DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am searching for a nice reply even though I really don't feel that nice at all.
I am expecting my first baby, and it is a girl. I have many friends and acquaintances who have been very good to me and who I would not want to hurt. But they have been telling me things that I choke in anger about. Commentary like "how fun it will be to dress her; you'll have so much fun shopping; dress shopping with matching hats ... ruffly underwear..." I find really distasteful and annoying.
I hate to be no fun, but setting up my child to look like a pretty doll is not exciting to me because I feel really strongly against enforcing the gender role that it is fun to make a girl look really decorous and fun to shop with, as opposed to a boy. I want to do my best to raise my baby with other values, although I recognize when she gets older she might want to do the pretty thing herself.
So far, I have been smilingly demurring and saying things like, "I think actually jumpers and pajamas are very cute on all babies..." but I get responses like "You'll see!" making it sound like my deep parental love is going to propel me straight to the baby boutiques. Saying anything would run the risk of:
a. sounding like an old stick in the mud
b. making some of these people feel bad if they did this themselves
c. sounding unexcited about my own baby.
However, I really feel strongly about this type of thing and hate to just agree for the sake of niceties.
First of all, what do I say? Second of all, do you see where I am coming from or are these feelings wrong? I don't think it is proper to teach little girls about appearances and shopping right off the bat, or to pose while others compliment them.
Please help because this is really bothering me, and actually embarrassed me as a little girl sometimes forced into frills herself.
GENTLE READER: But you will be the mother now. You should already know that sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you.
Well, some of them might, Miss Manners admits, but not the mindless sort of blather that has you so riled up. People don't know what to say about unborn babies beyond offering their congratulations, so they often go off in unfortunate directions. At least your friends are predicting enjoyment rather than dire consequences from giving birth or having a baby who will eventually become a teenager.
And they will not be bringing up your daughter; you will. They are not even taking a political stand. They are just blathering. So there is no practical reason for taking their remarks as a challenge.
Just let them pass. However strong you want your daughter to be, you will advise her, Miss Manners hopes, not to go around picking fights with well-meaning people.