I totally recognize that Grace looks like a linebacker for the Wildcat Football team. The blue and black, with the shoulder pads, is pretty boyish, even for me. The swimsuit was a new purchase. But an old irritation.
We were at Seaside last week for our family vacation. Three days into the trip, Grace falls face first into the swimming pool. She goes underwater, swallows some chlorine, and ages her parents 20 years in the process. We immediately realize, for our sanity, she needs the swimsuit with the life jacket built in. We rushed to the only place that sells this sort of thing, a fancy resort shopping boutique, the kind that sells 42 different sarongs with matching earrings and tee-shirts for $80. Alas, they offered two versions of the swimsuits we were searching for: one entirely the color of Pepto-Bismol and this one. Now, I had spent the previous day whining about Grace’s clothes and how every single article of clothing she had was either entirely pink or had pink in it (or pink’s close cousin, purple). So, I couldn’t stomach one more pink item.
Kris seemed to sense this, and without my saying a word, said “We can get the blue one.” I sighed, dejected, and uttered, “Thank you.”
I was very thankful for a husband who didn’t mind dressing his daughter in what was clearly a boy’s suit. I was irritated, however, at the swimsuit makers who only see in pink and blue. Why not offer a cute water-themed suit in blue and green, or a bright red, orange, or yellow suit everyone would like? Why must every single decision parents make be based on their child’s gender? It was irritating that I had to make a choice, either reinforce that Grace should wear only one color for her entire childhood or dress her like a boy. There was no neutral option. No middle ground.
Imagine as an adult only being able to wear one color. Your room is that color, your office that color, your car that color, your clothes, hats, shoes, and coats that color. It would definitely make a statement, wouldn’t it? It makes a statement for kids as well. Our obsession with putting our girls in pink and our boys in blue tells kids, and the wider world, that boys and girls are two different species-never to be confused with one another. Most parents would be horrified to have their son called a “she.”
I know that a swimsuit color is a little thing. But these little things add up.
Kids are raised into adults by the little things, the day-to-day choices and off-handed comments. These things dictate how the world views them, which over time shapes how they view themselves.
Grace, that day, was dressed as a boy because I was too cranky to handle any more pink. But the stranger next to us commented on how strong she was, not on how cute she was. In her usual “girl clothes”, she is frequently complimented on being cute. Her behavior wasn’t different, only other people’s perceptions of her differed based on my limited color options. A world that is only pink or only blue means some kids only hear how cute they are and some kids only hear how strong they are. Grace is both, strong and cute, and I just wish everyone else saw it more often, even without the shoulder pads.
At least it isn’t as bad as this…..Check out these great pictures which highlight how monochromatic childhood is.