I hate stereotypes. I know I’m not alone by any stretch of the imagination, but I do. I really hate them. The ideas, not the people who hold them. So when I was a teenager reading Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini and loving it more and more as I turned the pages, I wanted to scream when I got to the locker room scenes involving the boys basketball team. It seemed like every stereotype of boys’ attitudes toward girls was there. “Come on,” I thought. “I don’t know any boys at all who are like that, and even if I did, I’ve never heard talk remotely like that in the locker room. No wonder so many people hold these stereotypes. Why do authors do this?!” In the back of my mind, I was aware that the locker room in Amherst High got relatively little use in gym class so it wasn’t really a fair test, and I was also aware that I was no varsity athlete and never would be. Still, it all seemed terribly unfair to me.
Fast forward to when my son was 9 and playing town baseball. His team had a party to celebrate the end of the season, and while the kids ran around and played, we parents sat around drinking Diet Cokes and talking about our kids and how they were growing up, their schools and teachers, and so on. Only after a while, I realized it wasn’t “we parents.” All the fathers except me were hanging out by the pick-up truck which held the beer coolers, talking at that point in time about rebuilding tractor engines. I was in fact talking with all the mothers. I shook my head to myself, briefly contemplated getting up and joining them as I could anticipate some joking, some of it friendly, about my hanging out with “the girls,” and then decided “Whatever.” and stayed in the conversation which I was enjoying. Kids were my world. Tractor engines weren’t.