Originally Posted by MusicianDad
Well I know both men and women who don't look any specific gender most of the time. They never get people asking if they are a man or a woman.
It's a HUGE social taboo to ask that of an adult. It's not that people can figure it out or that they don't care... it's just something you don't ask!!!
*cough* There are women who try to look manly. I don't know if there is a polite way to say it. I do know a not so polite term for it. But such a woman came after us once when we had gone grocery shopping - I bought my son a candy bar (gasp!) and left it at the register. She came out and gave it to us and I said to my son "Oh, tell him thank you for bringing you the candy bar!"
She looked like a 17 year old boy. Flat chest, greased back hair, smooth face...
But as she was leaving I thought Oh my god, that was a SHE.
I THINK it was a she! But I wasn't sure.
And I thought, did I offend her?? Or WAS it a he? Do I yell after her, I'm sorry, I thought you were a guy! Would that be worse? What do I do???
SO a day or so later I told my friend about this, oh, that one bagger at Nob Hill, is it a he or she? And she knew who I meant... and she said she THINKS it's a she...
Turns out it was a she... and I felt like an ass.
OTOH I suppose if that is the look you are going to cultivate... and this was a cultivated look, not just what she happened to look like ... you have to expect such occurances... but I felt like a fool.
But it would have been even worse to say "Be sure to tell IT thank you for the candy bar!"
Yes I could have said "Be sure to tell the bagger thank you for the candy bar!" but that's just getting wordy.
"Them" or "their" or whatever is not correct gramatically. Even though it sounds OK.
It starts to feel stiff and stilted and akward to always use a neutral pronoun.... yes you COULD just say "baby" or "child" but ... come on.
"Oh, your baby is so cute, I just love that outfit your baby has on, the color just matches your baby's eyes!" or "Your child just fell off the top of the climbing structure and your child is really crying, I think your child may have broken his leg and we need to get your child to a hospital!"
I think it's just easier to talk if you know whether or not to say he or she... and people don't want to embarass themselves by guessing wrong. It's not so much they want to inflict gender stereotypes as they want conversations to be painless. It's not so much that gender matters as there's not a good and easy and correct way to speak without knowing gender.
My son has long hair and people do sometimes mistake him for a girl, which he HATES... I think he looks like a total boy but whatever. It's not down to his butt, it's just a longish dutchboy cut. I usually find a way to throw in "he" or "my son" pretty quickly when I meet someone new so they don't make the mistake and embarass themself.
Wow this feels disjointed.
This child's life is going to be like an ad-libbed Pat skit until the secret is revealed!