Easy Bake Ovens (for Boys)

When I was a wee lad, I asked for a kitchen set for Christmas.

My Mom denied my request, informing me that kitchen sets were for girls.

My disappointment gave way to hope the following year, however. While engaging in my favorite late fall pastime — reading the Sears Christmas catalog that arrived by mail — I was overjoyed to see that within the very pages of that fine, authoritative publication was the kitchen set of my dreams…and it was shown being played with by a girl AND a boy. I rushed to show my mom the the incontrovertible evidence.

That Christmas, I got my kitchen set.

These days, as of about four years ago, I do all the cooking in our household. I don’t know why it took me so long, because I love it. I find it to be a joyful and rejuvenating outlet for my curiosity and creativity. (And Kim is thrilled that her lifelong dream of having a personal chef has finally come true!) I’ve always assumed that this interest developed later in my life, as I don’t recall hanging around my mom when she was cooking, pestering her to help, or being eager to create dishes of my own.

But then I was reminded the kitchen set.

It’s interesting to think that this interest may have been within me all along, lying dormant for years. Perhaps it had been buried by the stereotype that was rampant during my childhood: women do the cooking.

Apparently, that stereotype still persists, as evidenced by the recent controversy with Easy Bake Ovens. 13-year-old McKenna Pope started an online petition requesting Hasbro to make Easy Bake Ovens in gender neutral colors. She did so after looking to buy one for her 4-year-old brother only to find that it only comes in girly pink and purple, with girls — and only girls — on the packaging and commercials. I am happy to report that, in part due to the efforts of McKenna, Hasbro is set to release a gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven later this year.

I think there are a few lessons here. First, clues for a more joy-filled life might be hidden in your childhood. It may be worth examining what sorts of obscure long-forgotten interests you had way back when. Perhaps you’ll discover something that will open up a whole new chapter of awesomeness to your story.

Secondly, I don’t know why my parents needed Sears to give them permission to buy their son a kitchen set, but it underlines how powerful our need for permission is. It would be great if we didn’t need it, especially when it comes to doing things that might make our stories better. But the messages we receive from marketers, the media, and parents and teachers affects us all in ways we often don’t even realize.

The opportunity lies in realizing that YOU have the power (and responsibility) to be a permission granter, too. You may not have the scope of a media outlet, but I guarantee you that when it comes to the people in your daily life, you have WAY more influence.

Who do you know that might need permission to believe in themselves, dream bigger, or take that leap?

Smell what I’m cookin’?

Art: “Easy Bake Oven (For Boys)” by Jason Kotecki

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