It’s not very often you (well, I) say, “My greatest fears have come to pass.”
But now, I’m scared.
My oldest son (he of the self-proclaimed Disney Princess “excession”) got unexpectedly melancholy, this afternoon, sat on my lap and (unprompted) said, “Some kids at my school say pink is a girl’s color.”
All the pink drained out of my skin pigmentation. I was crestfallen.
My worry-free cherub just exposed his first sign of social suffering.
I quelled suddenly-savage defensiveness and did NOT bombard him with statements like:
“Buddy, pink is the BEST boy’s color!”
“You wear your pink shirt and color your pink pictures and admire pink dresses all you WANT!”
I needed so badly to cover him with hugs and kisses and protect him.
As with so many other moments in his 4 ½-year-old life, it felt like the beginning of the end of his innocence.
Desperately measuring my response so as not to make a pink mountain out of a pink molehill, I said, “Really? That’s kind of silly, isn’t it? That kind of ‘yucked’ your ‘yum’, right?”
“Who said that to you?” I sweetly inquired, already planning to ring the little fucker’s neck at school on Monday.
“I don’t know. Some kid at my school.”
“Oh. Not someone in your class?” (Apparently I had prematurely prosecuted thirteen snot-nosed pre-kindergarteners in the previous twenty seconds.)
“No. Someone told someone else told my friend. We talked about it. At lunch. Because I had pink fruit snacks.”
Oh. Interesting: a lunch discussion spurred by some silly fruit snacks.
(Side note: those chemically-based gummies are the bane of my existence. Until this year, my kids had no idea they existed. Now, fruit snacks replace ice cream, cake or crack for my kids’ dessert. They’ll do ANYTHING for those processed baggies of crap.)
And now, fruit snacks broke the seal on something I’ve feared for the last 15 months of my son’s penchant for all things princess-y: his disappointment that peers will judge his passions.
So we had a 3-minute discussion of why pink is absolutely a boy color, too.
We kind of left it at “You like pink. So what?”
He seemed mollified.
Except that I felt myself uncharacteristically at a loss of how to convince him, since I felt so wounded on his behalf. (It’s all about me. Sorry.)
Plus, I was catapulted to childhood memories in which adults bent over backwards to reassure me in times of humiliation.
Like when I told my first grade teacher that another kid called me “gay” and she rushed to me with an open dictionary pointing to the first definition stipulating “happy” as the meaning of gay.
I knew she was wrong. (I didn’t know what “gay” meant, but I knew I wasn’t being called “happy”.)
Or when I was playing “Barbie” with a neighbor girl and her dad said, “You can’t grow up and play with ‘Barbie’ without getting beat up,” but her mom said, “Jim, shut up. He can play with ‘Barbie’. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
(But I knew there was something wrong with it.)
At a young age I knew I should assuage these adults standing up for me; if nothing else so I could get on with forgetting (repressing) these humiliations. I’d feign satisfaction. But deep down, I knew the adults were wrong and the kids were right.
It was bad to be called “gay”. It was bad to play with Barbies.
I hope my son won’t categorize me a Holden Caulfield “phony” after our pink discussion, today. But I need to “up” my game in the discussions of “Buddy, you LIVE your pink life however the hell you want. Ain’t no such thing as boy colors or girl colors.”
But he knows he likes “girl” colors. And until today, I don’t think the “girl” label meant anything to him. It’s that other kids told him it wasn’t OK for him to like “girl colors.”
And I’m afraid peer condemnation will mean everything to him.
I don’t know how to make peace with it, going forward.
I’ll shower him in hugs and kisses and encourage his over-use of the pink crayon while coloring sunsets, robots, cars and princesses.
Other than that…how do I deal?