Just after Eila was born, I received lots of hand-me-downs from a good and wise friend. I remember watching her sort through the clothes and pull out all the blue ones, saying, “you won’t want these.” Of course I said I would want them, absolutely, and that I didn’t intend to be repressed by a stereotype. She narrowed her eyes at me and said, “Come and talk to me in a year.”
Within a year I was dressing Eila all in pink. And here’s why. When you have a baby, everyone talks to you all the time. It’s a totally weird experience, especially for people who hate their fellow men like me, but it can’t be stopped. As Miss Manners says, babies are everyone’s property, and Eila was chin-chucked and cooed over everywhere we went. And, if she was dressed in blue, what people said was, “what a cute little boy.”
Now if it had stopped there, I would have said: that’s their problem. But what happened next, invariably, was that no matter how gently I said, “it’s a girl actually,” they fell all over themselves in apology. The oh-I’m-so-sorries just did not stop, and they explained that they too liked blue, and that they too hated stereotypes, and that they were so sorry again — and they blushed. And it wasn’t fake! The result of dressing a girl baby in blue (or a hairless girl baby in yellow or green) is that you make the whole goddam world feel bad. And who was I to make the whole world feel bad? At any rate, I didn’t have the strength in that first year to shoulder the responsibility. The only thing I tried (by way of saving the blue, without causing embarrassment) was sometimes letting it go, just nodding and smiling. But whenever I did that, the next question was, “what’s his name?”
The thing is, Eila’s come to like pink. Way too much. I think I screwed up. I should have fought the good fight, and made the world feel bad.
*From Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon.”