Then add the presence of one of the t-shirts, pushing him into the spotlight further and without his consent, and it screams, “THIS KID WAS AN ORPHAN!” It makes the child, even if unintentionally, the poster child for international adoption or for orphan care. Yes, the child instantly becomes an advertisement for adoption.
I don’t think anyone should be emasculating anyone (because I literally don’t get it — if someone can do that to you so easily, perhaps the foundation upon which you’ve built your identity is more harmful than helpful?), much less yelling at a dude to “be a man already!” — to me this is part of the whole problem. But I suspect this happens in relationships where “being a man” is cited often as an essential identity in every choice and in the power balance of the relationship. Where being a man and a woman is some huge part of how things are decided and felt. Where these terrible scripts for how to act “because you’re a man or woman” leave us all feeling less connected and we try to make sense of differences through this script instead of putting aside the mask of gender and just hashing out what we need from each other.
Over my career, because of my interests in dance, art and literature, my very calm demeanor, and my apparent lack of interest in sporting events on my Twitter page, people in the sporting world have sometimes questioned whether or not I love the game of football. I do. I always have. I am an athlete and a competitor. The only people who question that are the people who do not see how hard I work and how diligently I prepare to be great — week after week, season after season. I take those things very seriously. I’ve always been a professional. But I am not an entertainer. I never have been. Playing that role was never easy for me. The box deemed for professional athletes is a very small box. My wings spread a lot further than the acceptable athletic stereotypes and conformity was never a strong point of mine. My focus has always been on becoming a better me, not a second-rate somebody else. Sometimes I would suffer because of it, but every time I learned a lesson from it. And I’ll carry those lessons with me for the rest of my life.
With one important caveat. When I need to write or think, I shut the whole thing down. Otherwise, it’s too easy to get sucked into the very sort of vortex Emerson warned against, to drift from fragment to fragment without pausing to consider the whole that any of them imply. I become a link zombie, mindlessly hungry for more: The lure of quotation wears me down.
In other words, my decision to opt my kids out might have no real effect at all here in Colorado, but on the other hand if I support friends in other states in opting their kids out, I might cause teachers to be downgraded and schools to lose funding. How does any parent weigh those very real consequences against her commitment to doing what’s best for her kids? As my friend Maria McKenna, the senior associate director of the education, schooling, and society program at the University of Notre Dame, said to me last night, “It renders parents powerless when we hear about the crushing impact that opting out has on teachers and schools. But of course, teachers and administrators are powerless, too. It’s insidious.”