I kept a diary of sorts when I was a little bit older than Ruby. It was a fill-in-the-blanks type thing that I ordered from a Scholastic book order, and I, a dutiful and slightly compulsive child, filled in every blank both thoroughly and earnestly. Tallest girl in the class: Tishawna. Tallest boy in the class: Blake. Tallest kid in the class: Blake. Favorite food: Mashed potatoes. Favorite TV show: ALF and a very short-lived sitcom called Me & Mrs. C. Favorite vacation: Disney World. Favorite color: Pink.
Later, during the extremely regrettable tween years, which coincided with the extremely regrettable early ‘90s in my case, I found this diary and defaced it with contemporary commentary. “ALF? Barf. I like cool stuff like Step by Step now.” “Disney World is for babies. I hate it.” “Pink is double barf. Now I like neon green with black.”
Still later, I flipped through the diary while packing for college and felt wistful for my first grade self and embarrassed and appalled for my fifth grade self – but even if I was sorry for being so obnoxious and faux-cool back then, I hadn’t changed my position on ALF, Disney or pink.
And when I found out I was having a daughter, I was still insistent that she was not going to dress in pink or fantasize about being a princess. Any daughter of mine was going to be a tomboy, into blue jeans and soccer and feminism. Ha. Hahaha. Ruby adores pink, won’t be caught dead in denim or pants and takes ballet and tap. Soccer? For boys. LEGOs? For boys. Any color besides pink and purple? For boys. Every night we read princess stories before bed. We watch Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty on an endless loop. And tonight, we are going to Disney on Ice.
That doesn’t mean she’s not a feminist, though. She told me just yesterday, after much reflection: “I don’t think it’s really fair that all the grown-ups who make the rules are men, like the president and stuff. Because they make the rules and so they make the rules to help men and to be able to keep making the rules. When I grow up, I am going to vote for women so that women can make the rules to help other women! Also, I am going to be the president. And also a brain surgeon.”
Later, her teacher sent me a message (this happens fairly often but not as often as I had feared, and the messages are mostly good) that said Ruby had told her: “I don’t think it’s fair that men make rules that tell women what they can and can’t do. They are men; they don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. Ms. Millet, why are you writing down what I’m saying?”
So Ruby gets it. She is 6, and she loves pink, and she is beyond excited for Disney on Ice, and she is a feminist. And that’s OK. All of those things are OK.
Even I am starting to come around. Because I am one of those moms who wants my kids to think I’m cool, I have started embracing pink. After the baby destroyed my glasses, I ordered pink cat-eyes for the sole purpose of impressing Ruby. Last week, I wore my pink glasses with a pink necklace that Ruby had picked out for me and a pair of pink shoes that I bought at Ruby’s insistence. And I liked it.
I can’t imagine I will change my circa 1991 position on ALF, and I am afraid I still can’t really abide Disney World – I hate tourists, and I hate waiting in lines, so it’s just really not my (spinning) cup of tea. But if you asked me my favorite color these days, I – well, I would still say green (although not neon). But pink would be a close second.
Twenty-five years on, and I have come back around to pink. I would never discourage Ruby from liking whatever she likes, as long as she doesn’t ever let being a girl (and one day a woman) hold her back. Pink is fine, Ruby. Think pink – but dream big.