My mother was a strong woman. As one of the first female police officers in our area, she fought stereotypes, and always taught me that girls can do anything that boys can do.
She was a liar.
I found this out, when I was about four years old.
I was in daycare. It was Christmas time, and we were making stockings, for Santa.
Each of us had a big, red sock cut out of construction paper. There were hundreds of pictures, precut from catalogs and magazines, of all kinds of toys. We were each given a dab of paste, and told to glue pictures of the toys we wanted for Christmas on our stocking.
Most of the children had virtual collages of dollhouses and kitchen sets or train sets and superhero figurines.
My stocking had only one picture.
It was a G.I. Joe submarine activity set.
I had wanted one of these, with all my heart, since I first saw them in the big J.C. Penney wish book.
It had a kitchen, medical center, armory, and much more... complete, with HUNDREDS of accessories.
I pictured my arsenal of dolls (a Barbie, a G.I. Joe, a cowgirl, and an Indian woman) all sitting down at the little cafeteria tables, for a nice lunch... napping in the bunkbeds... showering, in the WORKING shower room...
I had to have it.
I HAD to.
I handed my stocking to the teacher.
"That's a nice start," she said, without looking up from her romance novel. "Now, go finish it."
"I'm done," I said. "I put what I wanted on it."
"You need to put EVERYTHING you want on it," she said. "You only put one picture on. You don't want Santa to just bring you one present, do you?"
"Yes. This is the only present I want."
NOW, she looked.
"You can't ask for that," she said. "That's for BOYS. Why don't you look again... there are some pretty dollhouses..."
She started digging through the pile.
"I don't WANT a dollhouse," I said. "I want THIS."
She ripped the picture off of my stocking, and slapped a picture of a baby doll ("It really POOPS!") on the still-wet glue. I watched in horror as she tossed my precious submarine picture into the wastebasket.
"There," she said. "Now, you can either go put some more pictures on it, or you can hang it up to dry."
Fuming, I chose the latter option. When the teacher was busy with another student (a young man, who had decided to paint his hair with the paste), I snatched my submarine picture out of the wastebasket. I crammed it into my pocket.
My plans were simple. When I got home, I would take off the doll and replace it with what I REALLY wanted...
A G.I. Joe submarine.
At the end of the day, I rushed to get my stocking.
It was GONE!
The teacher explained that they had mailed all of the stockings to Santa, so he'd have time to get us the toys we wanted.
I was devastated.
I didn't want a doll that pooped, or ate neon-colored mush.
I wanted my submarine.
My only chance to prevent Santa from making a terrible mistake, and giving me the wrong toy, was to plead with my mother.
SHE would talk to Santa.
SHE would tell him I could have a submarine, even if I WAS a girl.
Mother always said that there were no such things as "boy toys" and "girl toys."
When we got home, I presented her with the paste-covered and torn catalog picture. I explained that I wanted THIS for Christmas... not the stupid doll that the teacher had stuck on there.
She listened, solemnly.
She decided that I could write Santa a note, and she could mail it to the North Pole.
Once this was accomplished, I couldn't WAIT for Christmas.
I cleared a special corner, in my room, and told my dolls about the adventures they were about to embark on.
Christmas morning couldn't come quickly, enough.
When it finally DID arrive, I sprang from my bed... ran to the tree... ripped open my present... and burst into tears.
A blasted doll.
Not the pooping one.
This one sneezed, and had a runny nose.
I burst into tears.
My mother tried to reassure me.
"Santa probably didn't have enough money for such a big present," she said, "So he got you something he thought you'd like just as much. Aren't you being a bit ridiculous... bawling like a baby? You know, some kids don't have ANY presents to open, this morning."
I sniffled. This wasn't helping. All I could think of was that I would gladly send one of them this obviously allergy-laden doll.
"Look, just because it's ok for you to like toys that boys normally like, doesn't mean that you can't play with dolls, too. No matter what kinds of toys you play with, girls and boys are still equal. You can still grow up to be anything you want, you know."
I looked, again, at the doll. She was actually very realistic...and pretty. She reminded me of my baby cousin, Jenny. In fact, I would NAME her Jenny. Even more cool... she came with tiny, REAL diapers... a real pack of tissue... and a realistic baby bottle.
I decided I loved her, after all.
Even though I would never outgrow the disappointment of never getting that G.I. Joe submarine, I took consolation in one thing: I could grow up to be whatever I wanted.
In my case, that would be a witch... who doubled as a marine biologist... with a pet dinosaur, and we would live with my husband (Grizzly Adams) on an Indian reservation in Disneyland...
Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org !