Gender Norms

If you would have asked me six months ago how I would react to Bash wanting a pink toy or wearing nail polish I would have proudly said it is no problem for me.  I'm a progressive and enlightened man, right?  I know that the color pink has nothing to do with femininity.  I don't buy into that tired old way of thinking.  My child will grow up knowing that whatever he likes, he likes.  It won't affect the way his father loves him.  In the end he will be secure in himself and he'll truly have the trust a child should have in their father.  That all sounds good until that time comes.

Well that time came for me.  My progressiveness was recently tested.  Swedie and I have discussed this topic at length.  We agreed that if we're out toy shopping and Bash likes a "girl toy", Bash gets that toy.  So I was surprised when Swedie called me one day asking if it's okay to buy this chair Bash wants.  I rolled my eyes.  Here we go again.

       - How much is the chair?
       - It's not expensive.  But the one Bash wants is pink.

Easy answer, right?  Get it!  What are we, neanderthals? Just say yes and go back to playing Madden.  But it wasn't that easy.  I felt a twinge in my body.  MY SON?!  A PINK chair?!  What does this mean?  What would people think?  Why did he have to pick pink?  But pink is just a color.  A girl color?... I stopped my mind from racing.

       - What do you think?
       - It's the one he wants.  Sooo...

She was right.  I heard in her voice that she was hesitant, but she was right.  A little part of me was glad that it wasn't just me in this parent team that was scarred by societal gender norms.  This was the ultimate test.  We could have easily made a decision to get another color.  Swedie could have talked Bash into blue (grunt! grunt!) or yellow.  Or even say we can't get it now and then Bash would get over it.  But who would that decision be for?  That would be for us.  I audibly rationalized the whole decision.  I told Swedie that she's right.  It's the one he wants, so let's get it!

       - You sure?
       - (short pause) Yeah! Fuck it!

Ha!  Oh, the internal struggle.  It's funny how much I learn about myself as a parent.  Bash won't remember this moment at all, but I'll never forget it.  That small step opened a large door for me.  I was able to confront some internal stuff I didn't know was in me.  Gender norms had done a number on me.  I was setting myself free.  It's just a color.  And a nice color at that!  I have pink shirts (yes, more than one).  Do those shirts say anything about me?  Am I any less of a man?  Are any colors off limits for girls?  It's all so ridiculous.  My mind was open.

Then I came home to Bash with fresh nail polish on.  I felt a lump in my throat as I put on a smile.  He only had the patience to get a few nails polished (and his big toes), but still.  Nail polish?!  And when it dries, hes going to skip (okay maybe not skip, but you get it) over to his recently purchased pink chair and sit there in his progressiveness.  All of this stuff is happening so fast.  I must say, I didn't like it.  It had nothing to do with Bash at all.  This was about me.  I didn't like how I reacted.  I thought I would be more accepting when my son came over excited about something.  I used to think it was cool when I saw young boys come in to my job with nail polish on (I worked in a hipster neighborhood).  Even cooler when the father and child had on matching polish.  A big "fuck you" to gender norms!

So why was I in this place?  I never thought to remove the polish.  I'm glad about that.  I told Bash it was nice.  I never even mentioned my internal struggle with Swedie.  Frankly, I was embarrassed about it.  I'm glad I had to go through this.  It will only make me a better father.  Bash will be exploring the world forever.  He's going to need all the love and support he can get.  I'm going to keep my focus on raising a respectful and productive member of society.  I'll nurture his talents and build his confidence.  Pink or polish has nothing to do with any of that.  This kid is making me a better person. What more could a father ask for?  Until next time...

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