By Stephanie Becker
Did a Halloween dress code turn out to be a drag for the mother of a 5-year-old Kansas City boy? Perhaps. Her son's outlandish costume was a homemade Daphne, the girl sidekick in the cartoon "Scooby Doo." Apparently the boy had been waiting a year, since he was all of four years old, to don his electric pink coiffure and matching fake pink go-go boots. According to the Mom's blog, this fashion faux pas garnered ridicule not from fashionistas or even his classmates, but a couple of the other Mom's at “Daphne's” school.
Mom defended her son on her blog with the title "My Son is Gay." It was followed by the first line, "Or he isn't." Some further blasted her. One TV pundit took Mom to task for outing her five-year-old son. This morning Mom appeared on the TODAY Show to give her side of the story.
I contributed a bit to the spot, interviewing Dr. Charles Sophy, a family psychiatrist. Of course, I'm no doctor, I don't even play one on TV, but I have a little personal experience with gender-crossing dressing and the social consequences. And I managed to survive, psyche intact.
For my high school senior prom (circa just after the dinosaurs disappeared), I invited one of my former classmates to be my date. She was a girl. So am I. She'd finished up at another school and I thought it would be fun to bring her instead of asking one of the boys on my carefully cultivated "unrequited flame of the week" list. I didn't even think about the fact that two people of the same gender had never attended our school's prom.
Did I mention that I was also planning to wear a top hat and not just a tux, but tails? Sometimes when I visit my parents, we pass by the shop where I got fitted. It's now a boarded up former wicker furniture store. (Apparently the last straw for the building). Back then the salesman kept telling me how cool it was that I was dressing up like a boy, but he'd have to let out the rear to accommodate my more curvaceous hindquarters. I think he mentioned something about Marlene Dietrich and how hot she was in tails and her top hat. Trust me, the only thing the two of us have in common is that we have a German last name.
Did I also note that my top hat was an antique beaver skin variety that my Mom presented to me with dramatic flourish? Nowadays that fur hat would be the thing to trigger consternation, not the fact that I was bringing a girl. But, as the day of the prom grew near and more students learned about me being part of a same sex couple along with my gender-bending outfit, my younger sister started getting hassled at school.
Being the bossy broad that I am, no one said boo to me. Nope, the cowards attacked my sister. It was enough so that I felt pressured to dump my gal pal date. She completely understood. She even came over to help me get ready. It only took about an hour to tie the bow tie. Then she and my Mom helped me with my make-up, the first time I'd worn any since I'd been a cross-referenced Princess-Ghost for Halloween when I was five. I wonder now if Mom insisted I get "dolled up" with mascara and lip-gloss to add a little feminine touch to my look.
Luckily, there was a boy who'd been pining after me for so long that he was conveniently available with two days notice. It was so close to deadline that the hem on his pants had to be stapled. More tragically, he was willing to wear the last tux in town, powder blue with a matching bow tie and white frilly cuffs.
I don't remember any of the prom, who I danced with, if I had a good time or if I even kissed the boy at the end of the night. It was our first and last date. But, I still remember being furious and confused and heartbroken over how kids reacted to my unconventional choice. Fortunately, I wasn't questioning my sexual identity. In fact, I'm heterosexual and never struggled with the additional emotional and psychological issues that many homosexual teenagers then and now have to deal with. Now, of course, same-sex posses of girls and boys go to proms without anyone challenging their choices. So, maybe someday we'll be seeing posses of drag Daphne's dressing for Halloween in solidarity. I know I'm getting my pink wig ready. I wonder if it will clash with my top hat?
Stephanie Becker is a veteran TODAY Show producer covering everything from war in Somalia to OJ Simpson's travails to the Museum of Bad Art. She still has the top hat.