Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Snips and Snails and Puppy Dogs' Tails... and Nail Polish?

The summer before I came to college, I worked on a little ranch that ran a summer camp for young kids. My favorite group were the 3 and 4 year olds. The kids were really energetic and sweet. Not to mention that my favorite camper (I admit it, I had a favorite) was part of this group. His name was Truman and he was the spunkiest little boy I'd ever met. Truman was always playing the dirt, chasing chickens, or climbing trees. He fit every stereotype of a 4 year old boy.

But he wore blue nail polish to the ranch every day. The other kids asked him about it. They weren't making fun of him, they just wanted to know why he was wearing nail polish. One kid made the mistake of asking Truman "Why are you wearing paint on your fingers?" to which Truman promptly answer "It's not paint, it's NAIL POLISH!" Then he smiled and bounced off to dig for worms.

Truman's dad was a really good sport about all of this (also, notice that it was his DAD who came to pick him up from camp everyday instead of his mom, like most of the other kids - interesting!). Truman's dad was there to witness this interaction. He just smiled and said "Yep. Truman loves his blue nail polish!" And that was the end of it. His father never felt he had to apologize for his young son wearing nail polish. To him, it was just part of who his son was, and I really admired that. I know a lot of dads who would be livid if their son asked to wear nail polish. Either that, or they would just grumble and try to ignore it.

I think Truman is a great example of the gender flexibility we have been talking about in class. Yes, he was very young, so it's easier for him to get away with it, but all-in-all, he presents an interesting case. He generally  performed very "male" behavior, except for this one little thing. As a little kid, he felt comfortable within a gender continuum, because he wasn't yet old enough to understand the binaries. By now, Truman is probably about 6 or 7, and if I know anything about society, they've probably beaten the blue nail polish out of his system. But for the record, it was there!

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