When I was growing up in the 70s, my parents bought me the touchy-feeling-I’m-OK-you’re-OK record album Free To Be… You and Me for Christmas (remember when all those baby-boomers still cared about things like civil rights, gender equality, liberation and the like?).
Well, this album was produced by liberal, “That Girl,” (and feminist extraordinaire), Marlo Thomas. It had snappy little tunes on it like “It’s All Right To Cry” by NFL footballer, Rosey Grier, “Parents Are People” by Harry Belafonte, “Helping” by Tommy Smothers (I still wonder if I was the only gay boy that had a crush on Tommy Smothers in the early 70s?) and of course, the title song, “Free To Be You And Me” by The New Seekers.
But my favourite song on the album was sung by liberal, “Hawkeye Pierce” (and feminist extraordinaire), Alan Alda. It was called “William’s Doll” and advocated in sing-along, non-gender specific play. That is, the song told the story of William, a young boy whose parents refused to buy him a doll – because it they thought it would make him into a ‘sissy’.
You know, that may have been the first time I heard the word ‘sissy’.
Eventually, through the course of the three-minute ditty of William’s repeated requests and repeated refusals for a doll, finally William’s grandmother dropped by one day and (going behind the father’s back) bought the kid a doll. After all, she said, William was going to be a father one day so he needed the practice of burping a doll.
Thus, since it was now acceptable for a boy to have a doll all the children cheered and danced and played having learned the valuable lesson that there was nothing wrong with a boy who desperately wanted to play with dolls.
The next year I asked for the Jamie Summers Bionic Woman doll for my birthday. The answer was a horrified and unequivocal “NO” (OK, maybe I went a tad far by also asking for the Bionic Woman Beauty Salon /Repair Station with the little salon chair, teeny-weeny hair dryer and the set computer cables that connected to circuits in her arm and two legs – which I was going to use to give her a home permanent). Perhaps, my parents did not think I would learn much about being a father by blow drying Jamie’s hair.
But in retrospect, I think that hearing “William’s Doll” way back in the 70s (and knowing that there may be other little kids out there like me and William) did make things a little easier for the little Gay Groom.
And though I know that I my attraction to men cannot be directly attributed to listening to “Free To Be… You and Me” and, specifically, “William’s Doll,” sometimes I like telling people that it was Alan Alda who made me gay – just for fun.
Jeffrey, The Gay Groom