Pink or Blue?

When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband and I opted not to find out the gender of our child ahead of time.  We wanted to be surprised.  We picked out a girl name and a boy name, which we also kept secret, and we asked the ultrasound technicians not to tell us or let us see anything that would give it away (not that we had any clue what we were looking at on the monitor).  We were very happy with our choice.  And it drove everyone else nuts.

Friends and relatives, coworkers and well-wishers all wanted to know: is it a boy or a girl?  I would respond with: does it matter?

Apparently so.  Horrified people asked, “But how do we know what to buy for you?!  Should we get pink or blue clothes/toys/accessories/furniture/random things?”  Just when we thought the eyebrows couldn’t go any higher, we would answer, “Oh, the nursery has a space theme, and colors don’t matter but we’d prefer neutral since you’re asking.”

One relative insisted on waiting until after the baby was born to send a ‘proper’ present when she knew if it would be a boy or girl.  She sent a frilly, pink, flowered dress and bonnet set.  I think I put my daughter in it for a picture once.  Who puts a 3-month-old in layers of lace for anything but photos?  One spit-up and it’s done!

The stores and advertisers and toy and clothing manufacturers have done an amazing job of very firmly establishing the pink vs. blue thing.  Making parents buy things for boy babies and girl babies means parents won’t do hand-me-downs as much – a boy couldn’t possibly wear his sister’s old clothes!  Maybe a little sister could occasionally be caught in big brother’s cute things as a ‘tomboy’ look, but never vice versa.  Society wouldn’t allow it.  That rule is well established.  Tradition!

Except… it’s not.  Pink wasn’t a ‘boy’ color fifty years ago.  As early as a few decades ago, most kids’ things came in nice primary colors.  Now, if you haven’t been lately, go look at the toy aisles in your local big-box store.  Pink for girls, blue for boys.  Pink with sparkles, glitter, princesses, anthropomorphized appliances, butterflies.  Boys get superheroes, sports, cars, blue, maybe some red.  God forbid two children should share toys or play together.

Almost everything decorating my daughter’s room was labeled a ‘boy’ thing.  My husband and I are space geeks, and we figured infants don’t exactly know what they are looking at in the first year-ish, but like to see interesting/colorful things on walls.  And as parents, we figured those might as well be things we like to look at.  So we went with a space-themed room: Earth ceiling fan, planet and rocket decals, a rocket-shaped lamp and rug, framed pictures of the solar system, and a few various things like a monkey-shaped coat hook.  Her room theme relates to both my husband’s career/interests and mine: I am a trained aerospace engineer, and my husband writes science fiction.  And we’re both geeks who love all things space-related.  We could have gone with some of the more common ‘neutral’ themes (zoo animals, Noah’s Ark, Winnie the Pooh, yellow ducks, things in plain primary colors) but we wanted to tie it in with our lives and things that are important to us.

Is it really so important to start stuffing gender-segragation down kids’ throats as soon as they are babies.  Yeah, it’s cute and all, but do you really want your daughter growing up thinking she’s a princess, and all that that entails in the Hollywood?  To have people only comment on how pretty she looks, until that’s all she understands is important in life?  Instead, try to just let her be a kid and find her own way and her own preferences in the world – I’m pretty sure you’ll all be happier in the long run.

As for my daughter, when she’s old enough to develop her own tastes and feels strongly enough about something to be willing to empty out her precious piggy bank, she can redecorate as she likes.  Even if she decides on pink sparkles.  But I might have an extra glass of wine or three to drown my sorrows in secret on the night she tells me she wants a Barbie.

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