Monday, October 12, 2009

The Ambiguous Child

I brought Monkey to the park yesterday afternoon. There were only two other kids there, and one of them - a longhaired, blonde girl, wearing bows - left five minutes after we arrived. The only child left, besides my Monkey, was five years old and a… a… well, crap. I don’t know WHAT kind of child that kid was.

The Ambiguous Child was dressed in brown. However, he/she was also running around barefoot with purple toenail polish on his/her feet. The Ambiguous Child also had short hair, but his/her grandma told me his/her name was Jaelynn.

… Jaylen

… Jay Lynn

… J. Lin

… Jay… well, crap, I don’t know!

I wasn’t about to ask the child, “Are you a boy or a girl?” and scar him/her for life, but it was pretty awkward when he/she was playing with Monkey, and I had to mumble, “Look, Monkey! S-HE is climbing up so high!” or “Wow! Look how high THEY can go” or even “Look! THE KID is running fast, go and catch HIM-ER”. Things would have been so much easier for me if he/she wasn’t running around as the picture of androgyny.


Now look, I know this was not The Ambiguous Child’s problem, or even his/her parents’ problem. They have every right to name their child any old way they want. And who am I to say that boys can’t paint their toenails? You could have a Picasso in the making, so let him use his toenails as a canvas, right?

And anyway, my Monkey always gets, “How old is SHE?” or “What’s HER name?”, but they get the picture as soon as I call him by his undeniably male name. And yes, people use the names Taylor, Michael, or Jan for either boy or girl, but it would probably be a bad idea to name your girl child ‘Bob’ or maybe even ‘Steven’, right?

I’m just saying, as an outsider who was trying to be polite, it’s tough being thrown in a pickle like that. The limited social graces that I have and actually know how to use couldn’t figure out how to maneuver through that Jay/Lynn situation.



Tami said...


I've been in similar situations.. and do the same EXACT thing!

bwaaa hahahaha ahaha aha ahaaaa
and you feel so (as you stare trying to figure it all out) and can't..


Cairo Typ0 said...


Sadly i've been there and unforch i asked about the child and used the wrong pronoun. *dies of humiliation* I so totally know how you feel!!

Buckeroomama said...

I've been on the receiving end of "mistaken identity" more times than I care to imagine... When they were babies, J kept getting mistaken for a girl and Z kept getting mistaken for a boy! I guess their names are not very familiar with locals here...

Mighty M said...

Yeah, that is a tough one. Sounds like a girl, but who wants to be the one to make that mistake?? Happy Monday to you!

Barbaloot said...

Oh-that stuff is awkward! I've always planned on give my kids clearly male or female names. I'd prefer to scar them in other ways than their name:)

Mayhem and Moxie said...

Such a great post! Here, in the land of Berkeley, CA, kids like these are constantly running around. In fact, there are two boys up our street whose parents let them dress "as they choose." The number of long skirts and long hair is downright startling.



Insanitykim said...

My kids still want to adhere to the hair length determining the gender of a child, even though I have had short short hair, and dad RIGHT NOW has hair to his collar bone!

At least you knew his/her name...what a day!

Eliza Welch said...

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I just started a new blog and I'd love for you to stop by...
Eliza’s blog

Veronica Lee said...

LOL, sounds like a girl to me but you can't be sure.
What a day!!

kestrel said...

Dropping by... I guess sometimes some parents get so caught up with the next one being apecifically a boy or girl and things turn out the other way round. Names like Georgette, Bryanna. But i have a friend called Nuclear and i thought that was really different (to be polite) until he told me his brother was Atomic.

blueviolet said...

With names like that, it's so hard to tell anymore. Even the voices don't tell the story at that age. You're right though. You just really can't ask.

James Ricardo The Actor said...


WhisperingWriter said...


I would guess that the kid was a girl?

But who knows? I have a friend who has let her son's hair grow out down his back so he kind of resembles a girl.

Helene said...

OMG, Jennifer, this totally reminded me of a day that my sister and I met at the park awhile back and there was a kid who we couldn't tell which gender he/she was. I said it was a girl and she said it was a boy.

We sent one of my sister's kids over to the child to play with him/her and then to casually ask his/her name. Of course, wouldn't you know....his/her name was Sam. Short for Samuel or short for Samantha...we never figured that out.


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