Mountain Chic

Reflections and observations on culture, food, style and travel


The other day, I took my son, Finn, with me to the nail salon.  He doesn’t normally accompany me, but when I told him I was going without him while he was at preschool, he cried.  He is fascinated by the paints, the ultraviolet lamps that dry gel manicures, the heated mitts with trailing cords.  He’s an extremely curious character, and I love that about him.

When we arrived at the salon, we bumped into my sister-in-law and (almost!) 5-year-old niece, whom Finn adores – he looks up to both of his female cousins, who are just a bit older than he.  My niece had received a special manicure and pedicure on her day off school, and Finn was enchanted.  When his cousin showed him her sparkly purple nails with flower accents, he tried to join in the beauty conversation by showing her his own nails and saying, “You see mine?  I have them painted with this clear color.”  Then, he noticed my nail tech, Vivian, had painted her nails orange and blue Bronco colors in honor of the Super Bowl (YAHOO BRONCOS!!).


Slowly, he inched his way onto my lap, while Vivian and I issued kind reminders for him to be extremely still, since Mom was being polished.  He timidly placed his own little hands on the counter.  Vivian glanced at him and said, “Do you want some polish, too?”  Finn couldn’t hide his smile as he replied, “Yeah!”  Before I knew it, Finn had finagled a full-fledged orange and blue kiddie manicure, while I watched with a hesitant smile.

In that moment, I felt a bunch of emotions at once.  My first response was, “How cute.  He’s just three years old – of course he’s fascinated by the whole process.  He doesn’t realize this is more of a girl thing.”  And then other voices crept into the conversation in my head: “You shouldn’t encourage this.  He is a boy.” Next: “But what if it turns out that he is the kind of boy who wants to have his nails painted?  I mean, this is the Post-CJ (meaning, post-Caitlyn Jenner) Era.  I want him to know we will love him no matter what.”  I remembered the huge controversy stirred by J. Crew’s Jenna Lyons when she appeared in an ad painting her son’s toenails hot pink.  I squirmed a bit wondering what my husband would think – Tim might be the most open-minded, non-judgmental person I know, but I knew he’d think this was kind of strange.  My panic escalated when Finn commented, “I want to leave this on until I go back to school, so I can show my teachers and my friends.”  I thought, “Oh no!!!!  Other boys will make fun of him.”  A mom’s worst nightmare, and I’d be responsible.  This mental back-and-forth continued as I paid for our services (and, for the first time in my life, left my credit card at the salon in the process — evidence of my befuddled state!).


As I suspected, when I texted a photo of the manicure to my husband, he said, “Cute.” Then, “I’m glad he’s happy, but can we not make this a regular thing?”  Meanwhile, as we ran errands throughout the afternoon, every woman who spotted Finn complimented him on his nails.  I’d make a joking comment, like, “Dad’s not too happy about it,” and would always receive replies like, “Oh, so what?  It’s cute!  He’s just a little boy.”  And I had to agree, as I knew my husband did, too.


{Post-mani Starbucks run}

It’s interesting when you’re faced with a situation, no matter how trivial, where the circumstances challenge who you are versus who you would like to think you are.  I’d like to think I’m totally without judgment when it comes to sexuality issues.  I’ve long been all for gay marriage; I’ve supported many students seeking their sexual identities or struggling with knowing they’re gay.  I started teaching in 1999, and the culture of acceptance hasn’t always been what it is today (and is still non-accepting in many places).  I don’t think twice if I see a man with painted nails or lipstick.  But when it came to my own son – even a three-year-old – judgment entered the picture.  I think it came from a place of being concerned for Finn – not wanting him to be teased or ridiculed.  But I also worried that I was doing the wrong thing, encouraging the wrong behaviors for a little boy.  I think I allowed the manicure simply to force myself out of my comfort zone; to tell myself somehow that I wasn’t playing into societal stereotypes, that I was open to unconventional behavior, even though inside I was completely unsure about my decision.

Of course, Finn was excited to show his manicure to Dad.  But by the next morning, he was over it, and asked me to remove the polish.  He’s currently building and racing cars with his Lego blocks – perhaps certifiably “boy” activities.  It’s an interesting time to be a parent, both liberating and more demanding.  I know it’s just the beginning of Finn challenging us to examine what we are certain about and what we want to model for him.  Life asks us to become very clear about what it is we believe deep down, so that we are willing to disagree with our child if necessary or defend him in the face of the world when he acts differently. It will never be easier to do this – in fact, as Finn grows bigger and the issues become larger, this tasks will grow weightier.  I want Finn to know we love him for who he is, but I also want him to be aware of how his decisions and actions might be interpreted in the wider world.  Hardest of all is that the lessons worth learning he will need to discover for himself – so he might go to school with painted nails sometime, and suffer the consequences, whatever they may be.  The best we can do is learn together, with patience and acceptance, on both sides.

2 thoughts on “Boy Beauty

  1. Amel says:

    Lovely post, thanks for sharing!


  2. Jason Burke says:

    Pity it’s always about what other people think. Too many stereotypes and not accepting differences. And why should it be even called different?

    Liked by 1 person

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