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Got a Problem With Pink Nail Polish? Get a Grip!

Taylor Newman

J. Crew is one of my all-time favorite guilty pleasures. Oh, those preppy, over-priced lightweight cashmere cardigans in endless pastel hues (honestly, I’d never wear one) … Those clean-lined wedding party ensembles (fessing up: our wedding party did rock J. Crew dresses and suits, and they looked classy)… Those scruffy-yet-sophisticated J. Crew men (back of the book. Yum). I’m not really into ballerina flats to the degree that I’d place a non-wedding-related order, but I do enjoy flipping through the season’s catalog over breakfast—before Kaspar snags it and smears it with puréed mush. Sometimes I’ll see an outfit that ‘works’ and stow it away in the back of my brain. Or I’ll get all charged up about a failed fashion-forward spread (jeans three sizes too big and a ripped thrift-store-esque t-shirt? Am I old now, at 26, or simply missing something?), and show Aaron, who feigns interest and/or horror before returning to his eggs. Whatever the reasons, I’m admitting publicly, here and now, that I love me some J. Crew-- despite my personal style being somewhat apart from their go-to ladies’ look. No matter. Keep ‘em coming, catalog-peeps. A mom’s gotta get her fix.

And that kids’ catalog—CrewCuts, I believe— NOW we’re talking; I cannot even handle how ridiculously cute those clothes (and the kids they have in them) are. Ruffles, stripes and mini-fedoras? Boys-wear blazers on girls wearing bows, and now a little boy with pink toenails and hipster glasses frames? Bring it. Love it. Fox News (and everyone else screaming ‘transgendered liberal agenda’) needs to have a lollipop and get a grip.

First of all, for those of you who haven’t seen the spread, or the debate, here it is. It’s a mom and her kid, and he likes neon pink. Big effing deal. I honestly thought the whole ‘boy color/girl color’ delineation ended somewhere around first grade, but apparently adults nationwide are having trouble digesting this one. That’s just weird. Not the nail polish—the uproar. I’ll give a little leeway, maybe, to those childless critics lacking all recall (ever play dress-up?); they may not be in touch with the fact that kids just like to wear crazy clothes (and then some) as a matter of course. I’ve seen capes, pajamas, face-paint and what I think was supposed to be a tail, in public, all in the past week. As a babysitter, years before having a child of my own, I arrived upon many a scene in which little boys donned tutus, or, yes, nail polish, while at the same time throwing footballs or eating earthworms from their front lawns. My point is, kids live in a colorful world in which lines between real and imaginary, his and her’s, ‘should’ and ‘should not’ are not immediately self-evident. I feel it’s my job as a parent to make the lines clear around, say, issues concerning safety, or kindness towards others, but… nail polish? Please.

Beyond the many rules and regulations that I will need to avail Kaspar of as he grows (color preferences not among them), my main job as his mom is to celebrate him for being the person he is, allowing him to discover that and explore it, and helping him to develop into a confident, happy adult. It’s clear to me (through my interactions with kids and adults alike) that parents who push their kids to be who they’re not, well, cause those kids a lot of self-loathing and confusion in the immediate moment and much later; lifetimes spent following paths that aren’t one’s own are painful. Sometimes people make U-turns, as adults, realizing their error and learning to embrace the little voice inside themselves as their parents never did. That’s hard work, though; I want to help Kaspar find his voice early on, to help him use it so it becomes steady and clear. What we wear is a part of our self-expression. Right now, I love dressing Kaspar in cool baby get-ups every day. But later, as soon as he’s interested, I’ll let him choose what he wears. It’s one of the many ways that I’ll show him, early on, that I trust, admire and approve of his sense of himself, of his own tastes and ideas, and that he can trust himself to make independent choices and decisions throughout his life.

We mean so much to our kids in this respect. And Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s Creative Director and the mom shown painting her adorable son’s toenails in the now-infamous spread, is doing exactly what she should be, as a mom, in saying “Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink.” Lucky for all of us, our kids are exactly who they are. I’d be willing to bet that, like most kids, little Beckett’s favorite color will change a hundred times over in the next several years, but even if it’s pink for good… what’s everyone so afraid of? That he’ll be gay or something? That their own kids will be gay? That the world really is divided up into boy colors and girl colors, and strict boundaries around who love is available to, both between partners, and—implicitly or explicitly—between parents and their kids? That’s crazy talk.

My love is available to my son unconditionally. There are no boundaries around that.

Jenna’s kid likes pink nail polish. More power to him. And huge props to her for doing what moms do best, which is knowing how lucky she is, loving her child, and making Saturday super neon-pink fun.

What was your reaction to the J. Crew controversy? Do you have a tom-boy, or a boy who likes traditionally ‘girly’ activities? How do you foster your kids’ senses of creativity and individualism in the face of, well, an American culture that freaks out over a little pink nail polish? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this.