Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Wife Rule #38: She's Pretty in Pink

I'm sure you have heard the ongoing debate about gender stereotypes: you know, sugar and spice and everything nice vs. snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails. The "nature vs. nurture" question in gender roles has been the subject of much research, and the impetus of politically-correct challenges to age-old instincts and traditions.

Oh, stop it already.

As far as my family is concerned, there's really no need for further debate. With our kids, natural instinct clearly dominates, albeit reinforced without resistance through parental support.

Our two oldest children are pink little girls. I suppose that if we had been given boys first, we might have reconsidered painting over the hero-sized mural of black-and-midnight-blue Batman standing in front of a giant yellow-ochre moon in the kids' bedroom of our first home. But as it was, we turned the walls a nice, neutral baby-blue, with the idea of accommodating both genders for future occupancy. Incidentally, it took four or five coats of white paint to cover the Batman-black trim around the closet and bedroom doors, but hey, we didn't want to inadvertently create a household of little Goths, did we?

But blue bedroom walls did nothing to stifle our little girls' inborn affinity for Official Princess Colors: pink and purple. One of our first hints that their color preferences were instinctive was that as toddlers, after being introduced once to pink and purple dinnerware, they each refused to eat out of anything of a different color. Thus, we ended up with pink and purple cutlery and bowls. Soon we had a house full of pink and purple everything.

Those of you who have raised little girls in the Golden Age of Barbie and Disney Princess Merchandising know exactly what I mean. Our house looked kind of like Barney the Purple Dinosaur got caught in the machinery at the Pepto Bismol factory, causing a mass explosion that covered everything in sight: we had pink and purple pots and pans; pink and purple cell phones and hair dryers; pink and purple cars and boats and wagons and carriages; pink and purple horses and ponies and dogs and cats; and let's not forget the pink and purple dress-ups, consisting of gowns and crowns and gloves and feathered boas and high-heeled shoes.

Speaking of pink high-heeled shoes, it wasn't until we had moved into our second home, when our first boy Scott was just over a year old, that the stark contrasts between the gender stereotypes were thrown into sharp relief. I am speaking of course, of the incident wherein our toddler son picked up one of the many dress-up shoes that regularly littered our floors, considering it for a moment. Then, instead of putting it on his dainty foot as had been the prior exclusive behavior of his sisters, he chucked it hard at our freshly-painted wall, leaving a good-sized dent in the drywall that is still visible behind our couch.

A single pink feather, ripped from the shoe by the sudden force applied to it, fluttered down from the hole in the wall, like a fried moth from a bug zapper.

I was stunned; our pink little girls had never done anything so un-Barbie-like in their lives. While I stared blankly at my son, he toddled over to where the shoe had landed, picked it up, and before I could react, promptly chucked it again, creating another dent in the wall. The wild look in his little boy eyes seemed to say, Wow, that was even better than the first time! Cool!

Clearly I was dealing with a person from a different color palette.

And so I have watched with amusement and interest as the pink-and-purple crowd and the black-and-blue crowd in my home have asserted their obvious gender differences through their interests and actions.

Consider my two-year-old son Andrew, whose ears are tuned like a precision instrument to the slightest hints of any type of oversized vehicle that passes through the neighborhood. It's not uncommon for him to suddenly zip out of the room, his little turbo legs a blur, as he runs to the front windows to try to catch a fleeting glimpse of a passing truck.

He gets so excited when the garbage truck comes every Monday morning that his whole body literally shakes when he hears it. "Tash Cuck! Tash Cuck! Tash Cuck!" he screams, and then runs out to the front porch, to wave at the garbageman with wild enthusiasm as he drives by.

I can't say that our girls ever cared about the garbage truck, or any other vehicle, short of occasionally grouping toy cars into "families." Our boys, of course, cause the immediate destruction of all toy vehicles by driving them off cliffs so often that there's no way any lasting familial bonds could ever form.

Speaking of which, the first time I ever took our girls to the fabulous dinosaur museum near our house, I was completely blown away by a large hands-on exhibit that involved a huge, winding basin filled with sand and pumped water. In this miniature wonderland, you could create sand mountains and lakes and rivers and dams, and place little plastic dinosaurs and trees in them, and then watch the Power of Water wipe out entire dinosaur populations, bury them in sediment, and then erode the landscape until they were visible again. Too cool! I was enthralled with the concept of a giant indoor sand box with running water features. To this day, I want to install one in my living room.

Two-year-old Rachel only had interest in finding identical plastic dinosaurs and making them kiss. I'm not sure she even got her hands wet.

Then there's the time I walked in on Dawn, also age two, sitting in her grandpa's lap watching Star Wars. Her eyes were wide, her blanket clutched in her arms, and her two favorite sucking fingers were taking the brunt of her emotion. "This is a noisy movie," she solemnly observed.

Not so for my boys. Star Wars causes them to jump up and down and spin around and hit things.

Then there's Barbie herself, with her thousands of accessorizeable friends. My girls have enjoyed an innocent obsession with Barbie over the years. My boys have never had much interest (except in Barbie's hot-pink convertible car, of course). However, Scott recently had a neighbor girl over to play, and she wanted to dip into the Barbie stash. Scott obliged, resulting with startling swiftness in the first complete Barbie decapitation we have experienced in our home.

Apparently Barbies aren't manufactured to the same standards as Scott's Spiderman and Superman action figures. Rather than smashing through buildings, Barbie prefers to talk on the phone and change pink clothes a lot.

And there's nothing wrong with this; pink clothes are great. We have a new baby girl, and the formerly yellow nursery that Andrew used has magically transformed into a pink monument to petite feminimity. I love it, too; pink just seems right for little Charity. We have pink crib sheets, a pink changing table cover, pink curtains, tiny pink socks and shoes, pink pajamas, pink everything again.

Even a pink wife. See, my wife has recently given up trying to deny that she absolutely loves the color pink. Since then, she has added several soft pink numbers to her wardrobe, and she looks great in them. Somehow any shade of pink on her comes across as hot pink to me, if you get my drift.

But this is no surprise; to me, she's the fairest member of the fairer sex, complete with an arsenal of all the girlish and womanly charms I could hope for. Of course she's pretty in pink.


Amy said...

Another beautiful and completely life-accurate post. And I remember that Batman painting on your wall. Too bad you didn't have boys first--that was a sweet mural!

I too must admit that, despite disliking the color pink most of my life, it really does suit my little Brooke. And she tends to nurture everything in the house and call all her toys by name and talk to them. She's practicing to be a mommy. She even says, "No, I'm busy." Yep, just like mommy.

LuckyMatt said...

Glad you liked it, Amy! It's fun that you are getting to experience the pink side of the equation now.