What I Learned When I Let My Son Wear Nail Polish

What I Learned When I Let My Son Wear Nail Polish

Here’s what happened when I let my son wear nail polish out in public.


By Maria Mora

Last year, my 6-year-old son wanted his nails painted all summer. During the school year, he stopped asking me. I know peer pressure had a little bit to do with it, but I let the subject drop. A month ago, he saw me painting my toenails electric blue and sat down beside me, his bare toes wiggling.

I smiled and obliged.

I don't think nail polish is a political statement. Maybe it's because so many fashion trends that used to be shocking are now mainstream. To me, there's nothing unusual about a little boy liking bright colors. But I know there are many people who still frown on a boy wearing polish, especially if it's pink or red. I braced myself for drama when my son asked for painted nails, but it turns out I was worried about (almost) nothing.

During his older brother's birthday party, my 6-year-old ran around barefoot with his blue toenails. Every mom at the party remarked on them, each saying that his nails looked better than their own. No one made a snarky comment. No one even addressed the fact that it was unusual for a boy to have painted nails.

At the nail salon, my son came along for a pedicure. The young woman doing his nails saw the colors he picked out: silver, white, and glitter. She smiled and said they looked very cool. When she offered to do a design, he picked fireworks. "A little boy came in the other day and asked for a lightning bolt on his toes," she told me. When that little boy stepped out into the sun afterwards, he yelled, "This looks so cool!"

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Why shouldn't boys have the opportunity to play with their appearances? To decide that something looks cool -- or even pretty? My son loves kittens and soft things and nail polish. Those interests don't define him. What defines him is his innocence and the fact that he isn't overly hindered by gender expectations.

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He knows that nail polish on boys isn't widely acceptable. If his fingernails are painted, he asks to have the polish removed by Sunday night. He is in kindergarten. And yes, we've both had friends and family make unpleasant comments about his polish being inappropriate. I've been asked if I've taken into account what people will think of him for wearing nail polish. I've been told I'm forcing my own views on him. But I've never forced him to wear polish. On the other hand, a babysitter forced him to remove it.

I admire his unwillingness to completely bend to expectations. Because he's dared to be a little different, I've learned that most adults feel the same way I do. Why stifle a kid's self-expression when the world is already full of so many restrictions?

I usually don't wear glitter nail polish to work. But I think I'll get out the sparkles tonight. Why not?

Would you let your son wear polish?


Maria Mora is communications director at Big Sea Design and Development in St. Petersburg, Florida. She lives with her two sons and their rescue terriers.

Image ©iStock.com/mtreasure


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