By Rick Kaempfer
Last night the Daily Show featured a segment about the uproar caused by a J Crew ad featuring a photo of a mother and her young boy. The cause of the uproar? The boy had pink painted toenails.
The 47-year-old me with three growing boys (two of which are now teenagers) agrees that this story is much ado about nothing. On the other hand, it also reminds me of the biggest argument of my twenty-year marriage.
It was about a tea set.
I can tell you everything about that fight because it’s ingrained in my memory banks. It occurred in October of 1997. Tommy was just about to turn 2. The argument began thusly…
Bridget: I got Tommy’s birthday present today.
Rick: What did you get?
Bridget: A tea-set.
Rick: That’s great…um…what did you say?
Bridget: I got him a tea-set.
Rick: You mean like a golf tee set?
Rick: You mean like a “pour imaginary cups of tea for your dolls and raise your pinky while you pretend to drink” tea set?
Bridget: Yup. He’ll love it.
Rick: You know he’s a boy, right?
Bridget: This won’t make him gay, Rick.
Rick: Objecting to “girl presents” for your son doesn’t make you homophobic.
Bridget: It’s not a girl present.
Rick: Let me see the box.
(Bridget pulled the pink box out of the bag. A little girl engaged in a doll tea-party was pictured on the front of the package.)
Rick: That’s what I thought. We can give it to one of our nieces.
Bridget: No, we’re giving it to Tommy.
Rick: No, we’re not.
Bridget: Well I’m not returning it. If you want to get him something else, you have to get it yourself.
Bridget wouldn’t buckle, and called all of her friends and sisters for support. They all agreed that I was being sexist and ridiculous.
I wouldn’t buckle, and called all of my friends for support. They all agreed that she was being ridiculous.
Since neither of us could convince anyone on the other side of the sex divide to cross-over and support our argument, we agreed to conduct an experiment to see which one of us was right.
Bridget would still give Tommy the tea-set, but I would give him a more appropriate boy gift (Hot Wheels). We would put both presents on the table in the living room and let Tommy decide which one he preferred. Since Tommy didn’t really talk too much, the winner would be decided by which present Tommy chose first….her tea-set or my Hot Wheels. Winner takes all, loser admits defeat.
That night we brought Tommy into the room and told him the presents on the table were both for him. At first he didn’t say or do anything.
Then it happened…he walked right to the Hot Wheels and asked me to open the package.
He was a little taken aback by my exuberant response and Bridget’s inexplicable muttering, but Tommy had cemented the father-son bond forever by proving me right.
I didn’t dance on Bridget’s grave, and it’s a good thing I didn’t. Tommy eventually played with the tea-set quite often, and his two younger brothers also played with it, and when I actually saw it happening, I realized it didn’t bother me in the slightest. In fact, I was embarrassed that I made such a big deal about it in the first place.
Last night when I watched the reactions of the people upset about the pink toenail ad, I saw myself fourteen years ago. It’s taken me fourteen years to finally admit this publicly once and for all, but here goes.
I was wrong.
There’s no need to tell my wife. She already knows.