Our Childhood Toys
by List Contributors
Someone asked, Did gay and straight people play differently when they were children?
As you read these posts, take a guess as to the orientation of each writer and see how close you come to the answers at bottom. (We only identified two writers by name as you know them already.) Enjoy.
Throughout my early childhood I never developed an interest for "boys" toys but all my inclination was to play with dolls, read, draw, and to play with cosmetics.
I was sort of androgynous (although I guess there was probably more weight on the feminine side).
On the masculine side: I had my match box cars, a Tonka tractor, marbles, a gyro top, etc. But guns were totally out of the question (except and occasional water pistol, which was frowned upon as well)
On the feminine side: I had dolls, designed clothes for paper dolls, had a sewing machine, a toy vacuum sweeper, a real china tea party set.
There were other things that I consider non gender specific too. But is was very artsy. I played mostly with the girls at school when I wasn't forced into group games.
My toys were similar in many ways to those of Writer 2. I loved match box cars, my gyro top, my Tonka dump truck, and my marbles (which I've lost now--is that bad?). I think my all-time favorite toys were my Lego's. I'd work around the house and save for a long, long time to earn enough money to buy another set of Space Lego's. I also had a plastic camper with plastic figurines that I enjoyed playing with--I'd send everyone on vacation.
I really liked colored pens and pencils and claimed (up to about the age of 9 or 10 when reality set in) that I would be an artist some day. I had a Spyrograph I really liked (it is a plastic mechanism that comes with 4 colored pens and a number of different gears that allows you to produce geometric designs). I played with our German Shepherd a lot (chasing her, throwing things for her to fetch, etc.). Also, my brother and I would experiment at length with paper airplane designs, seeing whose could stay in the air the longest. I enjoyed Monopoly (until I found out my brother was cheating).
As for the more feminine: I enjoyed putting on my mom's clothes a lot. As I mentioned earlier, I did have some toys that would allow me to "act out" housekeeping sorts of behaviors. I had a huge collection of stuffed animals. Probably around 20 or 30 of them which I would set up on my bed during the day and sleep with all of them at night. I named them all and was very attached to them. When we would go on vacations it would tear my little heart up to try to decide which ones to take with me since I was only allowed to take 2 or 3 (understandably!). I would play with them for hours on end creating stories of dramatic rescues or tender caring. I would be very hurt if any were "mean" to one of the stuffed animals.
Just realized there were some more interesting "play" items to share. When I was in 1st grade, I played more with the girls than the boys. I played jump rope quite a bit and was usually the only boy doing so. However, I also played kickball, soccer, and football with the other boys too.
I enjoyed playing with girls as a young child more than I did with boys. To me, many of the boys were crude and rude. One of my father's friends has two daughters. As girls, they had a small back yard gazebo with table, chairs and tea set. With them, I did not feel like I was a girl, I knew I was a boy, but I remember being with these delightful girls made me feel comfortable and appreciated. Oh, once in a while we would steal an innocent childhood kiss, but they were so nice to be with!
I would say that from first to third grade I would greatly enjoy playing with them. I would say that this was the only time that we were allowed to play together.
As I grew older, I could sense that our fathers did not want us to play together or visit any more. I cannot say why Anna (my classmate) did not talk to me much after 5th grade, except that I remember her father was protective. If her father came over to visit and she was along for the ride, she had to sit in the pickup and she was only allowed to say 'hello'. I think that my father kept me from continuing our friendship because he was afraid that I would turn into a "sissy". This was very important to my father's generation. I was a child during the '60s.
I remember enjoying writing short stories, poems, art (I was a very artistic child) through the sixth grade where I was very literate. I was continually receiving grades on my weekly spelling tests of 100% at an eleventh grade spelling level.
Now, concurrent to this during my childhood was a lot of peer pressure (read teasing and persecution) by my boy friends. I was always the last kid on the block my age to learn to ride a bicycle, throw a football, catch a baseball, etc. I can seem to remember always being referred to as "sissy" and "girl" during those years. My father, perhaps seeing this, and out of his love for me, started playing catch and other sports with me so that I would be "normal" like the other boys. As my skills and interests were molded by my father, peer acceptance became a reality.
My 'masculine' toys: Lego's, Erector set, toy cars, trucks, trains, toy guns, etc.
My 'feminine' toys: My mom's jewelry. OH how I was fascinated with her jewelry and all of the different colors, forms and textures. I loved her clip-on earrings the most. Did I say this made my father uncomfortable?
Through junior high I retained my artistic talent, and my skills greatly impressed my art class teacher.
Once again, I believe that this made my father uncomfortable (although I think he liked my work) and I seem to remember him expressing concern that I was turning out to be "queer". His follow-up to this was to make sure that I did not accept anything any teachers of mine said which he deemed subversive, communist, or homosexual.
Then I wanted to expand my world and run on the cross-country team. I had difficulty in convincing my father that this was a valid sport. He wondered why I couldn't play football or baseball like my brother. He wondered why I had to get into that "faggot" sport. Well, for one thing, I weighed 135 pounds and was thin. My brother by contrast was physically substantial! In due time, my father accepted my decision (after a lecture my mother gave him) and became involved in my exploits.
Around age 7 or so, I had a brief period where I played with dolls and paper dolls with my two sisters and their friends. This lasted about two or three weeks. My mother took me aside and told me "boys do not play with girls things." She encouraged me to play with my older brother and the neighborhood boys. From that moment on, I did that and never turned back.
I had trucks, cars, Tonka toys, but mostly I figured out my own stuff like making sling shots from tree branches and used inner tubes. I had a bee bee gun and I used to try to shoot birds with it. I fished with my brother, played football all year around for most of my elementary and jr high school years.
I was a wrestler and was in gymnastics in jr and sr high school. I was fairly athletic, OK in some sport, near the top of the class in others but usually I was in the top 20% or so in most sports. I am still competitive.
No one ever called me a sissy, never. I am sensitive however. I have always been that way, and I know I am much more so than the typical guy. I think Christian men are more sensitive than non Christians. That is a positive trait in my view.
The thread on childhood toys etc. is interesting. and as I read a few of them while I ate breakfast this morning I recalled my favourite toys. So here is a "straight" blokes experience! (For the newcomers - I am "straight" and Australian - note the spelling below)
I think my favourite toys were my Meccano set and my train set. These provided endless fun because you could do so many different things with them. My parents were into buying few but worthwhile toys. Most of our play was directed towards creative activities. I built my first highway crossover in Mum's vegetable garden with a spade at 8 years of age. As we grew older Dad bought me good quality tools and taught me to make my own toys. Did we ever play with dolls? Yes, when we were young. I did not have any dolls of my own, but my brother and I joined our sister in playing with hers (or fighting over them, I forget which was more fun - fighting or playing!)
Did I ever get into my mother's clothes and cosmetics? Sure did! I remember trying out face powder at the age of three and the enormous laughter I received when it was noticed. Apparently it was pretty obvious what I had been up to. Rather than feel rejected by the laughter, I felt the warmth of family love. I was able to make them laugh - something we have always enjoyed doing together. I did try out my mother's bra. It fitted better on my head than anywhere else. And my brother and I discovered that both of us could get into Mum's corset - a bit of a squeeze. We thought that it would be useful in three-legged races.
We were all bathed together - to save hot water, so apart from the usual questions to Mum as to why we were different, we found plenty of other interesting things to do like chewing soap and blowing down the drain pipe and seeing how much water we could slosh on the floor before Mum caught us.
Sling shots.-- I'd almost forgotten about them. Great fun.
Tree houses -- And I can still climb a tree if the high branches need pruning. It scares the younger set to see me do it.
Snow forts -- not as good as Eskimos could do it, but still a lot of fun.
Playing school. -- of course the neighbour girl just had to be a school teacher. -- and believe it or not she grew up to be one.
Swimming -- Well not quite swimming, but it was sure fun wading in the slough hole even if there is a wonderful lake close by. I tried that in the raw once, but that didn't go over in a big way.
Kites -- tried to fly them a dozen times without success.
Riding horses -- well the horse happened to be a stick with a piece of binder twine for a bridle, but that didn't matter.
Cops and Robbers -- those stick guns sure did the trick!
Baseball and hockey. -- forget that. Still can't skate to this day, and I live in a part of the country when kids get skates before they get shoes. (Well . . . -- not quite.)
Bicycle -- that was my mode of transportation for decades.
My cousin wanted to be a surgeon -- Performed his first operation on a doll, only to find sawdust. (He's an MD now.)
Some say that children are taught to play with certain toys. Maybe. But I still think that our choice of brooches or Tonka toys is in the genes.
I'll wager that most of us have tried about everything, but some things stuck longer than others. I would love to see Maurice using makeup now. :-)
I played with dolls, too, -- kind of. I never was into boy stuff. But I think I tended toward neutral territory: reading. I suppose this is really simplistic, but I wonder if it is wise for our society to attack "childhood stereotypes" that encourage boys to play sports and use toy guns while it encourages girls to play with dolls, etc. I can't help but think that there is more to this than stereotyping. It seems to me society sends a message when it encourages certain behavior among boys and among girls. This might even go back to the notion of pink for girls and blue for boys. It's not very practical at a baby shower, but I think the cues sent to a child from birth from his environment may have some influence on his orientative (new word?) development. But, of course, there's the old "Which came first?" question.
Incidentally, my mother recently was at a garage sale where a "little girl" (I suppose about ten) with a squirt gun that looked like an attack weapon came charging out of the house, wearing only the skimpiest of bathing suits. My mother was, of course, appalled. Somehow this seems to me to be the result of 90s thinking as directed toward girls especially: "Honey, modesty is not a factor in life, and get ready to blow away anybody who crosses your path!"
I had a white soft leather lamb about 8" tall, that was my favorite item till my mother took it away at about the age of 7. For toys I loved tinker toy sets, then later the erector sets, especially using the motors for cranes and things. I loved baseball, football, and wrestling, mostly to be with the boys. I always felt that I had to sneak a look at the interesting parts of their bodies, and sports were great for that! By age of 14, we were allowed to go off camping and fishing for several days on our own, riding our bikes 50 to 80 miles north of home. I always wondered why we couldn't touch, except in sports.
I suppose this is really simplistic, but I wonder if it is wise for our society to attack "childhood stereotypes" that encourage boys to play sports and use toy guns while it encourages girls to play with dolls, etc. I can't help but think that there is more to this than stereotyping. It seems to me society sends a message when it encourages certain behavior among boys and among girls. This might even go back to the notion of pink for girls and blue for boys. It's not very practical at a baby shower, but I think the cues sent to a child from birth from his environment may have some influence on his orientative (new word?) development.
I've really gotten a kick out of all the responses on this thread. Obviously, everyone has enjoyed reminiscing about their childhood. I think there is some significance, probably, but maybe not as much as some people might think. I certainly know boys who played with dolls and girls who played with trucks, who weren't homosexual. I guess it depends on how this fits into the larger picture.
I thought about my boys when they were little. The oldest was a real boy, into sports and rough-and-tumble play, yet he loved music and played classical guitar. Our middle son was quiet and shy, a book worm, but loved keeping the stats about all kinds of sports. And Danny, the youngest, was very outgoing and friendly, but hated any kind of sports, especially contact sports. (However, as an earliteen, he took karate--I wonder if that was an attempt to establish a "correct" male identity.) And of course, as I mentioned in my book, he loved poetry, art and music and was very talented in these.
I've had many, many parents tell me that my description of Danny sounded exactly like their sga son. So, what does all this mean?...
Writer #1 identifies himself as bi.