Appearance Makes the World

Being looked at is a powerful, identity-forming experience. Diego Velazquez, Rokeby Venus, c.1647-51, National Gallery, London.

Being looked at is a powerful, identity-forming experience. Diego Velazquez, Rokeby Venus, c.1647-51, National Gallery, London.

So what have I been up to lately? You can spot me most mornings wearing sensible shoes and sporting thick eye bags as I push a stroller—my adorable son is inside—to the café, the spray park, the public library, the grocery store, or the Shopper’s Drug Mart. Much to my surprise, Sebastian  attracts a lot of attention from just about everyone: male construction workers, female baristas, old ladies with boney fingers that like to poke chubby cheeks. Every single day, I hear the following phrases at least five times: “What a beautiful baby!” “Look at those eyelashes!” “What big blue eyes!” He is going to break all the girls’ hearts when he is older!” While I enjoy the first three comments, I bristle at the last one. I do not want my baby to be sexualized and/or hetero-sexualized in this fashion. He might grow up to be gay, trans, asexual, shy, or awkward. At least I hope so. These options are better than the proffered vision of him as an ultra-masculine sex bomb barreling through life, moving from one lady to the next. But I digress, for the main issue I want to discuss today is how this public reaction to my son’s appearance is literally creating his world. Continue reading