I’ve always been a girly-girl. The kind that begged to wear dresses to school, and wore lace-topped socks, shiny patent leather shoes and carried a matching purse.
Of course, I loved the color pink and I still do, which apparently is of grave concern to Sue Palmer, author of “Toxic Childhood.” In a recent BBC News UK magazine article, Palmer bemoaned girls’ preoccupation with pink, saying it stunts their personalities. “I am very worried about it,” she said. “You can’t find girls over the age of 3 who aren’t obsessed with the color. It’s under their skin from a very early age and severely limits choices and decisions.”
Not all girls like pink and Palmer, expressed concern that pressure to conform to a fluffy princess image of girliness will harm them. However, Spokane author Michael Gurian doesn’t think color preference is cause for worry. In the same article he said, “My daughters love pink, but are very successful young women. Their love of pink and of girl stuff has not held them back.”
That certainly has been my own experience, and Palmer may be relieved to know I’ve been severely restricted in perpetuating my pink passion. I have four sons – they loathe pink.
As a modern parent I tried my best to encourage gender equity. When my firstborn was 6, I shared my carefully preserved Barbie with him. He ripped her head off and added chest hair to Ken with a brown crayon.
My mother bought a doll for our second son. His reaction mirrored how he would have responded if Grandma handed him a three-headed venomous viper – except he would have touched the viper.
Even Santa tried to help by leaving our third son a small doll with a bottle and highchair in his stocking. It was a boy doll. Zack seemed perplexed by Santa’s offering but gamely fed his baby – once. A few months later I noticed something blue on our roof. It was the doll. When asked how his “baby” got on our roof, Zack just shrugged. I gave up.
Now that three of them are teens, I find my own femininity has been intensified by living in such a masculine household. Weekend mornings find the boys lounging around in flannel pajama bottoms of muted grey and brown plaid. I don a soft pink bathrobe and scuff along in matching fluffy slippers.
Their jammie bottoms aren’t lovely, but they’re an improvement on the obnoxious boxers they’d prefer to wear around the house. Those garments prompted my now oft repeated admonition, “No underwear in the living room!” You can imagine how well that went over.
Speaking of underwear, Alex was offended when I hung my lacy unmentionables on the drying rack next to his football jersey. “Gross, Mom. Just gross,” he said. And he quickly snatched his manly garment lest it be contaminated by the proximity of lace.
While I cook dinner, I play Jim Brickman or Michael Bublé CDs. The boys retreat to their rooms and crank up Disturbed or Avenged Sevenfold.
I light scented candles to mask the stench of sweaty cleats left by the front door. They dare each other to stick fingers into the flickering flames.
They talk about hot chicks. I clarify, “You mean attractive young ladies?” They groan – even the 9-year-old. In desperation, I painted our living room a very soft shade of pink. “It’s beige,” they assured each other. My estrogen is no match for my testosterone-saturated household.
Even so, I still reject gender stereotypes. Not all of my boys played with cars and trucks, and not all of them are athletes. One is a musician, one writes poetry, and they all have sipped tea with me, and frequently baby-sit their younger cousins.
My pink preference hasn’t stopped me from reporting about basketball, barbershops or bikers. It didn’t prevent me from enjoying flying in a biplane or shooting handguns at a firing range. Ms. Palmer needs to relax. It’s 2009, and color preference needn’t dictate the course of a woman’s life – however much it may annoy her sons.