I took both my kids to the salon with me the other day. It wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made but I also had big hair in the 80’s so I think we could all agree that occasionally I make some poor choices. But I’m not here to tell a cautionary tale of why you should never bring two toddlers to a salon for the reason you think. The story I’m here to tell is the one of my son at the salon, though really, it could translate to any kid, in any place, at any moment in life when someone else tries to tell them who to be. To my son and daughter, hear this: be yourself. Simply. Truly. Wonderfully. And to anyone who tries to tell them they should be, in any way, different than who they want to be, hear this: I’ll rip your face off. It’s that easy. You’ve been warned.
As the younger sister, everything my sister did, I wanted to do and in the exact same way. Exactly. There is plenty that my son does independently and is, as a whole, more independent than his sister, but if she asks for water, he asks for water. If she says I’m putting yogurt up my nose with this here straw and then gouges her nose and bleeds all over the carpet – he says I’m putting yogurt up my nose with this here straw and then gouges his nose and bleeds all over the carpet.
Tweedle dee, tweedle do.
In the mornings when Rafaella was younger and an only child she stood by the sink watching me get ready. She stood in wonderment of this odd ritual of painting my face and – like any kid – wanted to emulate her parent. When Santiago was born, he joined his sister. Side by side, they watch me put on lip gloss and stroke my face with a powdered blush brush. Rafaella says, “Mami. Quiero labios tambien,” (I want lips too – her translation) so I bend over and swish some gloss across her lips. And then Santiago says, “Mami. Quiero labios tambien,” and I bend over and swish some gloss across his lips too.
Like I said… tweedle dee, tweedle do.
So it was no surprise when we were at the salon and I was getting a pedicure and Rafa was asking to get her nails painted that Santiago would also want his nails painted. He picked up the lovely shade of pink that was in front of him and said, “Mami. Quiero pintarme las uñas.” (I want to paint my nails.) Ok. I opened the bottle and took his hand.
“NOOOO!” The girl giving me my pedicure bellowed, so loudly that I literally jumped.
My first reaction to her intense disapproval was to think I couldn’t use the polish due to poisonous chemicals or permanent discoloration, “Sorry. Can I not…”
“Not pink. He’s a boy.”
I stared at her – not in a confused way but in an I’ll rip your face off annoyed way. If looks could kill…
“Use one of those,” she instructed, pointing with her pouted lips at some polish bottles behind a box.
Maybe she realized how silly she was being, I thought before reaching for the bottle. Nope. When I picked up the bottle, I quickly understood. It was clear polish. They all were.
I looked at Santiago, “Quires este / Do you want this one?” I offered with no enthusiasm, showing him the clear polish.
“Quires este / Do you want this one?”
Same reply, “No.”
“Y este / How about this one?” I asked a third time, just to drive the point home to the lady on the other side of the table.
“No. Quiero el rosado,” he said, lifting up the pink polish to my face.
Pink it is then. My mom noticed the looks the manicurists were giving each other and while I was too busy painting his nails pink to notice their dumb faces, I knew they were making them – rolling their eyes at my subpar mothering that would assuredly scar my son for life. We live in a country that is awesome in many ways but also a country* where many believe I could turn my son gay with every swipe of that fabulous shade of pink.
And it makes me angry. I’ve already started to hear him say that he can’t watch something or play with certain toys because “it’s for girls” and I have to take a deep breath because he’s 3 so I know he didn’t come up with that on his own. I know the day will come when another kid on the playground will ask him why he’s wearing nail polish and he’ll feel ashamed for reasons he won’t – or can’t – understand and that’ll be the last day he wears it. And I can’t prevent that any more than I can prevent the rest of the world from trying to change him into what they believe he “should” be but I can confidently tell him and his sister this:
Blaze like a motherf*#cker and let the whole world watch you shine. Let no one tell you what to watch, wear, or play with and certainly not who to be or what to do with your life. Everything you are and need to know is inside of you, placed inside your little sparkling soul before you were even born. There doesn’t have to be an “or” – play with dolls and dump trucks if you want. Learn how to build a house and how to build a home; they’re different but equally important. There will be moments of insecurity because some ignorant person believes they know how everyone should live, but gain strength from knowing they haven’t the slightest idea. And then sparkle and shine and blaze your path and make no excuses because there is no better way to honor yourself than to be wonderfully you.
- This is not, unfortunately, the only place that thinks something as silly as nail polish could create sexual preference.