She Says… A Boy’s First Manicure

Last Friday when Benjamin and I picked Owen up from school, Owen ran across the playground into our arms shouting, “I WANT TO HAVE MY FINGERNAILS PAINTED LIKE KEIRA!!!”. His teacher smiled at me and said, “We told him he’d have to ask his parents about that one”. Owen’s eyes were twinkling.

Though I know for some people this might have been a difficult decision, for us it was easy. Just as I would never tell a daughter that she couldn’t do something (anything) because it’s a “boy thing”, I wasn’t about to tell my son that he couldn’t do something just because it’s typically a “girl thing”.

And so, on Saturday morning, in his monkey pajamas, Owen got his first manicure.


He chose a sparkly dark pink (since I didn’t have straight-up red, which is far and away his favorite color). I’ve never seen him sit so still in his whole life. He was in heaven.

I was all smiles too, until we headed out the door to the playground and I was hit with the realization that many people don’t share my love of letting my kid cross traditional gender lines. I am thankful to live in a state where most people wouldn’t bat an eyelash at an expression of individuality (and I would hope that most people, regardless of their stance on sex/gender issues, could accept that kids are kids and like to dress up and be silly), but still, my stomach tightened as I watched Owen running around the playground showing random kids and their parents his glittering nails. He was so proud. “Hey, guess what I have? <Holds out his hands and waves them in front of their faces>. PINK NAILS!”. I wasn’t sure if I should be more worried about the kids or their parents crushing his joy with an insensitive comment. I kept one ear open while I sat my super-pregnant butt on a bench nearby while he played.

After playing on a climber for a long time with a 4 year old girl and her older siblings (with Owen doing his patented “I’m just going to include myself in your game so you play with me” move), he showed off his pink beauties.

Little girl: You have painted nails?
Owen: Yeah. Just like Keira.
Little girl: Are you a girl or a boy?
Owen: A boy.
Little girl: Oh.

I think I let out an audible sigh of relief when I realized that the conversation was over after that. (Side note: Why can’t everyone in the world respond to others in the same way? “Oh.” It’s so simple, yet so powerful.). All the moms gave Owen praise for his color choice and told them his nails looked beautiful. I shot them invisible high fives and “thank you”s with my eyes. I saw a raised eyebrow or two, but in general, everyone was really positive and supportive.

Owen went to school this morning and nearly broke his face smiling so hard that his nails matched those of his favorite teacher. I am so happy to be able to give him that joy with a quick coat of nail polish.

I have no qualms about letting Owen experiment with “girl stuff”, whatever that may be. I let him try out my makeup if he asks (usually in an effort to distract him so I can get ready to go somewhere) and I wouldn’t dare tell him he couldn’t try something based on his sex. I know there are many parents out there who do not agree with me (remember the uproar caused by the J. Crew ad that included a mom painting her son’s toenails pink?), and some who even argue that boys not being “taught right” from a young age is the downfall of society, not to mention the reason for homosexuality. I can’t even respond to a mindset so far from what I believe to be the truth.

All I can say is that my kid is IN LOVE with his pink nails. And you better not be the person who makes him second-guess his awesome fashion sense and open mind. Or else.


21 responses to “She Says… A Boy’s First Manicure

  1. That’s awesome!! I think it’s wonderful that kids are allowed to express themselves, however they want to express themselves. Who cares if his nails are pink? What is important is his joy and happiness, not what society dictates is “correct”.

  2. So fun! Manicures are the best. Especially when you can clip their nails first and it’s not a power struggle! Have you done temporary tatoos yet? Those are my 3yo’s favorite too.

  3. Good for you and good for Owen! Pink nails rock! Ethan loves nothing more than playing dress up – in dresses, skirts, boas, etc. And we have a HUGE collection from when I was little, so he is never lacking in choices for his ensembles. His teachers tell us that he plays dress up in much the same way at school, choosing mostly the dresses and skirts. Who can blame him? That long, flowing material feels really good! He did ask for nail polish once and we happily obliged (he chose a different color for each nail), but he picked it off almost as soon as it dried!

  4. Oh, man, I just had a heated discussion with my husband about this. He was conditioned by a household that feared and abhorred homosexuality and embraced gender stereotyping. When we were teenagers he expressed himself through balking at society’s grasp on “gender” but now that we have our own kids his upbringing is creating issues because of our differing parenting roles. I absolutely agree with you on everything–and I share the sentiment, “I can’t even respond to a mindset so far from what I believe to be the truth.” The only thing I’ve been able to articulate appropriately (I’m just left flabbergasted mostly) is that he and I have gay friends who were raised in very strict households which encouraged punishment of anything outside societal norms. If dressing up, playing with dolls, painting nails, and wearing makeup as children made men gay, I dare say there would be a heck of a lot more homosexuals in the world! I don’t know one little boy who hasn’t done these things, and it’s just not fair to exclude them if it makes them happy. Really, who are we to decide who *they* will be?
    And those nails look awesome. Rock on, Owen. 🙂

  5. I love that you are so open-minded. I have an almost three year old, too. I also have a 9 year old daughter, so everything she does, my two year old wants to do too. He brushes hair, he wants nails painted, and heck, I’ve even put “blinks” (mascara) on him. Other than that, he’s strictly baseball and sports with dad. It doesn’t phase me one bit. Good for you 🙂

  6. Looks pretty fun to me. And honestly, what boy doesn’t want to paint their nails (to be like mommy, sister, teacher or friend?!?) my son has asked to have his done on a number of occasions, and quite frankly, why the hell not? He always chooses blue or green, but only because those are his favorite colors. If his favorite color was ballet pink, he could wear that too.

  7. Okay, my favorite post yet. LOVE!!!!! Owen is precious and his nails look fabulous:) Go Kate. Parenting, you are doing it right.

  8. If my little guy could ever sit still, I would be more than happy to give him a manicure. Fantast that your little one loves his pink nails! This is what childhood is all about experimenting and having fun, fun, fun!

  9. This is awesome! You go, Kate! It’s all about having fun and open mindedness on trying new things. I love how he got so much joy out of something like that – so cute!
    On another note, I wish my daughter would be okay with anyone touching her nails. Every time I have to cut her nails (which feels like constantly!), she screams and cries and it is pretty much the ugliest scene ever! Argh!

  10. I think it’s silly that girls doing ‘boy’ things is considered tomboy and totally okay but when a little boy does a girl thing it’s considered taboo.

    My husband is always freaking out when our boys play with dolls or whatever and I always say ‘girls play with dolls to prepare for motherhood, why can’t boys play with dolls to prepare for being a dad?’ it just doesn’t make sense!

  11. My son also rocked some nail polish because I was doing mine. Just his thumb, but grandpa was not too thrilled. LOL!

  12. VillagePsych

    Love this entry! Go Owen and Kate! Reminds me of the song “William Wants a Doll” from Free To Be You And Me.

  13. My son LOVES his sisters Barbies and dollhouse. Sometimes she likes to dress him up in her old clothes (aka: dresses). She thinks she’s a robot and blue is her favorite color. She spent her whole first ballet class being a horse. I love them for expressing themselves and hope to expose them to diversity, not traditional gender roles. You are awesome!

  14. When my eldest was two we spent a couple of months staying with my grandmother while our house was being renovated. Every morning he would go in to her room, have breakfast in bed with her, then they would do their makeup. My little guy would then come into my room with lipstick, rouge and often a string of pearls around his neck, absolutely delighted with himself. He adored my grandmother and wanted to be just like her.

    Now he is grown and “all guy.”

  15. Yay Kate!!!
    I work childcare and I’m always trying to encourage my little ones (and even their parents sometimes!) to break through traditional gender roles. The boys can play in the house centre and the girls can play with the cars! Who cares, right? Unfortunately, I still get some comments from my kids like, “But he’s a boy!” or “But she’s a girl!”. Slowly, we’re getting there!

  16. Have you ever read the blog ??
    It’s awesome.


  18. Thank you for all of these wonderful comments!

  19. LOVE. I would love to do this with Ryan. I hope he asks for it one day. While so much of Ryan could be described as “boyish” (his obsession with dinosaurs and cars and blah blah blah), I have loved the moments when he has shown me that he’s just a kid with no preconceived notion of what he’s “supposed” to like. The time he dressed up in the princess gown at daycare, the time he flaunted his new purple headband a friend gave him, etc. Kids are just kids; they want to have carefree fun. So stinkin cute.

  20. I am a man and want my nails painted bright red orange green blue frech nails by a lady but can not find one to do lady nails on me can you do my nails please ryan

  21. What a cute little boy! He looks so cute with pink nails!

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