When I heard about this advertisement, I was confused. I am usually very clear about my stand on most things and I am hoping that writing down the way I feel will help clarify my thoughts. A mother paints her little son’s toenails pink.
By itself it seems no biggie. Growing up I saw loads of little boys dressed in frocks, fulfilling their mother’s dream of a daughter. If you look through family albums you will notice at least one picture of almost a little boy in a dress, immortalised in black and white.
Growing up in small town UP, its a common sight to see little boys even up to the age of 5 or 6 with their hair plaited and tied up in ribbons. We often make the mistake of smiling at a little pretty plaited child and asking - how old is she? Only to have the parents smile back and gently correct us – HE is 5 and we haven’t had the mundan yet. As a little girl I found the long haired boys funny because in our community/religion we don’t have a mundan tradition but I eventually got used to it and accepted it for what it was. Apparently many things need to fall in line depending on your family traditions – the auspicious date, it can only be done at an odd numbered age – 1, 3, 5 etc. Cannot be done in a year you lose a family member or if the mother is pregnant again etc. So we’d end up with these big boys coming to school, hair in long plaits, getting teased by other little kids.
But that apart, I’ve seen loads of little boys dressed up in dresses for parties because the mother just wanted to. Because she kept trying and after 2/3 boys gave up all hope of ever having a girl and dressed the littlest fellow as a girl for many years. I’ve once taken a picture of the 20 month old brat with his hair in two pigtails because I was sitting around playing with him and it seemed like a funny thing to do and try and imagine what the baby I was pregnant with would look like if it was a girl (I was wrong, she looks nothing like a brat in pigtails).
The Brat often comes to me when I am getting dressed for a party and asks for a spritz of my perfume. I sometimes just spray him with my fresh lime deo or a melon-ey body spray and at other times take him to the OA’s cupboard and give him a shot of the OA’s more masculine scents. But I don’t think it’s ever been a matter of discussion. He has never asked me to paint his nails but that is because he’s also seen the Bean being told that little children must not wear nail polish or makeup. Why, asks the Bean?
Because you’re already beautiful, I tell her. Little children are perfect and don’t need make up. Look at your lovely clear skin and pretty hair and smile. Mama is old and falling apart and needs a little denting and painting job done on her. The Brat just hugs me and says, You’re not old, you’re not falling apart!
But anyhow, the point is that the nailpaint thing has never arisen. The Bean wears my heels and stumbles around the house but she also stomps around the house in the OA’s shoes. Which brings me to the second part – are we just more particular about our boys being boys than our girls being girly? I’d probably paint the Brat’s toes if he wanted to wear pink nail polish, confident that it would be hidden in his little boy sneakers. But in all honesty I might worry about people making fun of him. Other kids laughing, other parents commenting. Sometimes it is not so much your own fears as the fear of others ridiculing and hurting the child’s feelings.
Over the years parents have become more easy going about daughters wearing pants and joining the army but a son interested in fashion design or dance still raises eyebrows. If we are so particular about not forcing pink and frothy dresses on our little girls who want to climb walls in denim shorts, why are we so particular about forcing our little boys into pants and never letting them play with a pair of wings and a wand? Particularly when this is their choice unlike being forced into keeping long hair and wearing dresses?
We’re at a cusp in this country. There are some of us who only shop in the very Western Mothercare and ELC for pink dresses and pink vaccum cleaners for our daughters and little blue tees and cars for our sons. But in some parts of the country the plaited boys still prevail. (Hell, in some parts of the country you will still see men holding hands and they’re only friends!)
So… what do you think? Would you allow your son to paint his nails if he wanted to? An older boy – even 5 or 6? What about your daughter? Do you tend to dress her in pinks and reds alone?
Edited to add: A friend is setting up a fitness centre/gym. Would you be so kind as to fill up this quick questionnaire and help him? Thanks.