Pink, pink, pink, pink* (or, as if I wasn’t in enough trouble, a little more about sex and gender)

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.”


7 thoughts on “Pink, pink, pink, pink* (or, as if I wasn’t in enough trouble, a little more about sex and gender)

  1. Wait a minute! All this time you’ve been telling me I’m a girl named Andrea just because someone sewed an “It’s a Girl!” label to the seat of my onesie. There’s going to be big trouble once I get this thing off and set the real Andy free. Maybe therapy too.

  2. I wonder whether people make assumptions more readily when they see a baby wearing royal blue, as opposed to a robin’s-egg shade, or a reddish cerise vs. a pale pink. On the other hand, even though that might be an entryway into greater color freedom, it probably reifies a bold-butch/mild-femme dichotomy that’s just as offensive…

  3. It’s odd how hard-wired these color-coding are. But you’ve captured perfectly the strange response that mixing up the colors can cause out there. And then little girls do glom onto pink — but just for a few years. When they reach that preppy-pre-teen stage (7-1), the pink disappears almost completely, in exchange for a range of neutrals, and even a few unisex clothes.

  4. My brother has three children – two boys (roughly four and one) and a girl (about two). On top of having strict color segregation when it comes their clothing (pinks, purples and reds for Ellie and browns, greys, blues, and inexplicably orange for the boys), my niece is always better dressed than her brothers. It’s not that she wears skirts and thus seems more dressed up; my sister-in-law consistently puts higher quality clothing on her daughter. It makes my skin crawl because a) it subtly informs her that as a female it’s more important that she maintain her outward appearance and b) soon enough she won’t be able to be rough and dirty with the boys because her clothes are just too damn precious.

  5. It’s yet another instance of the realization that hits parents every day like a ton of bricks: you are not raising your kids in a vacuum. As a female it IS more important that she maintain her outward appearance, much as we would like that not to be true. So parents struggle around for some middle ground, or for the right dialectical combination of acquiescence and critique. Or for a little irony.

  6. The three of us were in Logan Airport the other day, when a stranger, looking at Rosa, who was wearing her light-blue-with-brown-trim sweatsuit, exclaimed: oh! you’re a girl! I thought at first that since you’re dressed in blue, you must be a boy. And then: did Daddy want a boy, is that why he dressed you in blue?

  7. What I like here is the extra layer. On top of the application of the stereotype, she tries to psychoanalyse Nick. I’ve always found people who try to analyse strangers interesting. Sometimes they seem to have good motives: they’re trying to reassure or comfort. But in this case she’s being awfully rude, and her motives — beyond the stereotype — are hard to fathom. Hey, let’s analyse her! Her father never gave her enough love, and now she’s taking it out in airports.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s