Raising Trouble: A Little Romance

It's a common impasse when a little boy and a little girl – both four years old – play together. Rosa wants to play wedding, and Ivan, having no idea what a wedding is, would rather play with trucks.

On this occasion, Rosa's solution is brilliant: they will put on a play of "Beauty and the Beast." She wonders if I have a scary beast costume. I do, as a matter of fact. I've got a glittery dress for her to wear, too. She is thrilled, and gets busy stage-managing.

But why are little girls so obsessed by weddings? Why are they always proclaiming themselves "in love" with their male friends? My six-year-old niece, Ruby, whose friends are mostly boys, partly because of her interests (diggers, trains, running around on the playground), is obsessed with love and always has a crush these days.

It seems understandable that kids would fantasize about an often delightful aspect of adult life, but what's jarring is the enduring gender disparity: most little boys barely seem curious about romance, and especially not weddings. (Not incurious about sex, however – about which more later.) Ivan's an incorrigible gossip, so he always wants to know which adults are married to each other, boyfriend and girlfriend, or girlfriend and girlfriend, but he's got zero plans for his own wedding.

Of course, girls are encouraged in this direction – just look at the way "flower girl" outfits are made to look like little bridal costumes. And by the countless strangers who will say, of a six-month-old baby girl, "Oooh, she's a little flirt, isn't she?" But reading that fabulous Geena Davis Institute report I wrote about the other day, it seems clear that kids' entertainment is also to blame. Though (good news), very few kids' movies examined in the report featured the "damsel in distress" theme, the researchers also found that far too many girl characters had no aspirations beyond romance, or (worse): saw their aspirations eclipsed by romance.

The play was perfect. Ivan/Beast staggered around roaring, while Rosa/Beauty tried to organize him into a wedding ceremony. Since they were using his toy kitchen as a stage set, they then cooked an elaborate meal for the audience/grownup guests. The plastic fruits and imaginary cake were delicious, much better than the catered chicken you'd get at a real wedding.

by Liza Featherstone
View profile »

Still Reading? Sign up for our Weekly Reader!

5 Comments Have Been Posted

Playground weddings?

Anyone else have one of these? My very first crush and I, in first grade, got a friend of ours to be the minister for our pretend wedding, and he was my pretend husband for the rest of the year. (Incidentally, he switched schools after that year—whatever happened to you, Stephen?) It was all in good fun, though, and we didn't take anything that seriously, which would have been hard to do at the age of six.

But in terms of little girls having crushes, isn't that just as much a case of girls generally developing crushes earlier than boys due to hormonal/pubescent factors? I know that I had crushes on several boys in elementary school, as did many of my peers, but I didn't even hear about boys having crushes on girls until middle school.

Oddly enough, i had this on

Oddly enough, i had this on my mind recently. My boyfriend and I were talking about stupid nightmares or fears we'd have as children, and when I was telling him one of mine (continuous nightmares of a sinister naked man covered in bubbles who would follow me places) and would go to my parents' room he asked 'so, what, did they let you in the bed with them?" and I said "no, my mother would tell me to think of a pretty wedding. She'd describe all the decorations and flowers and dresses to me to try and calm me down, then send me to bed."
"what, did you like have a thing for weddings as a kid?"
I thought about it "no, not overly, it was just something my mother seemed to find really pleasant, so i think her finding it a calm nice thing to think about made me think the same thing."
I also had the pretend wedding with a boy named Thomas but that lasted less than a few weeks, when we forgot all about it. It was more just a thing about having fun and pretending to have a fancy grown-up party, I suppose.
I thought about being a mom, as my mom encouraged me to be, giving me baby dolls and speaking fondly of being a grandma, always being a romantic. I didn't really turn into a romantic myself until after she was dead when I was a pre-teen, and in-between that time I was a flower girl for the wedding of my dad's re-marriage.

Now, however, I can't even stand the thought of getting married, it's nothing I want to be a part of (for all the obvious reasons) and I think young girls are just encouraged to think about weddings the way they do because in fairytales, it always ends with some lucky girl marrying the boy of her dreams and living happily ever after. Girls are encouraged to be sweet, and fed romantic stories. I guess i should also note that since i "grew up" in high school I've hated romance films and books- all a load of crock, and what do I care about these people anyway? Just a bunch of sickly sweet lines, tinkly piano music, gorgeous actors and actresses, and perfect sunsets. I prefer my own love life and it's enough for me.

So I was a sophomore in

So I was a sophomore in college the first time I thought at all about my wedding. And this was only because some of my female friends were discussing their possible weddings and asked. And that's when I found out that, apparently as a woman and former girl, I was supposed to have been planning this day since the approximate age of 3.

I still cannot comprehend the bridal industry, and the concept that THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY IN A WOMAN'S LIFE is the day she gets married. Not the day she reaches a professional goal, or even the day her kid succeeds. The day she gives herself over to a man.

Thank Buddha for feminism.

Flower Girls

I actually chose my bridesmaids' dresses based on the fact that there was a matching flower girl dress, also in blue. I was not putting my 4 year old niece in a mini wedding dress!

What's more is that there

What's more is that there are ingrained messages about women's body appearance all over the place. For example, just think about the Beauty and Best concept. Or "The Simpsons." Or "Family Guy." All of these programs have the same basic idea that no matter what the man looks like, the woman must still be attractive,
according to society's standards. This just shows that the focus must always be on the woman's body image, no matter what the circumstances are.

Add new comment