For the longest time, I was in a lesbian relationship where both parties had boobs and vaginas and I thought that a fantastic way to queer the relationship when kids came along would be to have the femme called “Mom” and myself called “Dad.” I loved the idea of being Dad. “Come to daddy,” rolls off the tongue as easily as images of chubby cherubs in my arms roll off of my brain. It would make teachers’ jobs easier and gayer for Father’s Day craft projects and would instantly make every hetero-normative picture book queerer than the collection of three dollar bills that I refuse to spend, even when the cab driver gets a ten dollar tip instead.
I never felt like a “Mom.” Even when I was nannying at public parks, far from any partner who would have nudged me at least into “Mama vs Mommy” territory, I carried snot rags in my pockets, encouraged risky jungle gym behavior and carried tots on my shoulders – stereotypical “Dad” behaviors. (Not that we need to embrace those, either, mind you.) But now that I find myself in much healthier, awesomer relationship that includes one penis and one vagina on two otherwise boyish bodies, the parenting titles were less obvious to my queer-as-shit brain.
Partner was very flexible in this manner, and while he had always assumed that his title would be “Dad” he just sat back and let me make a series of pronouncements:
“Can I please be the one to be called ‘Dad?’”
“I’m certainly not a ‘Mom.’”
“Do YOU want to be called ‘Mom?’”
“It would really solve the holiday card issues if you would be ‘Mom.’”
“You don’t want to be ‘Mom?’ Well, maybe I could wrap my mind around calling myself ‘Papa.’”
“You could be ‘Dad’ and I could be ‘Papa.’”
“Let’s check other languages’ versions of ‘Father.’”
“My hormones are REALLY telling me that I need to be ‘Dad.’ _sob _ “
One day, after copious eyeball waterworks and a relatively silly theory breakdown on my part, Partner came to the rescue and spoke to the Alien in my belly, “Hello! It’s me again – your Outtie!”
And there it was. The baby was inside of me and outside of him. Partner had a “outtie” for genitals and I had an “innie.” It worked on a bazillions levels and didn’t invoke gender for either of us.
After the baby was born, everyone confirmed what I suspected would be true of our titles – they are difficult for anybody but us to latch onto. For nurses in the maternity ward, parental titles are obvious and would be insulting not to use. For almost everybody else, “Innie” and “Outtie” sound like overly cutesie in-the-house-only nicknames that we might just be using for each other. But even after prompting our loving and doting parents to call not call us “Mommy” and “Daddy,” they continue to do so, having no idea that they are calling us by titles that feel exclusive of our internal notions of who we are to each other.
I am not transitioning to be male, so everyone, sometimes including myself, take my boyishness far less than seriously. And I certainly don’t want to get into the territory of girlish and mommish things being insults to me or to anyone. So I am going to have to wear “Mom” the same way that I check the “female” box on doctor’s forms. It’s an umbrella that hangs over the other parts of my personality.
I would prefer if I didn’t have to fully transition to have my button-downs and every other aspect of my gender presentation swept under the rug with one utterance of “Mommy.” It would be nice if a single prompting to call me “Innie” worked on everybody who knows me well enough to assume that I don’t do much of anything standard issue. Or it would be great if everybody who knows how ridiculously queer asked me the same question relative to the baby as I ask them, “What do you want your title to be? Grandma? Grandpa? Auntie? Uncle? Captain?” It would be amazing if twenty-five direct requests would be enough to encourage anyone to indulge Partner and I in our ridiculous-but-preferred names for ourselves.
Alas, I will continue to consider myself a relaxed, boyish Innie while the world sees a trashy, obnoxious Mom. And I am happy to get the cards on Mothers’ Day. Moms’ work is never done. Ever. Never ever is there not a mess to be cleaned up, a hug to be given, a bill to be paid or a novel to be written on the side. Mothers are badass and deserve every single bouquet of flowers that Hallmark encourages us to give.
You better notice that I never sleep, never eat and never shower because I am too busy weeding the garden, folding the laundry and changing the diapers. If you happen to notice that I also call myself “Chill, boyish Innie,” bonus points and gold stars for you. If you accept the awkward prompting to call me “Innie” out loud, I will hug you every time you say it. And if you address all of my holiday cards with “Innie” or at least “I love my two dads” stickers, I will worship you as the best set of queer ears on the planet. I will take “Mom” as a compliment but “Innie” will get you a carved bust of yourself chiseled out of marble by my own hand. Free unicorn glitter to the first person to have it printed on a onesie.