My wife and I are lucky because we have a lot of friends with children around the age of our two boys. This means we get free hand-me-down clothes, a lot. And what we don’t get from friends comes from my mother-in-law so we end up spending very little money on clothes for a four-year-older old and six-month-old. This arrangement, however, comes with a price. Some baby clothes for boys have way too much attitude.
I could not adore my six-month-old more. But it’s open to debate as to whether or not he’s even cognizant that he’s an autonomous being existing independently from his mother. He certainly doesn’t have “swag.” He doesn’t have “attitude.” He does not possess the canned sass of Garfield or ALF. He eats and drinks and sleeps and smiles beatifically and coos and poops himself and that’s pretty much it. Yet his wardrobe is nevertheless full of onesies donated by friends that loudly proclaim that he’s the boss, that he runs things and calls the shots with his bad self.
As I mentioned, we get a lot of our clothes as secondhand gifts from friends or old co-workers. This works out great for the most part. We save lots of scratch and our boys always have stylish clothes. The only downside to choosing very little of our children’s clothing is that the clothes we acquire sometimes have messages of varying degrees of sassiness and manufactured attitude.
Now, I have what I think is a reasonable request to make of the universe: don’t sexualize my babies. Don’t. Just don’t. I don’t care how adorable you think those weird naked “Love Is” sprites are: sexualizing babies and children is always creepy and wrong. Yet onesies exist and are worn daily with messages like “Watch Out Ladies!”, “Chicks Dig Me”, “Total Heartbreaker” or, for that queasy Oedipal/Electra Vibe, “Daddy’s Little Princess” or “Mommy’s Little Stud.”
I always feel bad for the oblivious babies in these onesies. These innocent creatures are still soiling themselves and weeping uncontrollably when they drop their juice boxes yet parents nevertheless think it’s funny and cute to act like their toddlers are miniature Charlie Sheens who just can’t wait to have a shot at the opposite sex. And it’s always the opposite sex with these onesies, as far as I have discerned. They all inhabit a world where everyone is heterosexual rather than Asexual, or Queer, or somewhere on the spectrum. These weirdly reactionary baby clothes seem to be anxiously willing their tiny, screaming little wearers into futures of traditional heterosexuality and everything that comes along with it.
I want my children to know we’ll love them no matter where they end up on the Kinsey Scale so it would be weird to nevertheless broadcast through our clothing choices for our babies that we’re assuming that our tiny little ones will be heterosexual.
I grew up in a world where it was assumed that everyone was straight and into the whole monogamy/marriage/parenthood thing and found it stifling even as a white heterosexual male. I don’t want my sons to feel like we’re trying to push them in the direction of heterosexuality even on a subliminal level through the clothes we pick out for them.
These onesies with too much attitude are at their worst when they’re getting saucy and suggestive in age-inappropriate ways but they’re annoying and misleading in many other, less egregious ways as well.
For example my four-year-old’s experience with sports consists entirely of him running away from the recreational soccer games we signed him up for in a delusional burst of optimism to a nearby playground so often, and with such enthusiasm, that we quickly gave up, cut out the middleman and just took him straight to the playground instead of to soccer practice. Yet he nevertheless possesses tee-shirts proclaiming that soccer is his life, the tennis court is his kingdom and he’s daddy’s baseball star.
On a similar note, my wife has vowed never to let our sons play video games, something she associates with school shootings and sociopathy. Yet he nevertheless has a tee-shirt that he wears often summarizing his lifestyle as “Eat, Game, Sleep.”
These silly shirts turn my son into an accidental liar and braggart publicly boasting, through articles of clothing he did not choose for himself bearing messages he cannot even read, let alone enthusiastically endorse or approve, about a skill or talent he not only does not possess but might not even realize exists, like Pokemon or Minecraft.
I sometimes ponder starting a clothing company for babies that would sell onesies with radically honest messages like “I’ll definitely be paying for college myself”, “Mommy and daddy wrestle with paralyzing economic insecurity”, “Daddy is a Freelance Writer So There’s Lots of Ramen in My Future”, “Living Tha Paycheck 2 Paycheck Life!” and “Attitude-Free: I Mostly Just Poop, Eat and Sleep.”
If you’re going to use your babies’ clothes to broadcast messages to the world they might as well be ones you actually agree with. If you’re going to use your precious little ones as sentient billboards for messages why not be honest about who your child is and how you see their future?
As for the baby or toddler wearing them? Well, they have no say in the matter.