“Mommy, can you paint my toenails for dinner? I want to get pretty, just like you.”
It’s not very often that I have an event in which I “get pretty.” My day-to-day routine involves slapping on a bit of makeup, throwing my hair in a bun, tossing on my scrubs, and walking out the door. More effort goes into packing my gym bag and backup phone charger than actually getting myself acceptable for the public eye. I’m a far cry from a tomboy, but I am three steps shy of being considered “plain lazy.”
I’ve never been fashionable—those traits belonged to my sisters. They forced me to move from bell bottoms to skinny jeans, forced me to wear a belt (which I still refuse to do), told me to never mix black and brown, and made me match my shoes with my jewelry. It was my twin who held me down while she plucked my eyebrows, picked out my eyeshadow colors, and made me stop wearing blue mascara. My little sister taught me how to curl my hair, fixed my accessories when I got them wrong, and got me into my hat fetish. Otherwise, let’s face it: I’d still be a lost cause.
A happy, clueless lost cause … but a lost cause all the same.
Unfortunately, the same amount of effort now gets placed toward dressing my son. Every morning, I either dress the dead baby at 0500, holler at him to wear the clothes I’ve picked out and placed on his bed, or allow him to go into his closet and dress himself. Either way, he’s clothed, and I’m happy. I don’t really care how he got that way.
His wardrobe consists of a shirt, pants, socks, and shoes. He has three button up shirts, one vest, and one pair of boots–special from Santa. That’s about as fancy as we get in this house. Most of his shirts have sports logos, dinosaurs, or skating dragons. A few of them declare him to be incredibly handsome—which he is. He’s a rough-and-tumble boy, who is prone to elbow-dropping bad guys after leaping off the couch, therefore I match his clothing to accommodate his dirty, overly active lifestyle.
We don’t own expensive shoes, I don’t color-coordinate to his personal style. Frankly, he’s five. He doesn’t get a “personal style;” he gets to pick a shirt to go with his jeans. It works for us, though. He’s not big on having his hair fixed. He doesn’t ever want his hair brushed. He simply refuses to allow gel within a three foot radius of his body, even when I cajole him with candy.
Not like I’ve truly figured out how to style half inch hair, anyway.
That said, my beautiful baby boy has always loved watching when his mommy—also known as me—dresses up. I’ll fix my hair, bust out bottles, powders, creams, and lipstick, find a pretty dress, pick out special shoes, and spend more time with my bathroom mirror than it’s seen in months. Tiny stands on the toilet—something he’s done for years now–watching the way I powder my nose, straighten my hair, and rouge my lips. The entire event, to him, is what it means to “be pretty.”
Therefore, he occasionally wants to be pretty, too.
He’ll don my shoes, borrow a dress, ask to put on powder, and then puff out his chest and walk around my bedroom, asking me if he looks pretty, too. What do I say, watching all the cuteness that I created waltzing around a bedroom?
“You do look so pretty, Son Son. You’re the prettiest boy I’ve ever laid eyes on.”
From the moment of his birth, the only adjective that I could come up with to describe my child—which is ironic, since I’m not only a writer, but also a walking dictionary with an attached thesaurus—is the word pretty. My child was born with brilliant, green eyes, lashes longer than even the fake versions sold in the store, a heart-warming smile, and the sweetest, most pinchable cheeks. He came out of the womb flirting with the nurses, ready to conquer the world, and he completely stole my heart.
What does it mean when he wants to wear nail polish, or asks for me to put makeup on him?
He’s asked me to put nail polish on him three times in his five years on this Earth. The very first time my tiny human asked to wear nail polish, he was two years-old. I was sitting in the middle of the living room floor (because, where else does one paint nails?), and had finally decided to change the cracked, chipping, possibly a year old nail polish on my toes. As I finished painting my toenails, and had started on my fingernails, Tiny Tot walked over, stared at me in wonder, and asked for me to paint his nails, too.
I got a lot of flack for it, but this was my response: exactly five minutes after painting my two year-old’s nails, he asked me to remove the nail polish, because he had to beat up The Joker.
You can’t wear nail polish while drop-kicking a super villain.
You just can’t.
The second time my child asked to wear nail polish, I had a pretty, green Easter dress laid out. I had his cute, little Easter outfit picked out. I found a nail polish in a wonderful shade of nude that begged to be tried out. So, I tried it out. As I was busy painting my nails, my little boy walked in—fully dressed as Iron Man. He stopped what he was doing, and asked me to paint his thumbnail. Once painted, he asked for me to finish the rest of his nails.
Easter came and went, and Tiny Tot went to his dad’s the following Wednesday, whereupon his father demanded the nail polish be removed, because “boys do not wear nail polish.” Tiny was mortified, embarrassed, and he then asked for me to remove his nail polish. Before I did, I sat him down, and asked him why he wanted for me to take the polish off.
He told me his dad yelled at him. He told me the little girls at school told him it wasn’t right for boys to wear nail polish. He told me he didn’t want to be made fun of and picked on for the completely nude color on his fingernails.
Seeing as I’m not a Saint, Tiny’s dad got an earful of my opinion on the matter. I’m sure I didn’t tell him to grow the hell up, but I did tell him that at this age, gender roles and gender identities are not an issue. Nail polish won’t stop my son from attacking a Tyrannasaurus Rex with a Spinosaurus, and then leaping four feet off a slide to wrestle the dog.
It just won’t.
The third time my son asked me to wear nail polish was this week. He saw me getting dressed for a special event, laughed over my struggle into the evilness that is pantyhose, and then waited patiently—or not so patiently—while I curled my hair. He climbed up on his usual perch—the toilet—and spotted my small collection of nail polish. It was then that he asked if he could wear red nail polish, because he wanted to look pretty.
Had he been with his father, he would have asked for shined shoes, pressed pants, or hair gel. My beautiful little boy would have stood beside his dad, looking like a miniature adult male, beaming with pride. But, because he’s with me, and dressing up means high heels, makeup, dresses, and nail polish, he wanted to try on the red polish.
So, I let him.
There is no stigma attached to nail polish. My five year-old son will not, in any way, be marred due to a tiny bit of paint on his barely-noticeable nails. It won’t change the fact that, at any given time, I’m also the mother to Iron Man, Spiderman, Batman, Captain America, The Red Ranger, The Blue Ranger, The Robot Ranger, The Hulk, … and a NASA astronaut.
… Just saying.
As soon as he’s finished being pretty, he’ll ask me to take off his nail polish, … and then he’ll try to break his neck leaping off a swing.
That’s just how my tiny, young, imaginative, artistic, musical, death-defying son is, and I’m okay with that.