Toxic Masculinity Cost Me an Easy-Bake Oven
All I wanted to do was cook. Why do we spread lousy advice that stunts the happiness of young boys?
I grew up cooking with my grandmother. She made biscuits from scratch, baked sweet potato pies, and prepared turkeys at Thanksgiving. She canned her vegetables, jelly, and chow-chow, and even made ice cream.
And I helped.
I stirred pots for her. I peeled fruit and ran to the store for forgotten half-pints of cream or to buy onions and collard greens. I watched simple ingredients become things of beauty. And I loved it. Even as a small child, I read cookbooks for fun. No one thought anything of it — or, if they did, no one ever said anything.
I only remember one instance when my love for cooking met some resistance. When I was around nine or 10 years old, I hauled out the Sears Wish Book to dream about Christmas. I pored through the massive holiday catalog’s huge toy section, using an ink pen to mark dozens of toys that I had absolutely zero chance of receiving.
What I really wanted that year was an Easy-Bake Oven. Even a Strawberry Shortcake version — I could have lived with either. Both toy ovens baked tiny cakes and pies using a lightbulb as a heat source. They came with little packages of cake mix and teeny-tiny cake pans.
I had asked for one for a couple of years by that point, and couldn’t figure out why it never appeared under the Christmas tree. There wasn’t much money in our household, sure, but I remember one year being perplexed by getting a gift that cost much more than the Easy-Bake Oven I’d campaigned so hard for that holiday season.
Now, I should say that I wasn’t the toughest kid on the block. I was bookish, I didn’t fight, and I couldn’t dribble. I may have even jumped double Dutch with some of the girls on my block a time or two. And my mother always seemed “concerned,” considering she raised me mostly alone, and there were few male role models in my life.
It might take bravery, there might be consequences, but isn’t that what being a man is really all about?