Can we talk about that pink bathing suit you wore all summer long?
You see, you’re five years old now, which means you’re honing in on your unique likes and dislikes. We’ve started letting you choose your own clothes to make space for your self expression to flourish.
This summer you chose a pink bathing suit.
Pink rash guard.
Pink swim trunks.
Head to toe pink.
I wasn’t surprised when you picked it out. Like many kids, your favorite color has been variable, sometimes week to week, sometimes minute to minute. But the one color you’ve consistently loved since toddlerhood? PINK.
Here’s why your love of pink matters
We haven’t explained to you yet why this even matters. We haven’t sat you down and told you that you’ve been born into a culture that assigns a gender to everything.
Like food. (Think steak versus salad).
And movies. (There’s a reason we have the condescending phrase “chick flick”).
And yes, even the reflections of light that bounce off objects.
It wasn’t always this way
Despite the fact that pink used to be the “it” color for little boys, today we are taught from birth that it is definitively GIRLY. In fact, if the marketers want to target girls and women with their products, all they do is make it the color pink.
You don’t know all of this yet, but of course you’re beginning to notice. Like that one time when you observed with neutral curiosity that a lot more girls wear pink than boys.
I told you that yes, you were right, but that every child has the freedom to love and wear all the colors.
All the colors are for all the children
So you’re beginning to pick up on this gender thing, but you’re also not entirely sure why you got some strange looks this summer—some double-takes while you splashed in the pool, some raised eyebrows while you collected bucket after bucket of seashells.
Here’s the thing: Those strange looks weren’t really for you, son. They were for ME.
Because some people are not ok with parents allowing their children to love whatever color they love and wear whatever color they desire.
Like the mother we saw at Kohl’s who told her son he could pick out whatever he wanted from the toy section. When he chose a bead kit for making jewelry (the exact same bead kit you have!), she promptly told him to put it back because “that’s for girls.”
Or the parents of the boy who asked the face painter for a butterfly. They immediately stepped in and made their son get a skull and crossbones instead. “Give him something for boys.”
Or the man who refused to buy Vitamin D drops for his newborn baby boy because the bottle had a picture of Dora the Explorer on it. Start ’em early, I suppose.
Your dad and I don’t see it that way, of course. In fact, we believe that suppressing your love of all things pink would be the most damaging thing we could do.
Because it would teach you that your likes and dislikes are only worthy of our love and acceptance if they fit into the very narrow box our society has deemed ok.
Take that one step further and you’d feel that WHO YOU ARE is only worthy of our love and acceptance if you fit into the very narrow box our society has deemed ok.
Our society’s big, shameful secret
It’s all such a shame, son, because here’s the secret: very few people actually fit inside that box.
Even the ones who look like they do on the outside often feel like they don’t on the inside. The sad result, I believe, is a sea of people—especially boys and men—who are filled with shame about who they are.
Boys and men who exhaust themselves trying to prove they DO fit inside that box.
Boys and men who have suppressed their feelings for so long they literally don’t know how to feel any emotion other than anger.
Boys and men who physically and emotionally harm women to assert their masculinity, despite how damaging it is to everyone—including themselves.
You, my dear son, are so much better than that.
Here’s the truth about you
All of this doesn’t mean I’m not worried about the ridicule you will undoubtedly face. So far no one has blatantly made fun of you for loving the color pink, but it’s only a matter of time before they do. I’m not kidding myself about that.
But here’s what I also know:
Masculinity claims to be about bravery and strength. When you walk out into this world wearing your pink bathing suit that you love so much, YOU are as brave and strong as they come.
When you are true to yourself, you are more courageous than the manliest man on this planet.
You probably don’t feel like a hero, though. You just feel like what you are: a little boy who loves the color pink.
Do you know what else you are?
SO VERY LOVED.
Now let’s go swimming.
The other hero of this story? My husband, who bought a pink shirt of his own because all the colors are for all the grown-ups too.
16 responses to “Dear Son, About That Pink Bathing Suit”
What a great readand message! And your son and husband look great in pink!!
Thank you! I agree! <3
I love this and need to share our story with you. Our youngest son was born with HLHS and passed away at 200 days of age, his older brother (our 2nd son) was almost 7 when that happened. I was checked out for a couple of years, considering a good day one in which my children were fed and got where they needed to be in clothes (usually not clean). In spring of second grade, Cary went to school in high-water jeans (I didn’t have the bandwidth to stay on top of sizes), green crocs and pink socks he’d “borrowed” from his mom’s sock drawer. He came home that day, something was wrong. He cried as he told me that kids made fun of him because of his pink socks. The next morning, he got up and put on the same pink socks! “Cary,” I said, “I do not care if you wear pink socks but you know those same kids may laugh at you today”. Cary said he knew but it’s only a color and he likes pink and he wore those socks!… He’s stll the kid to wear what he wants, he cares what other people think but he doesn’t let it change him. I love that about him.
Oh, Kathryn. Thank you so much for this lovely comment. First and foremost, my heart breaks for your loss. I can’t even imagine your struggle. Second, Cary seems like an inspiration for us all! He is a hero. <3
My youngest boy’s favorite color is pink – he wants everything pink and it drives his Daddy nuts. Not because my husband has a problem with pink, but because my husband doesn’t want my son being picked on. I will buy him pink all day long, doesn’t matter to me! My son (almost 11) has no problem telling people “real men wear pink.” 🙂 Good for you!
Thank you, Kelli! The teasing concern is a real one; my heart breaks a little when I think about what the future might hold.
American society in particular is addicted to classifying and categorizing people, and gender is one way we decipher people. The stereotypes and scripts that people learn as a result – in my opinion – close off options to children’s personality that can be destructive. Good job.
I love this article. Thank you so much.
Thanks for the great post, nice work.
The first time I saw my now husband he was wearing pink. 30 years later it is still my favorite color on him.
I love this!
My youngest son loves to wear dresses! He is not quite 3, but so far people have been pretty great and open to it. Your line “You probably don’t feel like a hero, though. You just feel like what you are: a little boy who loves the color pink.” Stood out to me because the one thing that bothers me is that people are still trying to label him or make more of it than it is. Even used the term ‘gender fluid’. At his age he doesn’t know anything about gender/sexuality.
He is like your son just a little boy who likes what he likes.
Sometimes we forget that, for a time, our children are free from all of those messages. <3
My 4 year old son was into dancing for a couple of months this summer and he picked my pink t-shirt then my pinkish dress for dancing. He wore it a few times outside the house too and I showed him off to relatives, friends whenever it was possible. 🙂 He stopped dancing though as his interest keeps changing.
Love this! My son has long hair and we often (from both strangers AND family) are asked when we plan on cutting it…when is he going to get a “boy” hair cut etc. The answer is when he feels like cutting his hair…or not! It’s his body, it’s his choice! Just like clothing. You do you buddy, for as long as you want to. May our kids never conform to the box society wants to shove them into. And great job Mom and Dad for allowing him to just be…him ❤️
AMEN!!! Thank you for sharing. <3