practice. They’ve knocked it off with all of those “actuallys” and have moved on to “Well, no, it’s not that” in response to my opinions. Like why I don’t like Ben Affleck or why sometimes I am very afraid of Canada geese. They always give me new thoughts, and, like the chump I’ve become, I go along willingly.
I am the asker of questions. The indecisive mom standing on one foot in the kitchen trying on shoes to get opinions.
I will tell you right now I have no patience for mansplainers, or not ones I didn’t birth out of my body, at least. If you ever want me to like a tweet, just go ahead and share a thread about taking down a mansplainer, I’ll smash that like button every time. I love seeing a mansplainer put in his place.
As for my own mansplainers, I think we are in a Dr. Frankenstein and his monster type of situation. I’ve seen them interact with women… Don’t get me all gushy here, but they are utter delights. Genuine, respectful, good listeners. I did good.
Mansplaining is just a thing they do with me, and I don’t know how to make it stop. Sometimes I whisper, “Hey I’m smart, too,” under my breath, the lamest kind of mutiny, but we all know there’s no going back. We have our roles.
I am the asker of questions. The indecisive mom standing on one foot in the kitchen trying on shoes to get opinions. Truly unsure which ones are better, the red pump or the nude wedge.
Actually, it’s the red pump. Now they’ve been gone for a few years, and sometimes I get to know my own brain. It’s the red pump for sure. So now you know.
Read all about Jen McGuire’s mansplainers (and more) in her new book NEST.