Your mother is the kind of mom who wears neon polish on her nails. I’m writing with them now. A color called Barbie Pink. They’re a little chipped, but radiant like steaming antifreeze. Why am I telling you this? Well, because when I was a little girl I wasn’t brave enough to wear polish that others might find offensive. You’ll learn soon that many people feel confident, even justified, in sharing the things that they deem offensive, things that you unknowingly do to offend them.
In our family, there are rules. (Don’t worry about these rules.) Women did not wear red polish or lipstick. Only women with questionable morals wore this color. Soon you’ll realize that there will be conversations going on around you; these might be about you, but you are not always required to participate in them. I realized this as a little girl. It’s when I started to listen. It was where I overheard the outdated wisdom of the color red. What I did was internalize this rule as one that I should follow. I knew women who wore red nail polish. In church, they didn’t sit with other women—even those wearing the same polish or lipstick. They were off to the side, usually in the back pew with their eyes circling the room. Daring anyone to sit beside them or speak to them. They didn’t have husbands or children. Their legs were thrown over each other revealing the fleshier parts of their thighs. What did they have to lose?
You lose nothing in being yourself. There is no dignity that anyone can take away from you. If I had known that at ten, I would have left the comforts of the acceptable women pew in my church and gone to sit with those daring red women. I would have risked the whispers and the looks. I would have taken the hand of the scorned and squeezed it. We had reduced the worth of these women because of the hue of a bold color.
I didn’t know it was wrong to look at another with scorn and judgment for simply being. That judgment turned so easily inward. When you can look at someone else and find fault in who they are, and what they do without reason, you can do so to yourself just as easily. Be careful with judgment. Be careful with following rules you didn’t set for yourself. If it’s at all possible be who you want to be; in fact, make that your only option.
You’re six months now. You have no idea how the world is all ready throwing judgment at you. I’m guilty of it, too. Except, I’m only guilty of wanting you to be as radical and uncompromising as I wished I had been. You are gorgeous and smart. You haven’t learned to walk or sit completely on your own yet. You still need help holding your bottle and keeping your behind dry but people have expectations for you. They say, “She’s your daughter. She’ll like reading just the way you do. She’ll be a nerd, too.” I smile as politely as I can. You might not know it but those words are meant to be a compliment. Even while you were inside of my belly swimming around in the dark, they were saying how you were destined to be as studious and artistic as your mother. All of this piled onto a little baby who hadn’t even breathed a fresh water-free breath.
You don’t have to worry. You can grow up and become whatever you were meant to be. I can’t protect you from judgments but I can cushion their impact. You have to learn to stand up in your own humanity, to own it and be unafraid to face down those who try to destroy it. It’s important to understand that you own everything inside of you. Your feelings, emotions, reactions—everything. And you can’t be afraid of them. You have to be comfortable being uncomfortable at times because Pumpkin Pie not everything you do in your life will be acceptable, not even with me, the unbelievable hip mom that I am. You can’t be afraid to wear red polish. You can’t be afraid to take the hand of a scorned person and squeeze it until they understand that you are standing with them. You have to be yourself. As a matter of fact, I insist that you wear red polish.