Elementary Identity Politics

I took the fingernail polish off Boy’s nails before he went to school. I had put it on there last night, but had second thoughts. He would have preferred black, I think, but he was totally fine with the green and gold shimmery color that I had.

He had spent the day with my mom as Husband I drove across the world to get some things for our land. He was relieved that he didn’t have to be in the car for eight hours and was ok spending the day at the assisted living facility with my mom as she visited my step-dad. He was bored. He wanted to go to his friends, but had forgotten the number. Then, one of the employees brought her daughter to work with her. That changed everything. He didn’t want to leave to go run errands with my mom, he wanted to stay there with his new girlfriend.

When we picked him up and got home he told us he wanted to paint his nails. First, he said it was something the new girlfriend wanted. Then it was something a guy on his team had done and he saw the new girlfriend paint her nails and it gave him the idea. Whichever. Husband told him it was totally gay to paint your nails – he was fine with that if that was who he was, but it was a totally gay thing to do. Boy said that that was just a straight stereotype. Husband said it was ok for him to do it, but he was going to be teased and known the rest of his school days as the boy who painted his nails. I painted them and Husband told me I was being complicit by doing it. I reminded him that he said it was alright and that I would rather it to look neat than big globs. I also only put on one coat so the color looked more gray than green – still, it shimmered and sparkled. He waved his hands around to dry the polish and stood with his hands on his hips, fingers splayed. It might be a stereotype – my how your lessons come back to haunt you – but he was playing right into it.

I thought about it all night. I have told him he cannot wear a Mohawk. I told him that he is young and not old enough to really make such a decision and thus the haircut would reflect more on me than him. Similarly, I have nothing against tattoos, but a young person doesn’t know enough about themselves to have something permanently inked on their body. The next week they would be into something else. I am totally cool with him trying on his punk personality, but was I going to be willing for him to be hurt and ridiculed at school in order to allow him to make this choice on his own? It is a fine balance.

He came out of his room this morning with his hair gelled into a “faux-hawk” and his brown shorts and brown button down shirt. Ah, Billy Joe from Green Day. Cool, much better than some of his other fashion role models. I see where he is going with the polish. I sat him down and I told him that as a parent, it is my job to protect him. It is also my job to help him make the right decisions. He knew what was coming and said he had made this decision, thinking he knew exactly what he was doing with green glittering polish on his nails. He looked sad and upset, but I went on. I told him I was totally fine with him trying on different personalities and new things, but there is a time and a place for everything and eleven and at school was neither. As the polish came off, I told him that if he wanted to wear fuchsia and a feather boa, that was fine. If it was black eyeliner and nail polish, that was fine. Whoever he turns out to be is alright, but school is not the place to try it out. I told him I was sorry and reminded him of the young guy that use to coach him. He would cut his hair into a Mohawk during the summer, but he didn’t wear it to school. That helped ease the situation some. He asked me if his hair was alright since it was a “faux-hawk”. I told him it was, that it was short enough and neat enough not to be over the top.

I am sure we will revisit the nail polish this weekend as school ends.


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