Sunday, November 29, 2015

Turtle Shirt Trouble

I have a cousin who currently works in merchandising at SeaWorld and she always tells me stories about her encounters with customers. She told me a story about a father and son she helped recently. The son was young, probably in the 3rd or 4th grade, and was looking at t-shirts with his dad. The shirt he ended up picking featured a large sea turtle with hearts on its eyes. It didn't have any bright or traditionally female colors on it, but the father was apparently deeply disturbed by the tiny hearts. He yelled "You can't get that! That's a girl's shirt!" When the son continued to express his desire for the shirt, completely indifferent to the hearts, the dad yelled the same statement at him again and proceeded to drag his son out of the store without any shirt at all.

Of course we both discussed how ridiculous the dad was and how much of an overreaction it was to yell about the shirt and drag his son away. What I want to know was what was so bad about those tiny hearts? Was he afraid of his son looking "girly" or was he afraid of what other people would think of his son for wearing it? Was this inability to allow his son to wear something even remotely feminine worth embarrassing his son and causing a scene? Does he have some sort of inner issue that he's reflecting on his son or is he just passionate about being the gender role police?

It always amazes me when fathers act this way. Kids are often (not always) blind to the societal rules placed on us. They just like what they like and don't understand what's wrong with it. He didn't care one bit about the hearts, he just really likes sea turtles. What he wanted was a souvenir from his trip, and what he got was a harsh lesson on staying in line with what's expected of him.

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