My boss and I volunteer with Junior Achievement every year, in specific with second graders. Second graders are loud and weird and funny (or sometimes quiet and weird and funny, but you can pretty much count on the weird part) and I do enjoy working with them. Every once in a while, tho', you get a real... pistol.
There is one of the current bunch that is a bit of a trouble maker. I like him, anyway, but I also want to strangle him (::tries not to think about the many times child-Jenny-O caused that exact reaction in the adults around her::). He has a tendency to say things he thinks will shock adults, to enjoy their reactions. I must be terribly disappointing to him, because I never react the way he hopes I will. For example, during an early session (during which they're supposed to imagine a new kind of doughnut) he told me he didn't have any imagination, because all he could think about was the devil. I told him a devil's food doughnut was a great use of imagination, and moved on.
Today, as I was leaning over his desk to help him with something, he looked at me and said (in that 'I Shall Provoke You Now' voice) "Why does it look like you have a mustache?!"
Now Gentle Readers, I will admit that I had a moment- a brief moment- where shame and anger flooded my system, wretched remnants of the stupid Patriarchy. Because as soon as I'd seen him looking at my upper lip, I knew what he was thinking- because it's been a long while since I've waxed. But I brutally repressed those negative reactions, looked the little bastard in the eye, and said evenly, "Because I have a mustache."
He have a skeptical laugh. "Men have mustaches! Are you a boy or a girl?"
Again I kept eye contact, cocked my head, and calmly said, "What do you think?"
At this point I could see him starting to reconsider. Which I figured he would. A lot of class-clowns blurt out hurtful things for comedic value, and then regret them when they realize the hurtful aspect. But I wanted more than that. I wanted him to wonder why a woman having facial hair should even be funny or hurtful or at all remarkable in the first place*.
"Um, a girl?"
I shrugged. "Girls have hair on their faces, too. We all have hair all over our bodies. See? It's hard to see here on my arm, but it's there."
"Oh," he said, and actually sounded thoughtful. And then I continued my lesson, and mentally congratulated myself for holding my own against an eight-year-old boy- and maybe, just maybe, providing a blow against the Patriarchy.
*(there's actually a really good blog entry in the exploration of my feminist values vs my personal standards for my own beauty... but I'm not up for getting that deep tonight.)