Questioning my position

2009-12-30 00:00

SO, it is now holidays. This means that the child minder has gone off to enjoy three weeks of holiday in Limpopo — well over 1 000 km from where we are — it means that Leon and I are also on holiday, and it means that the children are not at school. It is a recipe for stress, believe me.

We have done Ratanga Junction. How can I describe Ratanga Junction? “Hell” would be too easy. In fact, “hell” would be too kind. It is more like taking your brain out, putting it through a shredder and then putting it back in your head, while at the same time using a set of pliers to tear pieces of flesh from your body. And, lest I forget the particular form of torture they seem to have perfected at Ratanga Junction — they force you to listen to indes­cribable music, which is broadcast from hidden speakers in the foliage, so there is no escape.

Most of the experience is standing in very long, snaking queues, full of large parents stuffing themselves on hot dogs, and fractious, overexcited children — in the baking sun.

Then you get to go on a ride. Now let me say right away that nothing on God’s Earth would make me go on one of these rides. They seemed either to be so tame as to be mind-numbing, even for the three to six-year-olds for whom they are intended. Or so utterly vicious that I felt my stomach heave just watching them.

There were log boats that got dragged up what looked like mountains to me, and then left to plummet down into a water-filled gorge below. (A sign warned, helpfully, that you would get wet on this ride. Indeed, said the sign, you may get soaked.) There were twisting things, which seemed designed to make you throw up. There were plastic bubbles in a pond, which you got into, and into which, via a kind of reverse vacuum machine, they blew in air and then zipped you up, so that you fell about trying to stand up (an extra R20, that one was). On the other hand, there were silly aeroplanes which went round and round in a circle, at different levels, depending on what you did with the joy- stick, and stupid-looking miniature game-viewing trucks, which were on a monorail.

Needless to say, my children had a ball. More than a ball. Two balls. They want to go back. Oh, woe is me.

And then today, worn out by yesterday’s fairly extreme experience, we decided to let them choose any DVD they wanted from the DVD rental shop. The youngest boy (6) chose something about dinosaurs. Well and good. The eldest (8) chose Barbie.

Now, I suddenly found myself thrown into a quandary. Why a quandary, I asked myself? If he wants to choose Barbie, then let him choose Barbie. He chose it, I noticed, in a somewhat surreptitious way. The system in this particular DVD rental shop is that you choose your DVD. Then you take whatever box is behind your chosen DVD to the counter for them to insert the actual DVD into. The box you take to the counter is anonymous, in that you can’t tell what the DVD is by looking at it. It was this box that he brought to me. Not wanting to have him watch an axe murderer, because of a lack of supervision on my part, I did my parental duty and demanded to see the DVD he had chosen. He pointed out Barbie.

Now there was a millisecond — I have to confess — when my instinct said: “Barbie! For crying out aloud! Why would you want to see Barbie?” But I didn’t. I said, so quickly that he would not have noticed the millisecond’s hesitation, “Okay, that’s fine.”

Later, ruminating on the matter, I said to my partner: “Should I have shown disapproval?” He looked horrified. “No!” he said. “That’s exactly the way you would open the closet door.”

Of course, he is completely right. The moment my child detects disapproval on my part, he will hide what he is doing. And that I would not want. So, as it is at the moment, he likes Beyoncé Knowles and dresses up like her. He likes ballet and did it last year at school. He wears a long-haired wig a friend of ours gave the kids as part of a range of dress-up outfits. He is happy when he does these things and he does them in front of us. We have taken the carefully thought-through position that we will neither encourage nor disallow the behaviour. That, it seems, is who this child is.

But it was my own reaction to his wanting Barbie that was so intriguing. I am a gay man. I know about gender and stereotypes and about gender roles. I know about prejudice. I know about homophobia. But I want to tell you, in spite of all of that, the homophobe in me is pretty close to the surface. It springs out and confronts me when I least expect it. I may not like it. I may not want it. I may thoroughly disapprove of it and intellectually disavow it, but it is there. And like racism, the thing I need to do is to keep it in very firm check, so that it does not affect my children.

• Michael Worsnip is director: 2010 World Cup Unit, Western Cape Province, Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport. He writes in his personal capacity.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.