My son had just completed his school year. In what has now become a bit of a tradition, I picked him up and took him to the diner. Chicken tenders and fries. Congratulations and summer plans. Lunch at half past noon in a near-lifeless atmosphere that mirrored the sunlight stifled by the too-dark tint of the big bay of windows.
As my son has aged, it has been nice that each year as we have our post-school year supper, we have more and more conversation. But, there are still large gaps of comfortable silence. And in these, my ears perk up and the eavesdropping commences. Judge me. Go ahead. As writer’s we are taught to listen to people talking to be able to craft genuine dialogue in our writing. I’m working on my craft. And they weren’t whispering.
They, the two people in the booth behind me, were a grandfather and a granddaughter. They were strangers to me and still are. I never saw them. I didn’t dwell on their conversation, but I did hear enough to piece together a story.
The granddaughter was expecting a baby soon. The grandfather spoke to her, reservedly and lovingly. They were discussing an upcoming baby shower and the décor of the nursery. And after she, the loving granddaughter, had run through a slew of potential colors for the walls of the nursery, the grandfather hesitated and then interjected.
“You can’t paint until you know if you’re having a boy or a girl. You can’t have a pink nursery for a boy.”
The granddaughter hesitated and then respectfully replied, “Granddad, gender has no color.”
Gender has no color. Simple. Succinct. A stranger had solidified something that had been hanging around in my brain. That’s often the magic of a quote and it doesn’t have to come from a famous writer or world leader. The comedian Lewis Black had a bit about how aneurysms form from over hearing these sorts of things. Snippets of other lives wafting into our ears and jostling our preconceptions or affirming our unarticulated truths.
My wife and I had recently welcomed a daughter into our family. And throughout my daughter’s entire first six months of life, I had never once considered the color of her anything other than the soul shaking beautiful blue of her eyes. Her favorite blanket is and was a blue blanket that my best friend had wrapped his first born son in. And one of her favorite colors is pink. It’s also one of her brother’s favorite colors, too.
Gender has no color.~ Stranger in a diner
There is an amazing ever evolving process of continuum playing out daily. A nature and nurture amalgamation, concocting the cultural lens we have to see through, sift through, and remove. But we will only replace it with another lens that will hopefully be challenged by granddaughters dressed in whatever color they choose.
I recently wrote a poem, (a lousy one but see last week’s edition if you need to forgive me) that spiraled into thoughts about what I am imparting to my daughter and son. I am trying to raise them in the most pure sense of the word. It’s a tricky business to not conform them, yet also not leave them without pathways of suggestion and possibility. I took a break from writing to clip my daughter’s fingernails. As I clipped, I was telling her the names of each digit. I began with her thumb and when I got to her forth finger, I told her that it was her ring finger.
And I thought of how her mother and I were not married. At least in any legal sense. I thought about how basic anatomy had been taught to me based on a tradition. How sweet and illogical it was to me. And I thought of how my son counts his sister’s toes. “This little piggy went to the market, this little piggy went to college. This little piggy had some, this little piggy had none. This little piggy went wee, wee, we all the way home.”
Gender has no color. And neither does love. Thank you stranger.