School

Viernes, 10 de febrero de 2012

Hoy grabé para un podcast en inglés, en el q me habían pedido escribir algo sobre la escuela. En una noche me senté y se me vinieron a mente muchos episodios, pero uno en particular sobresalió y tiene q ver con el uso de la imaginación, los roles de género y el ser melliza. Para el podcast se editó mucho para entrar en las restricciones de tiempo, pero acá les dejo el texto original:

My mother once said that the one easy thing about having twins is that we could play with each other, so she was free to take care of my other siblings. And I have to agree with her: that was also the best part of growing up as a twin.

Somewhat free of adult supervision, my sister and I would make up elaborate scenarios, using our imaginations to turn our backyard into the setting of dozens of adventures. We would take turns to fill the roles necessary in our games: the bad guys, the heroines, the well-meaning and awkward sidekicks who would unwittingly hinder our escape plans whenever they tried to assist us.

We would make up stories to entertain us during our chores: one of them included us being sold into slavery to a bratty boy who slobbered and who ordered us around to do his bidding with onerous tasks such as making our beds and picking up the toys, but perhaps this time we had to make the bed without using our hands, and pick up our building blocks using only our feet? And so we spent our pre-school years, having a constant playmate 24/7.

Once we went into kindergarten, we started discovering how other children played and learned that different kids did different things.

I tried playing dolls, but quickly got bored when it turned out that playing didn’t mean making up stories for adventures the Barbies could take but instead consisted of exclusively comparing who had the best accessories, combing their hair and dressing them.

There was a playhouse in the garden of my pre-school, with painted on furnishings and appliances. I’d never played house in an actual house where I didn’t have to make everything up, and I was terrily excited. The possibilities and scenarios were endless, except for one hurdle… it seemed that none of my classmates had discovered the goldmine that lay within the playhouse, sitting in plain sight. My twin sister was in another classroom in another part of the building and could no longer be my playmate, so I went to recruit a suitable companion. I tried with a couple of boys but wasn’t too successful: one went into the house, looked around and declared it was boring, the other good-naturedly humored me as far as saying a couple of phrases that I prompted him to say until I made the mistake of sending him off to work: he left, never to return. Single playhouse-hood wasn’t in my plans, so I went to recruit a girl.

I cajoled one away from her barbies to join me, and inside the house I foisted on her a lunchbox in lieu of a briefcase and a hat: now lets play. As she stood there, looking puzzled, I prodded:: we were in a house, and we were married and I did the mom things and she did the dad things. She asked… “but who is the dad? We need a boy!” I told her that I had already tried to recruit boys, but they didn’t know how to play and I was sure she would be a lot better at it. She didn’t buy it. She insisted that she was a girl and couldn’t be a daddy. I tried to coax her: daddies had it a lot easier, they just sat there and wrote behind their desks and ate food from the kitchen and then came out and picked kids up when they came from work. She didn’t budge, and I could see her slipping away as she stared out at her barbie playing friends who were now swapping tiny clothes and shoes. So I switched my tactics: “Lets take turns then, first I’ll be the daddy and you see what daddies do and then I’ll be the mommy and you’ll be the dad!”

So I went out and came back in and said that I was hungry. She replied that she didn’t have any food. I pointed to the wall above the kitchen counter where there was a painted drumstick sitting on a yellow plate besides a vase with a single red flower. She tried to peel it off. I realized this was going to be harder than I thought, and so I asked her to wait and ran out to the toy box to pick out an actual plate and cup, to help this poor unimaginative soul. At this rate I was NEVER going to get to play! While at the toy box, I discovered more props that would perhaps help the situation: I put on a tie, jacket and glasses, and with my briefcase and hat, my costume was complete.

I made a beeline for the play house, where my play-wife was still trying to pick at the painted food on the wall. My teacher intercepted me and asked me what I was doing. I explained that I was going to play house, and I had to hurry up because my friend was waiting to play. She looked concerned, and asked me to please give her the play clothes I was wearing. I couldn’t remember if I was allowed to pick out dress-up clothes at recess or not… was I in trouble? She took my costume and took me to the playhouse, and I was feeling sorry that without the clothes, it just wouldn’t be as believable. I went right back in and gave the cup and saucer I still had in my hands to my friend and was going to explain how we were going to play when the teacher interrupted, and told my friend to please go back and play with her barbies. The teacher then crouched over in front of the kitchen and proceeded to go between stating the obvious and saying things that I had no idea what they meant. That this was a kitchen and did I know what women did in the kitchens? That this was a plate and cup and that I could put it on a plate and serve it to someone. That I could cook, and I could clean. Did she think that I didn’t know how to play? It was my friend who needed to hear these things! I tried to tell her, but then she went on talking in a serious tone of voice about what mommies and daddies did in the home. That I was a girl and hence, I had to play as a mommy. It was good to play with girls, but only if I played as a girl. I was feeling uncomfortable and ashamed but my teacher kept me a while in the playhouse and tried to get me to play house with her, where we both did senseless household tasks with no purpose. The fun was gone.

A little while later I begged off and went to sit by myself on a swing, desperately missing my twin sister. As I kicked my feet and felt the wind in my face I went from ashamed into frustration and anger. As I swung higher and higher I understood: the teacher was wrong. She was just like my friend, not knowing that you didn’t actually need a boy or real plates and dishes to play house, that you just needed an imagination. That my dressing up as a daddy was not because I thought I was a boy or wanted to be one, but because when you play, you can be anything for a while: a bad guy, a sidekick, a mommy, a baby, a heroine or even a father.

That wasn’t the last time teachers took it on themselves to talk me out of doing “boyish” things, and sometimes I felt that maybe I was in the wrong. Some years later during recess I sat with other girls on the grass with my basic My Little Pony, trying to get more involved with the apparently better female pursuits my teachers kept pushing at me. I was miserable, finding out that my beloved pony failed to measure up with the other glamorous ones with sparkly rainbow colored hair, gemstones, movable wings and floor length manes. The girls didn’t care that Applejack was funny, loyal, brave and came up with the best adventures, only that he was one of the least expensive models. I looked over at the hill where I usually played with the boys in the class: although they played Transformers and insisted there were no GIRLS in Transformers, they had made the allowance to included the Renegade Gobot, Crasher, from another TV series. Sometimes we teamed up with the kids in my sister’s class who sometimes played an unknown for me game called Star Wars where my sister was required to put rubberbands around her two ponytails.

I saw my male classmates heading my way, running on the sidewalk. As they stampeded by, one of the boys stopped, doubled back and looked at me surprised. “Why aren’t you playing with us today?” “I’m playing with ponies.” He furrowed his brow for a bit, considering, and asked “is it fun?” I stood up so that I didn’t have to speak too loudly and replied that actually, it wasn’t that fun. Baffled, he asked me why I was playing that instead of with them as I usually did, didn’t I have fun with them? So I made up my mind: I handed over my pony for safekeeping to one of the girls, tightened the velcro on my shoes and sped off with my friend out over the playground: I was needed to save the Transformers from the evil Guardian Gobots.

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