So, I’ve never encountered this in real life before, and I wonder what other people think, and maybe, how to proceed.
DH and I met a new couple a few weeks ago, and they are awesome. We get along great as a group, the wife and I hit it off right away, and DH and the husband have many common interests. They also live close by, so we hope to be able to see them and hang out on a semi-regular basis.
Here’s the thing I am having a spot of trouble with. NewCouple (NC) have an 11 month old baby. Baby, you ask? Not “son” or “daughter”? I honestly have no idea what gender their child is, and I am starting to think NC are raising their child in this new-fangled “gender neutral” way that we’ve all heard about before.
(I know it was a thread topic in the past, but I seem to recall that the thread was based on an article in a blog/other media, not on an E-Hellion’s RL experience. Correct me if I am wrong…)
Here’s what I do know. Mrs. NC refers to Baby as “she” and “her” exclusively. Since I’ve spoken with her much more than Mr. NC, I was of the belief that Baby was a girl. The first time I heard Mr. NC speak about baby was this past weekend, when we met Baby for the first time. Mr. NC clearly refers to Baby as “him” and “he”. Baby is an absolute munchkin, but at 11 months, there’s no way to tell by Baby’s face which gender he/she is, and Baby’s name is 100% not gender-specific. (The name can be shortened to a traditionally masculine nickname, but the name itself is the last name of a famous female singer, referenced to me by Mrs. NC when I asked the baby’s name.) My DH was not present for the conversations where Mrs. NC called the baby “she/her”. So when DH met Baby this weekend (Baby was dressed in grey shorts and a blue t-shirt), DH called Baby a “cute little guy”, more than once. Of course “guy” isn’t the most gender-specific word anymore, but it was enough for me to say quietly to DH, “I think Baby is a girl.” Cue confusion on DH’s part, because he’s spoken to Mr. NC much more, and Mr. NC refers to Baby in the masculine. One further point: a mutual acquaintance of both NC and DH and I congratulated Mr. NC when he heard about the baby, and said to him, “So? Boy or girl?” to which Mr. NC replied, “We’re going to let Baby decide for themselves!”
It’s not my business how anyone raises their child. But, I feel especially awkward referring to Baby as “he” or “she” when I don’t know which is right, and I’d feel really awful referring to Baby as “it”. (When NC was visiting, I was constantly on my toes making sure I referred to Baby either by name, or as “munchkin” or “peanut”.) We have lunch plans this weekend with NC, and I assume baby will be joining us (actually I hope so, Baby is a total delight to be around).
I was considering asking NC outright if Baby is a boy or girl, with the thought that 1 awkward question could alleviate a million potentially awkward moments. (Something like, “I feel really silly asking you guys this, but for some reason DH thinks Baby is a boy, and I’ve been under the impression Baby is a girl. I don’t want to use a misnomer while talking about your super cutie-patootie!”) But if their answer is, “We’re going to let Baby decide for themselves!” … I… don’t know how to respond. I’m thinking something to the effect of, “Oh, how interesting!”, and then bean-dipping like crazy.
If I am correct, how do I carry on if bean-dipping doesn’t work?
(To reiterate, it’s not my business how anyone raises their child. The only important thing is Baby is obviously well loved and well taken care of. I will merrily engage with baby and NC and really hope they become a more regular part of our lives but personally? I think it’s a strange way to raise a child, and I would not do it with my own children. YMMV of course. I just hope I'm not coming across as judgemental here. It's so not my intention. I really, really like NC.)