That's My Pretty Boy
July 26, 2011 7:09 PM   Subscribe

Do I bother correcting people when they refer to my son as a girl?

Baby Leezie is 16 months old and has a gorgeous head of curly blonde hair. BL is also a boy. Whenever we take him out in public, at least one person (99% of the time a woman) remarks on what a gorgeous baby girl my baby is. Sure his curls are gorgeous and make him look cherubic, but girlish?

I admit that this bothers me. We're not keeping his hair long to mess with gender roles. We dress him like a boy and I think he looks like a boy.

When I do correct them, they often remark that he's too pretty to be a boy. That's their opinion. But, should I bother correcting them? Is it really a big deal that people mistake him for a girl?
posted by Leezie to Human Relations (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
that's annoying. Just correct them, it shouldn't be a problem. Btw he is kyoot, but you knew that. :)
posted by sweetkid at 7:10 PM on July 26, 2011

I don't think it's a big deal that folks mistake him for a girl, but I don't think it's a big deal to correct them, either. He's adorable, and I think the blond curls look great on a little boy.
posted by xingcat at 7:13 PM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think he looks like a boy. A cute boy!

It's not really a big deal, but I'd correct them. I correct all the people who think my dog's a boy, just so they'll use the right pronoun. It has nothing to do with gender issues, especially in that case.
posted by wending my way at 7:16 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't worry about it. This is par for the course with babies. It also seems like you live in a place where perhaps longer hair isn't as common.

My own kiddo also has long-ish curly hair and is sometimes called a girl.

I'd respond as such:

Stranger: "Well aren't you a little sweetie! How old is she?"
You: "He's 19 months!"
posted by k8t at 7:19 PM on July 26, 2011 [13 favorites]

A labor and delivery nurse once told me that the default gender for all babies (and your boy clearly still has his baby face - enjoy it while it lasts!) is female, unless you know for sure otherwise. It's apparently the way women are hard-wired - she says she sees it happen a dozen times a day with infants (even ones wrapped in blue blankets).

I would just gently correct them ("Thanks, HE does have a great head of hair, doesn't HE?") and move on.
posted by anastasiav at 7:19 PM on July 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

I was often mistaken for a girl when I was a child - and not just as a baby either - I remember being called a girl when I was old enough to remember what people were calling me. For the record I'm a guy and straight, but if I had been a girl, I bet I'd have been an awesome one.
posted by elroyel1327 at 7:21 PM on July 26, 2011 [21 favorites]

My daughter is just the opposite. She has the exact same blond curls as your little guy, same length and everything, but she's nine years old. No one's been able to figure out why, but her hair just doesn't grow. And all her life, people have thought she's a boy. Most of the time, a gentle emphasis on the correct pronoun when you respond ("Oh, she's so beautiful!" "Yes, he is, isn't he?") is enough for people to get the hint.

For some reason, hair really messes with people. My girl is hyper-feminine and all about the pinks and purples and ruffles, but people will still insist she's a boy. You've seen that, with the too pretty to be a boy thing.

Which is a whole lot of ranting just to say, yes, correct them.

Also, Baby Leezie is super cute!
posted by Ruki at 7:22 PM on July 26, 2011

I think he looks like a boy too! I have a 12 month old son who from time to time gets mistaken for a girl (even when he's wearing blue?). Even the pediatrician said "he looks like he could be a girl, his eyes are very sensitive!" It was a weird compliment, I guess. Usually when people say "oh, how old is she" I say "HE is 12 months old." And they look embarrassed. So correct them, but don't make a big deal out of it, babies are babies, and they're pretty gender neutral.
posted by katypickle at 7:22 PM on July 26, 2011

That is a fine looking fella you got there! Just ignore the nice little ladies. They are paying a compliment, just not paying attention. My boys were mistaken for girls a lot, they eventually outgrew it.
posted by JacksonandFinch at 7:24 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Stranger: "Well aren't you a little sweetie! How old is she?"
You: "He's 19 months!"

This is what I'd do too, except I'd make sure to use a pronoun that's unmistakably masculine like 'his'—'he's is too easily misheard as 'she's'.
posted by carsonb at 7:28 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Why correct them? If these were people you'd see again, there might be confusion if they later realized your child is a boy, but these are strangers, right? I find it weird when people emphatically correct pronouns when there's no practical reason for doing so.
posted by orangejenny at 7:29 PM on July 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Most folks assume my Husky is a boy...she looks like a wolf... I always just say, "HER name is Lara."

Don't worry about it, all babies look alike until the age of 2.
posted by tomswift at 7:37 PM on July 26, 2011

My nearly-bald girl is often mistaken for a boy. So was her older sister, who had a mop of hair. So go figure.

I'd go ahead and correct people, no big deal. And "too pretty to be a boy"? What the heck is that?
posted by Knowyournuts at 7:40 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I had a lot of people mistake my daughters for boys, and they had full heads of hair and usually wore dresses. It was a funny puzzlement every time I went to the grocery store.

"Too pretty to be a boy", "those curls are wasted on a boy", "any girl would kill for those eyelashes"--you will hear these things forever, even after he turns into a stinky gross teenager. People will just say anything. Let 'em.
posted by padraigin at 7:46 PM on July 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

If it makes you feel better, correct them. If not, no need. As above - these aren't people you're going to see again.

I grew up in a community where many folks didn't cut their boys' hair until age 3, for religious reasons, and my friends were always laughing about how strangers mistook their little brothers for girls. Some people corrected them, some didn't, but it didn't seem to be a big deal or have any significant effect on was all just a funny thing that happens.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:49 PM on July 26, 2011

Just say "oh he's a boy" or some other gentle correction. As a counterpoint, my sister had a pixie haircut as a child and everyone thought she was a boy. It's no big deal.
I think the long hair = girl; short hair = boy is so ingrained in some people that it doesn't matter what the face or clothes look like.
posted by emd3737 at 7:51 PM on July 26, 2011

My brother refers to the period when he had curly hair like that as "when he was a girl." It's a joke in the family, nobody has really been traumatized by it or anything.
posted by theichibun at 8:03 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Lots of people can't accurately guess young babies' genders. You could always just use the proper pronoun without making it a Big Thing and be happy that he's not getting a bunch of crazy gendered social cues right off the bat!
posted by troublewithwolves at 8:09 PM on July 26, 2011

My nephews-- especially one of them-- get mistaken for girls often. I use the approach discussed above: "oh, how old is your little girl?"... "he's 2 1/2, thanks!" (+ "he's my nephew", though that is not applicable here, obviously). It's usually the parents of other little kids, and, really... babies under about 3 all look similarly adorable and it's hard to tell the difference between boys & girls without obvious cues (Daddy's Boy tshirt, etc).
posted by Kpele at 8:11 PM on July 26, 2011

So, did anybody else think "Jesus Christ, you named your kid Leezie???" before getting to the bottom of that post?

Oh, and yeah. He totally looks like a boy. Correct away!
posted by schmod at 8:30 PM on July 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

To avoid this problem, I call unfamiliar infants "it".

Thing is, your baby is too young to understand what is being said to him by strangers, and you are never going to see any of these people again, so correcting them would be a waste of time and energy.
posted by tumid dahlia at 8:41 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here is a picture of President Roosevelt as a baby. I wouldn't worry if I were you.

A lot of people seem to have a pretty strong, and mostly inexplicable repulsion to things that question their understanding of gender. This could be a teachable moment for you and for whoever else makes the comment.

fwiw, I was mistaken for a girl pretty often until I was about 11, and grew up to present a pretty heteronormative gender identity.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:53 PM on July 26, 2011 [7 favorites]

Oh, he's precious. Just don't worry about it. People aren't paying much attention. My second daughter was routinely referred to by strangers as "he" even while wearing a pink shirt with the word "PRINCESS" on it in sparkly font. Say thanks and forget it.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:19 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was often mistaken for a boy when I had short hair as a child. I eventually freaked out and refused all haircuts for many years, even trims. These days I'm getting kind of tired of people saying "OMG, you have so much hair, really that is a lot of hair, I've never even seen that much hair before..." (Nowai, for realz? Hadn't noticed!)

So I guess there's some possibility that if you let it continue long enough he'll demand a buzz cut, which will at least be easier to care for.
posted by anaelith at 9:35 PM on July 26, 2011

My 11 year old son has gotten this on and off his whole life and it rarely bothers him. (Even when he's had short hair. Even when he's in a shirt with a monster truck on it. The boy is pretty.) He cared for about a minute when he was probably three, now he thinks it's funny. I tell people, no, he's a boy. Sometimes they look at me like I'm lying. (His sister would be in all pink with pigtails and bows and a sparkly shoes and a purse; he'd be in khaki shorts and boy shoes and a navy shirt with a tractor on it and someone would say, "You have two beautiful daughters!!" I'd say, "That one's a boy." and they'd say, "No, wait what?") He had the baby curls in the back when he was little just like your son and then had a longish bowl haircut for a long time. Now he has sort of a skater boy floppy haircut with bangs that really need to be cut. He would rather have the cool hair and get mistaken for a girl once in a while than bother to let me cut his hair more often. Don't worry about it. (Actually, kids usually get it right. There was a boy with past shoulder length hair and an androgynous name at the playground. All of the parents thought he was a girl, all of the two year olds knew he was a boy.)
posted by artychoke at 9:43 PM on July 26, 2011

There's no winning as a stranger unless you're fabulous with sentences like: "Oh how old is your baby?" I guessed wrong on two babies this weekend. I felt like more of a jerk calling the girl a boy, though ("oh right because if they're not in a pink dress they must be a boy" /sarcasm).

You can judge or take offense if you want, but to me as a non-parent, babies I don't know yet just look like babies, I'm bad at guessing, and I'm trying to actually reduce my tendency to interpret relatively gender-neutral clothing (like the outfit in that second pic) as masculine.
posted by salvia at 9:57 PM on July 26, 2011

You think he looks like a boy because you know he is one. He looks like a gender-neutral toddler which is what they all look like till they get all hormoned up. Lots of first time parents get bothered by thus, and in a few years you will laugh about it. If anyone believes they can tell the gender of a toddler by looking at their faces, they are lying or kidding themselves.

Feel free to correct people if you feel like you need to. But this is your issue, not a "thing".

By the way, he's rather lovely. Well done!
posted by taff at 11:27 PM on July 26, 2011

There is no such thing as looking "like a boy". People who guess wrong aren't dissing your kid at all. Just subtly correct them.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:36 PM on July 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I never bother correcting strangers about that. After all, it's kind of cool; my baby girl is still incognito. It's her only time in life where she won't be immediately identified as a female and receive different treatment, heh, so having people guess wrong gives me a vague, secret pleasure.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:58 AM on July 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


We only correct people we know we'll see with some regularity.
posted by zizzle at 3:10 AM on July 27, 2011

No biggie, gently correct the pronoun if you feel like it, ignore it if you'd rather. One thing that makes the boy-girl sorting easier is the kid's clothing & gear: blue/red colors w/trucks, dinos, footballs and sports logos usually = boy, pastel colors with flowers/butterflies/birds/'princess' etc. usually = girl. Something like a Hawaiian print, with flowers and/or mixed color signals, would throw folks off their guessing.

(For what its worth: my own father (definately male) had long blond curls as a toddler --- think hair as long as in Jon_Evil's photo of Franklin roosevelt, but as curly as your little guy's. His mother saved a couple locks of it, and that was one of the most-wanted items when we cleaned out the house after he died.)
posted by easily confused at 4:29 AM on July 27, 2011

I'm pretty sure I got mistaken for a boy a lot. I was basically bald until age two. All babies look alike. And the Boys-Dress-like-This, Girls-Dress-like-That thing is so last century. This is why I never comment on anyone's baby. (Unless it's exceptionally funny-looking. Then I whisper something to my husband "OMG....did you see *that*?!? Ugly babies make me sad.")
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:51 AM on July 27, 2011

My son has exactly the same curly blonde hair as yours, and super-long eyelashes to boot. And we're not so much into the whole explicitly-gendered-clothing thing. (The kid likes trucks. He also likes pink sparkles. And really, what's not to like about pink sparkles?) So up until around 18 months people would sometimes mis-guess his gender.

If it's just a random interaction with a stranger, it never seemed worth bothering to correct. If it's someone I actually know and am likely to see again, I'd just refer to him as "he" once or twice, and that'd be enough to get the message across.
posted by ook at 6:28 AM on July 27, 2011

FWIW, I was repeatedly mistaken for a boy when I was little because I had short hair — apparently a little girl with a Dorothy Hamill haircut in 1976 was too confusing for people. It didn't result in any confusion about who I was or my gender or anything else, just annoyance at those adults for being so locked into their ideas that all girls have long hair and anyone with short hair must be a boy. (My vocabulary at the time was smaller, so I think I just told my parents "They're stupid. I'm a girl, so this is girl's hair.")
posted by Lexica at 10:32 AM on July 27, 2011

Instead of being annoyed, why not have fun with it? Think of this as your contribution to decreasing the influence of gender in the world. It's one of the Things You Can Do to Eradicate Gender or Multiply it Exponentially: refer to everyone by the incorrect pronoun.
posted by medusa at 11:10 AM on July 27, 2011

Happens with my 4 yo son all the time as he's a very pretty blond who has never had a haircut. Laugh it off. They're probably embarrassed at the mistake and are covering for it with additional blather. I often offer to prove that he's a boy, but no one has taken me up on the offer.
posted by jclarkin at 11:59 AM on July 27, 2011

I guess I didn't really answer the question as asked. My general rule is to correct someone if I am going to be talking to them more. So yes to the waitstaff, but maybe no on the check out line or walking down the sidewalk. But if it really annoys you smile, nod, and move on.
posted by jclarkin at 12:12 PM on July 27, 2011

We didn't cut our son's hair until it was down to his butt and he asked us to.

I'd get compliments on "her beautiful hair," always from women.

"He's a boy. We just can't bring ourselves to cut it off yet," made them laugh.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:25 PM on July 27, 2011

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