My farrier asked me yesterday why it was I thought that it was almost all girls who were drawn to horses. I said that I’d come to the conclusion that the male brain was, by and large, geared towards the mechanical rather than the organic. You have your mechanical girls and your organic boys, but most of the time you find that once boys discover engines, as in cars and motorcycle, the type of male who would have been predisposed towards horses, becomes preoccupied by these. My farrier laughed and said that’s exactly what happened to him. No coincidence that his relationship to horses is now an entirely technical; and immensely valuable; one.
I do see boys who love horses and are shamed out of it and that makes me very sad. Until that changes, the fact remains that, for the time being, Kids Love Horses is 100% girl and the girls end up talking about girl things like how two girls, both in 3rd or 4th grade, walked up to Beba, who is in 2nd grade, and said, “You’re not a girl if you touch snails.” Followed by, “you’re not a girl if you put mice in your hair”, two things, evidently, Beba is known for. Their parting comment was, “If you want to be a girl, you have to wear a skirt!”
Hearing this made me so angry I started to shake. I had some suggestions for Beba, but I don’t know if my suggestions or my turbulent emotion was of any help to Beba so I turned the problem over to “the girls”.
Rachel, who is ten, had a similar response: “I’d hit them.” She then tempered this with she’d think about hitting them, but not do it. Nicole, who is also eight, was very quiet for about five minutes, then said, “that was mean.” Katie, who is nineteen, never wears a skirt, dyes her hair blue, sports a nose ring and has obviously had more time to think up responses to these sorts of situations, said, “If that’s what being a girl is, that’s not very much fun! I’d rather have fun and be a ‘not-girl’.”
The next set of kids, who rode Thursday, had a completely different set of responses. Julia, who is thirteen and tends not to say very much ever, laughed. Not a nervous, self conscious laugh, but a real belly laugh. She said, “That’s funny! I would just laugh in their faces and walk away.” Victoria, age fifteen, said, “When I was a kid, I liked playing with dinosaurs. My friends didn’t like it that I played with dinosaurs, but they got over it because I didn’t stop.” Her suggestion to Beba was to bring some mice to school and give them to those girls to put in their hair. Priya said, very matter of factly, “No! That’s ridiculous! You can’t change your biology.” And that, she felt, should settle the matter.
Friday’s crew brought a deeply empathetic response from Magnolia and lots of talk about disliking skirts, the crowning moment of which was when Allison, a very petite, eleven year-old with a high, reedy voice and crazy, curly black hair, climbed up on to the bed of the truck and pronounced, “If you don’t love horses and you don’t love getting dirty, then you’re not a girl!!!!” This was met by cheers from all present.
Saturday has the largest group of riders. They were no less emphatic. Some of them, like Maya, had a quiet response and would have simply not responded and walked away, unaffected. (This is VERY Maya.) Shani would have said, “Back Off!” Emily would have told them, “Don’t bully me!” Emily then told a story about how, in second grade, she’d done just that and it had worked. Molly and Elizabeth, both twelve, told me, very seriously, that they’d like to “have a talk” with those two girls. Elizabeth and Molly then spent the next half hour digging worms out of the manure bin and playing with them. Shana, who is thirteen, said, very seriously, “the mean girls know to leave me alone.” I said, “Shana, I don’t think that’s an accident. How did you make that happen? What should Beba do?” Shana gave this five or ten minutes of thought, after which her face brightened and she said, “OK. So this what she has to do. On the first day she should . . . ” What followed was what can only be described as campaign, thoroughly plotted and energetically executed that involved no insults or confrontation, but plenty of very direct performance. Shana came up with five days worth of suggestions before we moved on to another task.
Among all the creative and brilliant ideas that the girls came up with, what surfaced as a common theme with all of them is that they detest skirts. Not all of them, just most of them. If they came up with a protest chant it would be, “We hate skirts! We hate skirts!” Savannah, who wears all sorts of frilly do dahs in her hair and generally prefers pink, sequined shirts, said, “Yeah! I don’t even own a skirt!” These girls will wear pants to their weddings.
This has been so amusing, I’ve been sharing the story. Yesterday I told the story to my landlady, Jan. Jan is about as easy going, even keel and diffident a person as I’ve ever met. I have rarely seen her even mildly agitated about anything and wasn’t expecting anything in the way of a response about the “no-skirts girls”. Jan got the biggest smile ever and danced a little jig! “Yeah! Just like me!”
Ironically, one pair of pants is in the mending pile and the other three are in the wash, leaving me with only a skirt to wear out to the horses this afternoon. I’m bracing myself for a thorough ribbing.
This is a picture of Molly and Elizabeth digging worms out of the manure bin: