When I was pregnant with M, and for the many years I considered motherhood before that, I hoped for a son. My primary explanation for this feeling was the fact that boys are much less likely to turn rabid on their mothers when they hit adolescence, but now that I have a daughter, I see that I had other, deeper reasons for this preference.
We were out trick or treating with two of M's friends last night, and there they were, three adorable little girls filled with excitement and anxiety and a total sense of wonder. They clung to each other's hands and walked down the dark, muddy sidewalk in an impenetrable line of cuteness. And then, of course, the fighting began. M wanted to hold L's hand. J wanted to hold L's hand. M didn't want to hold J's hand. J wanted to hold L's and M's hands at the same time. (And L pretty much wanted everyone out of her personal space for one freaking minute.) And all I could think was, well, here we go. The first stop on the long line of female tension over friendship, affection and belonging. It's a straight shot from here to awkward middle-school slumber parties and demeaning pledge nights.
Which is, of course, ridiculous. They were just a bunch of pre-schoolers having some normal social tussles. But I can't help my mind from shooting backward and remembering my own struggles to fit in among my female peers. I've had one or two close girlfriends along the way, but for the most part, my childhood, teenage years and most of my twenties were spent feeling well outside the walls of Girl World. I didn't get the rules, I didn't speak the language, and I never had the right shoes.
I've realized that my desire for a son was not caused by my fear of having a daughter so much as my fear of being one. It was hard enough going through it all the first time, I can hardly imagine how it might feel to see looks of rejection and embarrassment reflected in my daughter's eyes. I know that being a boy wouldn't spare her from that, but my empathy wouldn't be quite so deep and raw. But maybe it won't be as hard for her as it was for me ... which brings up my even greater fear: that she'll be the girl doing the ostracizing instead of the innocent ostrich.