I have written before that in my early years all of my friends were boys. Above you can see the guests at my birthday party, six little boys, including the twins in nice white shirts. We played together for hours, mainly chasing, running, hiding, swinging, sliding and shooting. We all had cap guns and gleefully shot them with no thought about how later generations might condemn such play.
I had several dolls that I cherished, but I never tried to play with them with my friends. I understood that dolls were for girls, as were play cooking and tea parties. Once I started school I made my first friend who was a girl, and learned about hair styling and makeup applications, at least those that six year olds could master. I enjoyed this new kind of play, certainly never a part of my earlier fun.
By third grade the sexes had completely split. Girls played with girls and boys with boys. Our activities too became more gender specific, even on the playground. For instance only girls jumped rope, only boys shot baskets. I quit thinking of boys as friends. From fourth grade on, boys figured only in conversations with other girls about who liked which boy.
The 1950’s had very clear understandings about gender. The toy catalogs had boy toys and girl toys. Clothing was either for boys or for girls (I couldn’t even wear pants to class in college.) Boys talked freely about the cars they wanted. Girls fantasized about future houses. We really seemed to inhabit parallel universes.
I would love to know from my readers how things might be different now. I also wonder if this gender distinction was true in other parts of the world. Please comment.