DEAR SANTA CLAUS
When eight-year-old Gary’s request to the North Pole for a Brenda Ann doll is denied, a series of letters from the boy bring Santa out of the closet and into the culture wars.
That’s the story that unfolds with humor and sensitivity in Jeffrey Solomon’s one-man theatrical production The Santa Closet. Solomon brilliantly portrays little Gary, his mom and dad, Santa, Agent to the Claus Sydney Green, Rudolph the Radical Reindeer, the elf foreman, and the uptight female expert from the Families Against Gays Association (FAGA) among others.
According to playwright and actor Solomon, the play was inspired by the national movement to speak honestly and openly to children about LGBT lives and issues, and the conservative backlash.
I saw The Santa Closet last week at a benefit for PFLAG NYC and urge you to see it if you can. Laughs aside, I thought the show spoke from the heart of all kids, not just those who are “different.”
It reminded me that all kids want to believe there’s someone who won’t judge them and who will love them just as they are.
And while that someone should be a child’s mom and dad, sometimes only Santa gives a child hope.
THAT BIG MALL IN THE SKY
The first thing my son Harry did after boarding a plane as a toddler was push the flight attendant call button. By the time they* were in grade school, it was SkyMall they reached for. You know, that “free copy!” in-flight catalog that airlines put in the seat pocket in front of you. Harry liked to page through and find the most ridiculous item. For the longest time, it was the countertop hot dog cooker/bun warmer appliance shaped like a toaster that got the biggest laugh.
Last year we flew to his dad’s in Milwaukee for Christmas. Harry, then 23, still reached for SkyMall.
“I think I want a subscription to this,” they joked to me from across the aisle. “And I definitely would have wanted this as a kid!”
Harry held up a page showing three mini motorcycles for kids. They were pointing at the pink one.
“Of course, you would have wanted that one!” I replied.
Harry’s favorite color as a kid was pink. Then I took a closer look. The same boy was photographed on the yellow and orange motorcycles, but the pink motorcycle stood alone.
“I guess there wasn’t a girl at the shoot that day,” I said.
“Yeah, well…” Harry said.
“Yeah well I find that so irritating. This is the 21st century!”
I wasn’t aware of my color brainwashing until Harry picked out a pair of neon pink shorts from the boys’ department when he was two. I’d hesitated and looked at Harry’s dad, because I was afraid people would think Harry was a girl. But his dad and I bought them anyway. They were, after all, in the boys’ department. Still, I imagined the stares from strangers that would and did follow.
This year, SkyMall’s holiday issue shows minor progress. On a page featuring “Fat Brain Toys,” a girl is pictured on a tiny photo of a red ATV. No boys in sight. But the “pretty and powerful” pink rider is called the Princess, while the “rough and tough” Ruckus GT comes in blue or yellow. (Audible sigh.)
Don’t you agree that toys marketed specifically to girls must stop putting emphasis on looking pretty and that “boys’” toys need to promote more than aggression? Or how about just marketing all toys to all kids? What do you think?
*My offspring Harry’s preferred gender pronoun is they. I know it takes some getting used to.
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