“Where are we going?” C.J. asked me. We were loading into the car after a morning at the gym and we had a few hours to kill before we had to pick up his brother.
“Someplace,” I replied.
“Let me guess, running errands,” he said looking out the window in boredom.
“No. Someplace special. Someplace where you’ve never, ever been before,” I said looking at him with a mischievous smile.
A few minutes later, we stood at the open double doors of the nail salon and he looked at me with a huge grin. He gripped my hand a little tighter in excitement.
“Is this the nail store?” he asked.
“Yes, this is where you go when you want your nails painted really nice and pretty,” I replied.
“I always want my nails painted really nice and pretty,” he said to me quietly.
He saw the wall racked with a rainbow of colored polishes and ran over to them. I informed the receptionist that we wanted two pedicures. I paused.
“C.J., do you want your fingernails and toenails painted or just your toes?” I asked in clarification.
“Just my toes, cause when I wear my shoes no one can see them.”
“Two pedicures please,” I said.
We were escorted to our huge vibrating Japanese massage chairs and foot baths filled with warm water and suds.
C.J. was near giggles watching his feet soak and I was near giggles watching my son get his first professional pedicure. The salon was quiet; all eyes were on us — my son and me on an 11 a.m. pedicure date.
“Mama, you need to tell them to get the hard stuff off of your tootsies,” he said giving my feet a disgusted look. Rude.
The pedicure pros got to work on our feet and a frenzy of chatter and laughter started. I was wishing I were fluent in the language that they were speaking so that I could eavesdrop when I heard the manager walking toward us shaking her head in disapproval. The girl doing my pedicure lightly smacked my foot getting my attention to ask me a question before the manager got much closer.
“Is that a boy or a girl?” she asked, pointing at C.J. Luckily, he wasn’t really paying attention to anything other than his toes and couldn’t understand her broken English very well anyway.
“He’s a boy,” I said, looking at my son in his brother’s hand-me-downed blue athletic shorts and a blue shirt with a police car on the front. He was looking surprisingly boyish if you ask me. But, then again, I’m used to seeing him in a skirt, heels, clip-on earrings and lip-gloss.
The embarrassed manager said she was sorry and diverted her path towards the back of the salon.
“Oh, cause I thought it was a girl. But, her and her thought it was a boy. And, her, her and her thought it was a girl. We were taking bets,” my pedicurist said smiling and pointing to the other salon workers as she went along.
She was amused and I was shocked. I leaned over towards my feet and towards my nail girl so that she could hear me better, but C.J. couldn’t.
“Well, he’s a boy, so I guess her and her are the winners,” I said with un-amused tone and look, pointing to the two salon employees who had correctly guessed that my son was a boy. None of them would make eye contact with me.
C.J. was oblivious and I did everything in my power to keep it that way. Our pedicures were done and we walked out of the salon holding hands with toilet paper rolled up and stuck between our freshly polished toes. When I saw C.J. staring at his toes and smiling, I smiled too.
A few weeks of begging later, I took him to a different salon for a pedicure. He was selecting a color when his pedicurist approached him.
“You don’t want a color,” she said, grabbing him gently by the shoulders and steering him away from the colors and towards the pedicure chair.
I stopped her in her path.
“Colors are the best part of the pedicure,” I said to her. “Aren’t they, C.J.?”
C.J. and I selected our colors. Then, C.J. vetoed the purplish-gray color that I had picked for myself and picked another color for me. I ended up with a C.J.-approved glittering violet and he chose neon pink for himself.
We sat in our massive massage chairs and the pedicures began. I read a People Magazine while he played a fashion design game on my iPhone. The lady doing his nails kept sneaking a glance at the neon pink bottle of polish that he had selected.
She was saying something to her coworker who was busy working on my feet. They were going back and forth and looking at the neon pink.
“Little boy, you sure you want pink? Why not get blue to match your pants?” she finally asked C.J.
C.J. looked at me.
“Do you want pink?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said.
“Then, tell her,” I said.
“I want pink,” he said shyly.
“He wants pink,” I said looking at her like there was no room for discussion.
C.J. smiled at me.
“You want design on your toes? Maybe turkey for Thanksgiving?”
C.J. looked appalled. I can guarantee that my son will never want a turkey painted on his toenails.
“I want a flower,” he said.
I smiled at him in encouragement and looked at her matter-of-factly.
She granted his wish, while talking even more excitedly with her co-worker in the language that I didn’t know. Again, I wished for a moment that I were fluent in the secret language of pedicurists.
Then, I decided that I’m glad that I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Because I really don’t care. My son and I were happy, walking to our car with toilet paper worming between our purple and pink toes, walking on our heels with toes pointing up, like that would help the polish dry faster, hand in hand smiling. My son was happy and that’s all that really matters.
I’m a 52 year old straight male. I just got my first manicure and pedicure. The manicure I decided to try clear polish on my hands. I liked the way they looked. I had never done any of this before. I live in the bible belt. I went to a nail salon. I prefer to go in the mornings while everyone’s at work. I walked in to get a pedicure a couple of weeks later. The pedicure was awesome. I wonder why so many men don’t do it. It came for that question they asked me if I wanted polish on my toes. I thought sure why not try it I’m here go for it. I got blue on my toe nails. I love seeing them painted. I go. To the gym when I change it feels weird with painted toes. I went back and walked in. They asked me if I wanted nails done. I said no. I asked about color change. The women didn’t bat an eye to even look at me. I went back and selected black for my toes. I actually love looking at my feet now.
In the UAE we have men only salons too – and the one near us by all accounts sounds FAR nicer than the female only salons…seems that the local population here is way more accepting of the need for male grooming!
may be worth visiting one day…! Your sons seem amazing and so do you!
New salon, catering especially to men, Hammer and Nails, is opening November 9 in LA. Bout time! Idea was to give men a comfortable place to take care of their hands and feet without the weird looks that women give them in regular salons. Hope it goes gangbusters.
I constantly spent my half an hour to read this website’s content everyday along with a mug
I actually like that the first salon thought to ask. It may seem callous, but its much less rude than the pressure the second salon gave CJ to use “boy” colors. It’s also a lot more polite than to just talk in front of you for an hour and never ask you or let you know what they are thinking. I had to get a few drinks in me to ask my first gender identity friend a question that I had wanted to know the answer to for several months. I was told that its better to ask. Of course everyone’s situation is different and maybe by the time CJ is an adult we’ll have good education and manners of how to treat situations like that. I don’t really have an answer.
I’ve read a few of your posts now and I have to say that I’m absolutely disgusted….at the way some of these grown adults would talk about a child behind his back like that. Your son is absolutely blessed to have a mother as loving and understanding as you, I only wish there were more mothers and fathers in the world like CJ’s. You’re an amazing parent, keep up the fabulous job you’re doing and I hope one day your son gets to be the famous person he wants to be. All the best wishes for 2013!
I have just found your blog… I am reading through as quickly as I can while my son, my beautiful 5 month old son, is sleeping.
I am so so so grateful that you have chosen to blog about your beautiful child – he is the luckiest child to have such a loving and absolutely amazing mother – you are an inspiration and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. The world needs mothers just like you.
I could continue to gush about how inspirational your family is but I would just sound like a loon, most likely.
If I can be even half the mother you are, I’m set.
Thank you thank you thank you.
good for C J , and to C J’s mom, you and others like you will be the true cure to gender descrimination for future generations .
I love how you are raising CJ. Both you and ihis dad are wonderful. But I will repeat, His dad is a real hero. I want him to know that other men support how he has accepted CJ completely.
I am angry but not surprised at the reations of those at the salon. They are there to provide a service to their customers including your son CJ. How dare they try to change his mind on what he wants. You are paying them for the nail care not their opinion on colors for boys nails.
Goodness, his feet look MUCH better than mine! Great blog. Keep up the great work, momma.
My youngest child was born female but insistently tells everyone(s)he is a boy. I try to go with it even though it’s kind of complicated in my brain. I like reading about other parents who have similar values to me. 🙂
Just read this! Good for you, good for you!!
Sent from my iPhone Darlene Tando, LCSW http://www.DarleneTando.com2320 E Lucky Ln, Flagstaff, AZ
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I found out about your blog only about two weeks ago…and I read it all in one day. Addictive! I love CJ even though I’ve never met him, he sounds like the most adorable boy ever. And you’re amazing for supporting him through everything. Inspiring 🙂
My son likes to paint his toes and nails too! Thank you for this ! So proud of you both !
We got some flack when raising our kids that we were setting them up for societal bullying by encouraging them to be who they were. I said that I thought it was important for them to get the messages of love, support, and appreciation from their parents, and that if they were going to be pushed towards conformity, that shouldn’t happen at home. Our kids turned out happy and well-adjusted.
Anyway, I love the way that in this story it’s clear that you’re enthusiastic about your son’s preferences. Although the salon workers aren’t really on the same page yet, it must have been marvelous to see his face when he saw where you were taking him!
My nephew’s never gotten a spa pedicure (his mother doesn’t go either), but he demonstrated to me a few years ago how they get/give them at their house. One of their rules is that the esthetician needs to read to the client until the polish is dry. So I read a chapter book to him, and he read a comic book and the labels of everything in the bathroom to me.
You are the best mother ever on this earth. I come here to read of your adventures whenever I’ve been foolish enough to read the comments somewhere in the world of gender enforcers. And then I feel better, knowing you and CJ and all your commenters are out there and we will all be okay, in the world we are slowly changing.
I very much dislike people with tunnel thinking. iykwim. you are a great mom, standing up for your son!
I agree with so many of the other posts; I would have thought the pedicurists would be more open, but apparently not. And I’m sorry that you and CJ were treated so rudely. But Great for you for standing up for him and I’m so glad you guys had a great time! I LOVE pedicures – they always feel so great!
I guess I expected pedicurists to have seen all and be more accepting, but I guess they’re not all like that. Otherwise, I thought that was a great bonding experience for mom and son.
Having lived most of my life in the Bible belt, I probably would have had a similar reaction [as the employees], many years ago (though I have the manners not to stare or whisper about other people, most certainly right in front of them). [I brought up the Bible belt b/c 10 or 15 years ago in my small town, something like this would have been talked about and to give you a point of reference.] I think that reaction would mostly have been from ignorance on my part-it would probably never have occurred to me that men/boys would want a pedicure (though thinking about it now, I don’t know why- they have feet after all). I’m not in any way excusing their behavior- their treatment of you and CJ was completely inappropriate and unprofessional. I hope you find a more accepting and professional salon soon so you can relax too!
BTW, from one aficionado to another, his toes look great on him. Show yours side by side too? Lol!
My son likes to paint his nails. I don’t do his finger nails because he puts them in his mouth a lot, but whenever I do my toes or my daughter’s he gets color too. Any color he wants. Makes no difference to me and he’s as rough and boy-ish as they come. Regardless of gender conformity, respect is respect and your son was disrespected by the way he was treated and the things that were said about him. I’m sorry that he had to go through that, but kudos to you for allowing him to enjoy the experience. My husband was apprehensive about our son painting his nails, but the boy has dolls and when daddy is deployed (we are a military family), it’s just me and Sissy. My son needs to feel included and if that means pink, purple, or black nail polish, then that’s what it means 🙂
Once again your post makes my heart soar, and then hurt, and then soar! It also makes me appreciate my little nail salon in Oakland, CA where people of all ages and genders can get their toes painted with no hassle and you can tell that they accept everyone even when we aren’t all speaking the same language.
geez Jessica, can you expand to MN? LOL
There is a nail salon in the Walmart in Foothill Ranch. I am pretty sure their policy is that they may only speak in english around customers. You may want to check it out. I forgot the name of it. CJ may enjoy that each station has an Ipad at is to use.
I was a hair dresser for many many years, which is how I came to have many wonderful, gay friends of all genders and my life, my heart and my mind are better for it. But I just wanted to say, I’ve worked in plenty of salons where C.J. would have been the toast of the town and mom would be a champ (which we know she is). After hearing some of the stories of some of their childhoods and families that were not accepting, I can only imagine what it means to many of us to see parents finding joy in raising their rainbows. Not just accepting but celebrating their child. I say find another salon. It sounded like CJ would enjoy many more mani pedis in his future, he should go some place where they are much better at customer service so you both can relax and just enjoy the experience.
Two lovely points along the story arc here. One, you took him for mani-pedis for the fun of it and did it with utmost confidence while enlightening those around you. Secondly, CJ made his own choice of just getting toes done. It says so much about his adjustment to the world around him. At this point in my life, I only put polish on one fingernail and felt full of guilt. Your love and support glows through this post and is another beautiful scene in that screenplay you will author some day. All Hail C.J.’s Mom! (Bet those ugly bumper stickers don’t sting as much this week either, do they?)
Love it! i have been wanting to make a similar comment on the bumper stickers but since the post was removed, I figured it had gotten too controversial. And I come her to enjoy stories about a lovely family and a cute, funny kid, not to start political arguments but suffice it to say, I was very encouraged. Attitudes are shifting in all kinds of areas and it made my heart smile.
I’m glad you took him to get a pedicure- it’s a great parent/child bonding experience! My Dad and I go and have pedicures together when I come in for the holidays, and it’s always good fun. He has so far resisted getting his nails painted, but I think that’s more a factor that he has trouble reaching his feet to take it off when it starts to chip. Dad says that now that he’s been to get a pedicure, he wonders why he waited so long to start. Kudos for letting CJ explore the world and learn about the things he may enjoy.
Fascinating post. I am the mother of a non-conforming child. Our family is Asian and frequently deal with similar incidents. (Although you don’t mention anywhere that the nail salon workers are Asian, it’s an easy enough guess.) I wish I could tell you a sure-fire way to handle such situations. But just like my interactions with anyone who is curious or confused, I just let them know that my child feels comfortable and is happy and our family supports him/her completely. To be honest, I usually prefer more direct responses from strangers rather than surreptitious glances and whispers because they are easier to address and confront.
I’m not sure if the talking was actually a bad thing, some of it might have been mean but did you ever think about what it looked like to them?
YOU know CJ and his likes and dislikes but THEY have no idea. So while different religious backgrounds, different opinions on gender roles or even just plain curiosity for something you don’t see every day might have played a role it is also possible that they were just worried that it wasn’t CJ’s choice to get pink nail polish.
If they don’t know you (and the second studio was new to you too, right?) how can they know that you aren’t pressuring your son into acting like a girl? How can they be sure that you didn’t abduct a little boy somewhere and you’re now trying to make him look like a girl?
I know this might not be the most likely scenario. It might not even be something any of those women even thought about. Maybe they were just mean and gossiping. And if they were I don’t want to make it sound like I support them. I think CJ has the right to dress and behave however he wants and if that means pink nail polish he can have that too. It’s admirable how you handle all the difficult situations you and your family already had to face.
But I really think just going in and telling them a tiny bit about what CJ is like might help a lot.
All that being said, I’m 25, female, straight and have never had a professional pedicure. If it was such a bad experience with the gossiping just do your own nails, it’s not that hard after all. I never really saw the appeal of someone else doing it. Especially since you don’t know where those hands were before and who else already got their toenails painted with that same brush….
After I came out (much later in life) I decided that I wanted to try pedicures. I lived in a suburban area of a major city so I went to the local nail salon staffed by asian women. I got a couple of odd glances but they treated me well and I returned every 6-8 weeks because I enjoy the experience.
I’ve since moved into the urban core and my hairdresser (gay establishment) also does mani-pedi’s. I feel much more comfortable there. My husband and I have brought nearly all the kids in at one point or another (age range 31 to 16) to be treated and the staff there always ask after the family when we turn up for appointments.
There are always alternatives … a salon should be a place to be able to relax and be comfortable.
First and foremost I must say that you are an amazing mother to your son. Its great that you deteched his sexuality so early and made him feel comfortable to share that with you. Im a lesbian female and at 20 my mother still shys aways from my true desires. I know how it is for a male to be homosexual growing up in school and the support and confidence you are giving him now is helping so much. Its very hard for woman to be homosexual but harder for males with the constant teasing and abuse. I couldnt even tell you more how great of a job your doing for your son in embracing him. Keep it up and always remind him that its okay because he will need the assurance.
This of course being joy at CJ upbuzzing over his nails. Not at salon moronism.
I had a bit of a dry sob of happiness reading thing. I have been following your blog for almost four months now. When I’m stocking shelves at work (at 5am in the morning) I think of CJ every time I pull out a Monster High related toy from the tote. I dunno if that’s odd or not, considering the internet and how people can communicate with other people they’ve never met and will never know. Guess that’s how the world’s going. Happy days.
I loved this post. I read it as soon as I got to work this morning and it’s completely brightened my day that you and your son had this outing together. You are a wonderful mother and all should look to you for a real definition of what acceptance and unconditional love looks like. Here’s to more mani/pedi adventures!
I almost cried at this. Glad he had a good time.
(By the way I’ve been reading this blog for a while now and I’ve never commented but I just want to say that I always really enjoy your posts!)
You are right your son was happy and that IS all that matters. Sounds like a fun bonding time with Mom :).
What is CJ’s top pick for Christmas this year? I think back to when he wanted his Rapunzel, Once again, thank you for your blog because I always feel like I’m never alone in my own Mommy and son journey. Keep it up Mom!
As another straight middle aged guy, and one who also likes my toes polished, I can totally relate to your experience in the salon. I’m surprised more comments and odd looks from the customers weren’t mentioned. What I really want to know is why anybody cares what I have or don’t have on my toes??? It’s that important???
People w/o food or shelter, that’s important. Killing others over beliefs that may or may not be real, that’s important. But shine and maybe a color, I usually use an essie French natural sheer to even out my toe color, that no, that is not in the realm of important.
I don’t have the time right now, but if ok I would like to write a longer sharing of my observations and experiences merely trying to get a simple pedicures done. The salons have no clue what a huge market they are missing. Much larger than you’d think. All it would take is a bit of advertising.
Amen!! There is no rule saying men have to have nasty bear grylls style feet, good for you 🙂
My uncle has been getting manicures and pedicures his whole life and he loves them! I think you are exactly right, there are much bigger issues than whether a man polishes his nails or not…
The thing that drives me around the bend, is that Americans will stand aghast at any attempt that anyone else may do to control a woman’s right to choose anything, yet both sexes stand yawning when that same control is applied to men here. The hypocrisy completely amazes me. And no one thinks twice of it.
A kid should have fun, color is fun, sharing it with a parent is like the trifecta. But I likie color too, but it seems I’m not “allowed” to.
Let me share my experiences. First pedi. Walked in, they thought I was looking for directions, all female faces turned to me like I was the second coming. I stated I wanted a pedi, slight pause in response, so I’m thinking maybe I should have made an appt, but gosh my wife never does so that can’t be it. The other customers go from questioning, to the one who I can tell will say, boy I can’t wait to tell Herbert, or my bridge club about this one. But I’ll never see her again so what the heck. The one at the mani table on the other hand, hmmm, I must have stepped into her ocean of estrogen and she ain’t liking the tainted waters. Excuse me but did it just turn blue all around me in here???? But soon, the tech guides me to one of the 5 of 8 empty chairs and let the fun begin. At the end she asks if I want color, I demure of course because I’ve just about endured all I can today of pushing envelopes, even for me that’s says alot, but she says clear look good, protects nails. Bless her heart. OK I say, and on both counts, the procedure and the shine I’m hooked as it does make my feet look and feel good.
2nd one. I go to a uppity salon where my wife usually goes, and she bought me the “gentlemen’s pedi” They advertise and sell these. I’m thinking cool, they get it. She leads me to the MANLY section. Does her thing, and at the end she says, ” ok, you’re done since men don’t get polish” I say I do. I do clear. Pregnant pause while the entire 9 months of that seems to have gone by. she says, ummmmm, ok. Now I’m really ticked 60 bucks for a “gentlemen” service, and they have the audacity to tell me what me, as a man, I do or don’t do.
3rd time, the owner comes out like I had stepped into some odd inner sanctum. We’re back to the directions idea I guess. I say what I want, but now the tech is super busy, there’s appts in front of me. You get the pic. There is NOBODY in the store. I just walked into 1957 Walgreens in Birmingham AL. But I’m not what I’ve seen in the mirror all my life.
So I learned to do it myself. I apply better than what I pay for IMO.
Bottom line, I’m a diabetic, and pay particular attention to my feet. I want them there the rest of my life. I don’t need to explain that to ANYONE. If I lose them then polish or color won’t mean a darn thing in my past will it?
The first time my SIL saw a cool black red, she said OMG, OMG (okay she’s 40 years old and her vocabulary is a bit developmentally delayed) what does that mean. I think, she knows what SHE thinks it means so why ask me? Redundant. But I say calmly, thaat I like color, it hurts no one, and why should you care? Guess what. we’re back to the men don’t do thaat routine, it MEANS this or that, and I say nonsense and she says nonsense back and we’re back at stalemate.But to her credit, she does mention I applied it really well, like duh, I’m a guy and shouldn’t have been able to do that, so maybe????
Gosh, i drive a pickup. I’m chivalrous to ladies and kids. I can still turn a girl’s head, based on observation. So I thought I was really a guy. based on SIL, maybe I need to reflect. Oh, I just did. I’m a human.
Your posts always raise a smile!. Bless you both
Frankly, if I were to go to a nail store and be treated in this fashion, then:-
a) I would be outraged that people are plainly talking about me (and, in this case, CJ as well), and in a language that I do not understand. This is bad manners, plain and simple, and totally unacceptable.
b) I would be angry that the staff seem to have forgotten (or have never learned) the customer service mantra that “the customer is not always be right, but the customer is the customer!” It is not wrong to question a customer’s choice, but HOW it is done is all important.
c) I would never return to that nail store again.
Rather than go to a number of different places for different services, I go roughly once a month to a beauty salon, for what I call my ‘monthly wax and polish.’ I used one salon for about three years, and kept the same beauty therapist for another year when she first went private and then later had a baby. I’ve now been using another salon, and a second girl there, for the last ten months.
Both these girls quickly became more than just my beauticians; as well as seeking their advice, they also became my friends too, and THAT’S the benefit of going regularly to just one place and to one person.
I’ve always been treated with politeness and courtesy, and made to feel welcome. The staff have never spoken about me among themselves, at least while I’m there, and could be forgiven for doing so when I’m not; there can’t be too many people who are physically classified as men, but have as much essentially female pampering as I do.
I’m openly Transvestite, and accepted as such, because first and foremost I’M A CUSTOMER.
What a brilliant blog! I’ve just discovered this and can’t wait to read more. You are an inspirational mother for knowing exactly who your son is and treating him with the respect he deserves. What a lucky boy he is! x Linz
I’ve been reading your blog for a while but I have never commented before. I did have a bit of an amusing thought reading this one though… if there are issues next time you go, point out to them that Seal (*the singer) wears nail polish. I’ve seen him on TV with his nails bright yellow.
if it’s good enough for Seal, it’s good enough for anyone else. Besides, Nail polish isn’t always a girl thing anyway – personally I hate it and pretty much never wear it. Each time I do I remember how much I hate it, and avoid it for the next year or so until I forget why I don’t like it!
apart from that, just wanted to say I really enjoy the blog.
as does Depp, Dean McDermott, family outing every couple of weeks, cool, HUH?, a famous MALE race car driver, Len Weisman, and thousands of other just everyday schmoes. You don’t have to be artistic. Not one of my gay friends colors, although a few polish clear, but you DO have to have an appreciation for color, and being different, and that different is not bad it is, uhhhhh… that’s it, DIFFERENT
Indeed there are bound to be countless males who use colours or clear or whatever they feel like. I just distinctly remember Seal because I thought it was an utterly horrendous shade of yellow! All good though. Whatever makes people happy is fine, so long as its not hurting someone else. And colorful nails doesn’t hurt anyone.
Lol. I remember seeing that shade of yellow and thinking the same thing.. but he liked it so who’s to care. Do what you want as ling as it doesn’t hurt anyone else has always been my philosophy too. Thank you.
Cheers to happy toes and happy families.
A few people have commented about salons with men working there. I want to throw my two cents in support of trying these places as they tend to be way more open-minded and accepting of customers. Also, someone else mentioned their husband saying “I’m paying you for a service” and I think this is something to remember. 🙂
I found your blog under the recommended ones and immediately knew I wanted to follow it. This is the first post that I have read and it made me so happy and proud. I felt like I was there with you guys watching you break down barriers and build CJs self esteem too.
“Do you want pink?” I asked him.
“Yes,” he said.
“Then, tell her,” I said.
“I want pink,” he said shyly.
I just found your blog and read a few of the posts and many of the comments. All the comments seem supportive. Probably negative comments that were made were VERY negative, disrespectful, and not constructive, and were deleted.
I’m an open-minded, creative person. I’d like to respectfully take a different opinion here. Let me also preface by saying that my wife and I raised a girl and a boy who are very dynamic young adults, imperfect like all of us, and so of course I know deeply that parenting certainly can be difficult and gut-wrenching as well as joyous and satisfying.
Seems to me I’m hearing a perception out there that there is the “traditonal gender-strict mindset” and then a “new openess” that encourages children to explore beyond let’s say “arbitrary boundaries.” Of course I’m oversimplifying for the sake of brevity here. Also for the sake of getting to the point, let’s just all agee on the dangers of strict conformity, small-mindedness, prejudice, pig-headedness and the kind of unbending thinking at the one extreme. What I then worry about is that the openess in reaction to that extreme becomes TOO OPEN and TOO SUPPORTIVE, especially with young children who are WHIMSICAL by nature. The loving support is wonderful and important, but also there is just as much need for GUIDANCE as there is for SUPPORT. Take any given behavior (being loud, silly, quiet, hyper, angry, friendly, etc) and there is a need for learning moderation. My son was a silly jokester. (He saw Jim Carey in Pet Detective and that was it…)Often we’d just let it all out and be silly. Other times I had to explain there was a “time and a place.” It seems to me, and I’m only going by what I’ve seen and read on your blog, that you’re allowing quite a bit of “flamboyance” for your son. How much of this is whim? How much is necessary? There are so many countless ways for exhileration and fun that are less “controversial.” Was the nail painting really necessary for your son’s happiness? I don’t know. You’re there. Somewhere between strict ignorance at one extreme and full openess and support at the other extreme are gradations of practicality with plenty of room for love and fun.
I hope this comment made sense and is in some way helpful.
I’d like to respond to your comment. In fact, I can answer the final sentence – your comments make perfect sense and are in no way helpful. You are judging this parent who is simply sharing an intimate, beautiful experience she shared with her gender non-conforming son. You are judging her. Simply and plainly. I have a gender-conforming son who is 9 and if I took him to get his nails done he would flip-out, but the key here is the non-conforming part. She isn’t forcing an idea on her son, she is letting him be who he wants to be. It would have been a dream come true for me to have a mom like her. But I had a parent like you, who focused on the “need for moderation” which was just code for “too uncomfortable with a gay son to deal with it”. You know not of what you speak. I hope this makes sense to you, and I can’t imagine you finding it helpful.
Larry, I wasn’t judging the parent. I was offering another angle, another opinion on the situation. I think your reply was judgmental of me, and I ask you: should any ideas be “forced” or “strengthened” or conversely “avoided” with young children? How does a child go from a very dependent infant and toddler to an independent, functional adult? Surely by parents supporting the child’s dreams and desires, but is that all?
I don’t know you Larry, but I like you.
Pat Riot, Oh yes, you are absolutely right, I am judging you. Why can you recognize my judgemental ways and not your own? You are judging this parent as surely as I am judging you. Honest communication is so much better than pretending you are nice when you’re not.
You asked me a few questions and your choice of words “forced” and “strengthened” are very telling in regards to the person you seem to be in these posts. Each parent needs to decide what is appropriate information for his or her child and when. For example, some parents force their children to believe their particular religious beliefs, and some expose children to multiple beliefs, giving them the strength to make their own decisions to what they believe when hey grow up. I wonder which kind of parent you are?
There is a difference between being loud and disrespectful like a Jim Carey character and supporting and allowing C.J. to be C.J. I fail to see the controversy in engaging in fun and treasured activities with your child.
Paula, sure, the Jim Carey example was just one example plucked from 23 years of parenting. Plenty of other behavior examples to choose from. My daughter was terrified of tiny insects to the point of wanting to pass out. Should I just let her “be herself” and afraid of tiny insects for the rest of her life, or try to help her with such irrationality so she can be more functional? Now I’m NOT saying painting one’s nails, girl or boy, is irrational. It seemed from the site post that C.J. was surprised to find out he was going to the nail salon. Was it something he had pleaded for? Weren’t there other “gender neutral” things to do, like sledding down a hill, building sand castles on the beach, yada yada? Does C.J. know who he is already? Do any of us know who we are when we’re young, or is that being developed?
I’m not a hater. I’ve always defied categories as a child and as an adult and defended freedom of choice. Just trying to discuss some some of the pros and cons in this very real life.
I think you are totally missing the point. This is not a behavioral issue to be corrected. CJ enjoying feminine things is fundamental part of his personality. His mom is not indulging him by letting him be himself. Any attempts to get him to hide who he is or what he likes only sends messages that there is something wrong with him, which is not the case. His mom is letting him know he can be himself and if other people don’t like it, that’s their problem, not his. The more people that are brave enough to do this, the more accepting the world becomes. There are a few gay kids at my son’s school and when he first began to have an understanding of it, and would make remarks typical of an adolescent, I let him know under no uncertain terms, it was none of his business. I told him, there are gay people in the world, they are born that way, there is nothing wrong with it, get over it. They don’t have to explain themselves to you. I also let him know if he were gay, I would love and accept anyone he loved with open arms and my love for him would never change.
I did not take your comment to be hateful at all. You sound like a mom who is thinking from the perspective of not letting your kid set themselves up to be bullied. I get that.
I yell at mine on a regular basis for being stinky or acting obnoxious, things that will hinder him socially. But this is different. This is about respecting the core of who this child is. With something like this, it’s the rest of the world that needs to change, not CJ.
I hope that made sense and was helpful in some way. Truly, I do. 🙂
That response was to Pat Riot BTW, it does not look like I replied to the thread I intended to
When I was CJ’s age, I was a very girly little girl who loved three things: getting my toenails painted, riding horses, and reading books. I remember well when my mom took me to see a Grand Prix jump-off, a university library, and to the nail salon. I don’t think I ***really*** knew any of these things existed or asked to go, but my mom knew I would enjoy seeing/doing the grown-up version of the things I loved. That’s what CJ’s Mom was doing here. Period.
I’ve been reading the blog for a while, and I’ve never commented, but.
I think you’re missing a key point here. If this were a girl who loved to climb trees and her father took her out to a rock-climbing facility, no one would think twice about it. And also, children need to be taught that their interests and loves are just as important as other people’s interests and loves.
I understand that you’re talking moderation. And yes, moderation is important. It’s just as important as letting him get to know himself. But I also think that your comment of “time and a place” is very accurate here. What harm if a store of people that he doesn’t know and may never see again know that he likes to have his toenails painted pink? How is an outing with his mother doing things they both love /not/ the time and place for a pedicure? She’s not taking him to the playground at his brother’s school during recess, or his father’s office, or her office, where people that the family knows and has to interact with on a daily basis will see his painted toenails. She’s taking him to a place that, if someone talks about them, it doesn’t affect her or her son once they’ve left the establishment, and that she and her son never have to go to again.
As far as moderation goes, CJ shows a great deal of it himself, whether that has been taught to him or has just come naturally, since he himself chose not to paint his fingernails. He’s already aware that his own choices can affect both himself and his family, and so chose to do something that would make him happy, without negatively affecting his life.
So while I can understand your concerns, I personally think you’re taking moderation too far, and pushing it into hiding and shame. CJ’s mother has been very good about doing everything she can to keep her son safe as well as happy, and I don’t think a pedicure is taking things to far by any means. This was a lovely outing between a boy and his mother, in an environment where had anything happened to ruin it, no one but CJ and his mom would have needed to know about it, which is about as safe as you can get in this world.
Good overall commentary. The main point is that a child gets to spend quality time with their parent doing something fun they both like. That dads can take their daughters rock walling but it’s determined by someone that moms can’t take their sons for a mani/pedi is just so nonsense. What is inherently , wrong with anyone having a bit of color as body art, whether that be tattoos or nail color? I can’t think of one valid reason why not. NP can be changed or removed in 10 minutes if one chooses. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to BE yourself as much as possible, your real self, not the one that you’ve interpreted society says you think you should be. And everyone should embrace all others variety when it certainly doesn’t’t infringe on anyone else’s rights to live their lives.
I’ve been thinking, rather pondering this for quite awhile. I’ve come to the conclusion, sociologically speaking, that the reason there is so much innate bias and it somehow relates to the Marlboro man, Sam Elliot vision of what a man is to be. Quiet, non obtrusive, only noticed by deeds of what’s right, etc. In the animal world, and we are animals, almost every male is flamboyantly colored. But look at our current male dress. Boring beyond belief. Drab tans, blacks, gray and navy for the most part, and every single guy the same. So where did that come from? I can only conclude that it was imagery somehow infused in s cultural psych
Women adopted much of men” fashion, and the 1700”s were dandy indeed. So what in fashion changed? It did change in the 1800’s, notice the style change from roughly the 14 hundreds through about 1830. Why? Now that is a fascinating question. Drab then for men came into fashion, powdered wigs, ribbons etc all were out. That did not change though for little children until almost 1940. Boys to that time still word dresses and wore pink. As did girls but in blue.
So again, without any other evidence to the contrary, a shift in perception is what occurred, and was deeply embedded. So it seems to me that the connotation that if a man wears color, then he must be gay because we associate flamboyance with only women, therefore a man who wears color is more like a woman so ergo must be gay. Completely false logic but that must be the way the circular reasoning would go. Because we “know” that gay folks are flamboyant, not subdued and quiet spoken like MM.
This weekend I will run into a situation where I, with my polished toes, will be asked to clean the dead rodents and what not from the barn, which doesn’t bother me a bit, whilst my macho BIL, the one that is very judgmental that anything smacking of gayness is just wrong, squeals in disgust, and literally almost throws up from the filth of it all. So why isn’t that gay, while me with color on my toes is assumed to be so? Makes absolutely no sense to me.
Therefore, there must be another mechanism involved.
God, I was grinning ear to ear through this whole post. So excited for CJ to get his pink toenails! Maybe you’ll eventually find a salon that doesn’t give a shit about his being a boy? Keep going! (Maybe Tiffany above is right – they’re all just cranky?)
My husband and I get mani/pedis together, he gets polish on hands & feet usually. Granted we live in Portland, Oregon (I grew up in SoCal, I understand the culture differences), but we have a regular salon and the ladies there all know. They might have said something the first few times, but I don’t think we hear a peep out of them now. Living with the nail color we most often get comments from older ladies. I just asked my husband if he had anything to add & he reminded me that he’s gotten mani/pedis in other cities, including in South Carolina and he usually doesn’t hear a peep. Then again, his attitude going in is-I’m paying you for a service. I would also say boys in my daughter’s kindergarten get their nails painted. Portland is different though, I’ll definitely say that. Come visit & the mani/pedis are on me.
You and CJ are happy and that is ALL that does matter!!!! I so wish my daughter and I could meet you one day, you make me happy!!!!!!!
I’m so jealous! I’m 53 and have never had a pedicure. And I would LOVE to get one with CJ. My son is very gender conforming (his own choice) and I have no young relatives to go with, but I may have to borrow a grandchild from someone else and go. I am so glad CJ has you for a mom. As someone else said, you are showing/letting/supporting him to just be himself – which is what we all should want for our beloved children. Keep up the good work, and if you find a good nail place in Salem, OR, let me know!
The ladies at both of those places were super rude. I’m glad you both had lots of fun, but… TAKING BETS ON A CHILD’S’ GENDER?! That is so HORRIBLE! I might have walked out if I were you, both times. Maybe time to find a salon where they will all respect you.
I read it differently. People who work with customers always talk about them with each other. If they can’t do it around the customer then they’ll just do it in the back room. It’s just that they usually don’t let the customer know about it. If the pedicurist told CJ’s mom about their bet she probably just wanted to make conversation, without realizing she was being rude.
As someone who has worked with customers for years, that’s totally what I was getting. But I used to be horribly rude when I was 20. We would talk about our customers, discuss their weird habits, and giggle our butts off. But we also treated them like humans and were one of the few people they could open up to. We genuinely liked them, even if we were little shits and gossiped about them. It wasn’t malice, it was immaturity. And I still like them and still giggle about them, but I have learned to skip the gossip part. If a co-worker asks a question about the customer, I give a straight answer about their habit, or choices and treat it as a matter of fact since that is how the customer presented it to me. God I was a bit of a shithead when I was younger! Kinda appalled thinking back on it.
I feel so excited for CJ reading this because what shines through to me is the thrill of getting his first pedicure and spending special time with you. I hope that is what he will remember. I am sorry the employees have been rude but I think you handled it perfectly and I hope you’ll find a friendlier mail place soon. And turkey nails cracked me up–does anyone want those?
There are cultures strivig to be Western, which would JAIL you for letting your son have a painted nails… I live in one of those.
Well, actually in my country it’s more acceptable to beat one’s kid or rape a woman than to be gender creative (or to let one’s kid be gender creative).
Disgusting, if someone asked me.
I’m shocked by their rudeness. Even if they don’t think a boy wants color, why not let his mom have that discussion? MYOB, people.
At least C.J. has an awesome mom willing to go through new experiences with him and takes risks on his behalf. You rock, C.J.’s mom!
Keep your eyes peeled when going by places like that, and if you see any other male customers, or better yet guys working there, I’d try them out. Also if you see any gender-nonconforming teens or adults with their nails done, on the bus or whatever, ask where they go.
What I didn’t see in the comments, admitedly I didn’t read them all, is this.
I think what you’re doing here is the HIGHEST level of activism.
First, you’re prepping CJ to be hir (in honor of whatever gender CJ ends up being) own best advocate, you confirm hir desires, you encourage hir to speak up for them, you make it clear that as the parent you’re “all in” so the workers don’t “blame you” in a sense, and you give hir the best possible sense of being accepted without judgement…
Second, you’re teaching these workers. You’re saying. Look, CJ identifies as a boy and this boy wants painted toes. This boy might even wanted painted fingernailes but this boy likes to be in control of letting others know what this boy likes.
Third, you share it with the world this blog. Activism at it’s best.
Love you all.
I just want to tell you that I love your comment. It makes me smile on the inside, more so because a) I’m a non-binary gender and b) I have limited ways to be an advocate/activist for my communities but you’re comment helped me re-affirm that what I’m doing is the best I can do with what I have at this moment in time. 🙂
I wrote a post about my son and nail polish last month, and a commenter suggested I check out your blog. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to, and look at your subject! Must be fate…. Your son is lucky to have such a supportive mom – I especially like how you had HIM tell the woman he wanted pink.
I am simultaneously disgusted at the responses you received from the nail salons, and amazed at your undying support for your son. He’s going to remember that you always encouraged him to be who he wants to be, and that is the most important thing.
I’m sad that this happened at not one but two places. Kudos to you mom, for taking CJ and for standing up for him and what he wants!
Loved this! Did not like the cattyness but they will learn. I am sure their culture is even more different than ours as one comment suggested. Just happy that C.J. enjoyed his experience. Love his toes!
Last time I took my daughter to get pedicures there was a dad and his daughter there, he got bright red toenails and his daughter (looked to be about 7) was so excited! I honestly think most pedicure recipients are being talked about…if cj felt comfortable there and you were ok, keep going and ignore them. On the other hand if cj felt uncomfy keep looking. I think the longer you go to one place the more they will be accepting.
Keep those toes bright!
I honestly don’t know why people have to make such a huge deal if a boy wants nail polish. It’s color. Lots of other cultures display colors on both genders. And in the animal kingdom,males are often the gender with the most color. When my son, who we now know is a transgender girl, wanted nail polish, I happily obliged. And guess what, just like other kids, she sometimes wears it and sometimes doesn’t…but the choice is always hers. At the time, it was really cool that we had a neighbor who was in his 50’s, hetero and wore bracelets and painted his toe nails..very basic neutral colors but painted nonetheless. He is a lawyer and totally ok with his own style. I use him as an example for my kids about dressing how you like. and I pointed out to my son (now daughter) that boys can wear polish too and it’s ok.
I hope you both can find the right salon for you. Hate to say it, but with the obvious culture clash that seems to be going on, perhaps researching to find a staff that will be more accepting, with maybe a male on staff would be good. Then CJ can see that not only women enjoy doing nails, as well as getting nails done. And then you know you’re giving your money to a deserving facility.
It was deeply troubling to me going from salon to salon being mocked before I found a place that respected a big tipper. Keep looking…
It’s not excuse, but maybe some explanation… Asian cultures have very different ideas about gender roles. Mothers in particular treat boys very differently from girls… and not in the same way Americans do.
It doesn’t make it right, or pretty, but there’s a duel culture clash going on that might explain it.
Glad you got pretty nails! 🙂
Gender roles are very defined in Asia – at least they were in Taiwan.
It’s not my place to explain on their behalf, or give advice for a situation I’ve never been in, but maybe find a place and talk to them first. It’s been my experience that when you take a moment to explain the “why” of what you’re doing, they can be much more accommodating. They’re not mean people, just curious and talkative.
I hope you find the right salon for you quickly! Glad you have a pedicure buddy. I can’t wait til mine is older!
Honestly, I think that those kinds of salons are catty and nasty about EVERYONE who doesn’t speak their language. Remember there was an episode of Seinfeld dedicated that that very subject.
CUTE!!!! I once took my now much older son to a foot reflexology massage. He hated it! Didn’t like strangers touching him, he said. He is not gender creative like your son, but has occasional spurts of rebellion against gender norms.
There are always men in my nail salon. Men ok, boys not ok? Lame.
Very, very lame.