First, let me start by making one thing clear, here. This blog is about a lot of things. For the time being, it’s about the journey I’m making with our son, Zeke. So, while the impetus for the creation of this material was and continues to be our son’s coming out as Transgender, Zeke serves as a secondary character of sorts. Which is not to diminish his role in all of this, far from it. But he is more than capable of recording his own story, because he is an amazing writer. And I want to take neither that, nor his story, away from him.
Second, as to pronouns. Initially, Zeke indicated that he would like us to use they/them pronouns. Recently, he indicated that he/him is acceptable, as well.
Third, Old Spice. Not a big fan. Never have been. Maybe it’s because I grew up seeing the really old ads for the stuff. The ones with the ruggedly handsome sailor in the cable-knit sweater bidding his lady love adieu as he headed for the high seas, leaving the smell of Old Spice in her bed. A manly scent to be sure, but one that was not too overpowering or off-putting. One wouldn’t want to offend the delicate sensibilities of ones Missus, whilst one was off plying the high seas. No sir. Wouldn’t due at all.
The post-modern ads that started appearing in 2010 with Isaiah Mustafa, and later with Terry Crews, were funny, and they piqued my curiosity. I even went so far as to pop open the cap on a bottle of body wash in the store to see if it had changed. Nope. It pretty much smelled the same. And I still didn’t like it.
A few days after Zeke came out to us, I said something about going to the store. Zeke wanted to know if he could come along, because he wanted to pick up a few things. Sure, not a problem. I like going to the store with my kids. We usually maintain a pretty lively, sarcastic banter and, as a result, it’s usually a pretty entertaining experience.
When we got to the store, I started cruising for the things we would need for supper and the staples that were in short supply while Zeke headed off to get the things he needed. I can’t remember what the other things were. The two things that struck me were the Old Spice body wash and the Old Spice deodorant. At first blush I was a little surprised, but it was fleeting.
As we headed back to the car with our three or four laden plastic grocery bags in hand, I couldn’t help but smile inwardly a bit. I thought that it was kind of sweet, kind of cute. Here he was, buying his first “guy-thing”. And then I started reflecting a bit upon my initial response (that inward smiling bit), and I started getting mad. I realized that it was a patronizing attitude, one which was not appropriate to adopt.
This was not like when I was five or six years old, when I would watch my dad shave and pester to be able to do likewise. For either Christmas or my birthday my parents got me a play shaving kit. It came with a small can of shaving cream, a fake green plastic razor, and a small bottle of lime scented aftershave. I shaved multiple times that day. And that small can of shaving cream lasted about another day and half. The lime aftershave, I’m sure, was gone even more quickly. My parents indulged my desire to play at being a grown-up.
I had unwittingly adopted the same indulgent attitude toward my son when he wanted to purchase personal toiletries with a decidedly masculine bent. Isn’t that cute. Isn’t that sweet. Except that it wasn’t. It was a first foray into the intentional adoption of an openly more masculine attitude. This was not play, nor was/is it a phase. This is who our son is. And, for the time being at least, Old Spice is his choice of personal scent. I’m still not a big fan. But I suppose it’s better than AXE.
Of course, this is about much more than the simple choice of a line of personal grooming products. This is about identity and its meaning. It’s about taking the pieces of the puzzle and assembling them anew, creating a truer better picture of one’s self; of himself.