Can we talk about that pink bathing suit you wore all summer long?
You see, you’re five years old now, which means you’re honing in on your unique likes and dislikes. We’ve started letting you choose your own clothes to make space for your self expression to flourish.
This summer you chose a pink bathing suit.
Pink rash guard.
Pink swim trunks.
Head to toe pink.
I wasn’t surprised when you picked it out. Like many kids, your favorite color has been variable, sometimes week to week, sometimes minute to minute. But the one color you’ve consistently loved since toddlerhood? PINK.
Here’s why your love of pink matters
We haven’t explained to you yet why this even matters. We haven’t sat you down and told you that you’ve been born into a culture that assigns a gender to everything.
Like food. (Think steak versus salad).
And movies. (There’s a reason we have the condescending phrase “chick flick”).
And yes, even the reflections of light that bounce off objects.
It wasn’t always this way
Despite the fact that pink used to be the “it” color for little boys, today we are taught from birth that it is definitively GIRLY. In fact, if the marketers want to target girls and women with their products, all they do is make it the color pink.
You don’t know all of this yet, but of course you’re beginning to notice. Like that one time when you observed with neutral curiosity that a lot more girls wear pink than boys.
I told you that yes, you were right, but that every child has the freedom to love and wear all the colors.
All the colors are for all the children
So you’re beginning to pick up on this gender thing, but you’re also not entirely sure why you got some strange looks this summer—some double-takes while you splashed in the pool, some raised eyebrows while you collected bucket after bucket of seashells.
Here’s the thing: Those strange looks weren’t really for you, son. They were for ME.
Because some people are not ok with parents allowing their children to love whatever color they love and wear whatever color they desire.
Like the mother we saw at Kohl’s who told her son he could pick out whatever he wanted from the toy section. When he chose a bead kit for making jewelry (the exact same bead kit you have!), she promptly told him to put it back because “that’s for girls.”
Or the parents of the boy who asked the face painter for a butterfly. They immediately stepped in and made their son get a skull and crossbones instead. “Give him something for boys.”
Or the man who refused to buy Vitamin D drops for his newborn baby boy because the bottle had a picture of Dora the Explorer on it. Start ’em early, I suppose.
Your dad and I don’t see it that way, of course. In fact, we believe that suppressing your love of all things pink would be the most damaging thing we could do.
Because it would teach you that your likes and dislikes are only worthy of our love and acceptance if they fit into the very narrow box our society has deemed ok.
Take that one step further and you’d feel that WHO YOU ARE is only worthy of our love and acceptance if you fit into the very narrow box our society has deemed ok.
Our society’s big, shameful secret
It’s all such a shame, son, because here’s the secret: very few people actually fit inside that box.
Even the ones who look like they do on the outside often feel like they don’t on the inside. The sad result, I believe, is a sea of people—especially boys and men—who are filled with shame about who they are.
Boys and men who exhaust themselves trying to prove they DO fit inside that box.
Boys and men who have suppressed their feelings for so long they literally don’t know how to feel any emotion other than anger.
Boys and men who physically and emotionally harm women to assert their masculinity, despite how damaging it is to everyone—including themselves.
You, my dear son, are so much better than that.
Here’s the truth about you
All of this doesn’t mean I’m not worried about the ridicule you will undoubtedly face. So far no one has blatantly made fun of you for loving the color pink, but it’s only a matter of time before they do. I’m not kidding myself about that.
But here’s what I also know:
Masculinity claims to be about bravery and strength. When you walk out into this world wearing your pink bathing suit that you love so much, YOU are as brave and strong as they come.
When you are true to yourself, you are more courageous than the manliest man on this planet.
You probably don’t feel like a hero, though. You just feel like what you are: a little boy who loves the color pink.
Do you know what else you are?
SO VERY LOVED.
Now let’s go swimming.
The other hero of this story? My husband, who bought a pink shirt of his own because all the colors are for all the grown-ups too.