Laying in bed with my other half, he asks casually (though I feel it’s slightly not casual), “Did [our son] A go to school with fingernail polish on?”. The answer is yes. He did. I meant to take it off, but I ran out of time that morning. Recently, A has started locking the bathroom door and painting his nails. Typically greens and blues, but still, this is a taboo subject in my house and I know it. Men don’t do that, is the stigma.
I primarily hung out with artists and musicians growing up, so to me this is not the end of the world. My son sees me dote on our daughter, I [for reference]. Painting her nails, doing her hair, letting her play with jewelry and lipgloss, is all part of our daily routine. As I get ready, she mimics, and he watches, quite obviously feeling left out. I hate seeing the look in his eyes when he asks to put on lipgloss too, and I tell him he can’t. When he asks to wear a headband, and I tell him no. When I tell him boys don’t wear nail polish. Honestly, what do I care? I really don’t. Of course, I am not trying to foster these urges against society to prove a point, or put him in a position to be picked on, bullied, or criticized, but I do believe he should be free to express himself in appearance in whatever ways make him happy.
Many will sit back in judgmental silence for a moment considering this as a ‘non-option’. That’s fine.
Let’s take a minute to consider our daughters. I tell my daughter all the time that she can be whatever she wants in life. She says, ‘I want to build houses like daddy.’ I put on her work boots and hand her a toy hammer. She says, ‘I want to be Captain America.’ I fasten her shield and tie her cape. My soon-to-be husband takes photographs of how cute she looks. She wants Pokemon, Transformers, trains, she wants to be Optimus Prime. Awww, so cute. Also, not a problem. She wears my sons hand-me-downs, sometimes even to school, mostly band tee shirts and pj’s, or the occasional socks or sweatpants. She has a SuperMario lunchbox and is dressed like Batman most afternoons. All is well.
Now, back to my son. A wants a Sophia the First themed bedroom. I wince, and quickly direct him to jungle themes on Pintrest. His favorite color is pink. It is a gorgeous color after all. Who am I to tell him what to enjoy visually? Butttt, he wants pink clothes. ‘I’m sorry Sweetie, I can’t find pink boy clothes.’. He wants to know why his sister can wear boy colors/clothes but he can’t wear girl colors/clothes. I have no words. I grew up a tomboy. If I have to force my daughter to wear girly clothes just to enforce gender roles in my house, it will be so anti-me, that I may just explode into dust.
But here I lay. Awkward irritation between my significant other and myself. ‘Why can’t we just let him be himself?’, I attempt to say calmly. But I’m not that calm. I’m not upset with him, I’m just in the middle of a battle within myself. It is because I also feel like I shouldn’t be sending him to school with nail polish on, in his sisters clothes, to come home to a Princess bedroom. I feel like I should discourage him dressing up like Elsa, even though his sister whips by in a Darth Vader mask.
It’s wrong. It’s all wrong. I’m wrong. Right?
Why are we so against letting our sons be who they are? Chances are pink won’t be his favorite color forever. He may paint his nails once or twice as a teen in a metal band, but I doubt he’ll be getting acrylics every other week. And let’s be honest now, I’d be hard pressed to think of a guy I know well, friend or family member that I haven’t seen in at least an article of my clothing or a bit of my make up at some point in our lives (Go ahead guys, pretend I don’t mean you. 😉 ).
I’m not saying I won’t let him play with girl toys, watch his favorite shows, or pick out pink lollipops. I do. Everyday. I’m also not saying my significant other is a tyrant about nail polish. He’s not. He just firmly believes I should be promoting masculine behavior while he is out working long days, making it possible for me to stay home to raise our children. I completely understand. Both sides. Because I feel both sides are completely logical. Let’s do both! Can’t we be both? Big, pink wearing, construction workers that enjoy a good romcom with their beer and burger? Finding this balance is my strife.
I am disappointed in myself that I can’t find a stoic solution to this gender inequality brewing in my own home; in my own mind. Such a big part of me doesn’t care, and such a big part of me never wants to send him out trick or treating dressed as Sophia the First. I don’t know why we treat our sons and daughters so differently, but I do know that I am witnessing the way it confuses them. I see it on his face when I tell him no every morning. I wish he understood that I don’t get it either.
We can preach feminism all we want… society, society, feminism, on and on… and on again… but I’m starting to think- it may be time to start sticking up for our sons a little harder, and in a less judgmental way.
Whisper words of wisdom… But… let it be.