Finding comfort in our own shoes
A letter to the mom at the sporting goods store,
You came into Hibbett Sports last week with your daughter. I was there with my daughter too. We both were looking for shoes. Our daughters, probably the same age, obviously have the same problem with excessively fast foot growth. You were in a hurry. We were just browsing.
I couldn’t help to overhear your conversation…we both know the children’s shoe section is very small. Your daughter needed a new pair of tennis shoes and she wanted a pair that did not have the color pink anywhere on the shoe. I’m not sure why your daughter was determined to not wear pink shoes, but she was. She liked the blue shoes with green trim. You told her no because you would not buy her “boy shoes”. She then suggested the gray and white shoes and with a stronger voice this time you said again “NO. I will NOT buy you a pair of boy shoes.” You suggested the white and pink shoes and tried to tell her how cute they were. With a soft voice she reminded you that she didn’t want pink. You began to get angry with her. I could tell because I’ve been angry with my own child when I felt that she wasn’t listening. You continued to point out “cute shoes” which all had some shade of pink. I could sense your blood pressure was rising quickly. Again, I’ve been there. In fact, in that moment, I could feel my own heart pounding. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t. And in flash after practically yelling to your daughter “I’m sorry! They just don’t make girl shoes that are not pink” you were gone.
I wish you could have seen through your anger and disappointment that your daughter wasn’t trying to hurt you. She simply ached to be comfortable in her own shoes…in her own skin. I was that kid many years ago. I’ve changed a bit since then but as a young adult I refused to be in my own sister’s wedding because I didn’t want to wear a dress. Sure it seems pretty petty. But just thinking about being in front of people in a dress made me nauseous. I. Could. Not. Do. It.
In that store your sweet little girl was devastated and hurt. You allowed a gender stereotype to cause dissension between the two of you. What if she wanted to play with trucks instead of dolls, chose basketball over ballet, dig for worms instead of sipping tea or wanted to dress like a superhero instead of a princess?
You do realize that it was successful marketers in the late 1940’s that thought pink should be for girls, blue for boys. Before WWII blue was considered more of a girl color because of the association with the Virgin Mary and pink as a boy color because, as a shade of red, it was a symbol of war. In the 70’s and 80’s this thinking exploded. We began seeing sex segregated clothing and toys. Consumers fell for it. Now we socialize our girls to pink (and boys to blue) before they are even born. However, studies have shown that baby girls don’t prefer pink over any other color and it isn’t until after 2 years old when girls start to choose pink…which is when they also start to become aware of their gender. If society didn’t say “pink for girls, blue for boys” then our children wouldn’t be brainwashed or forced into preferring one color over another.
You should be proud of your daughter. She is refusing to be told by society what color to like. She is trying to be herself…yet you won’t let her. I encourage you to listen—to really listen to what she’s telling you. I’m not assuming anything about your daughter and not saying how her future will be (after all, in a few years she may ask for her bedroom to be painted Pepto Bismol pink). However, your daughter left the store that day with her head hung low. She felt that you did not respect her decision or understand her feelings. She was hurt.
I encourage you to give your daughter a hug. Tell her that you love her. Take her to the shoe store and let her pick out her own shoes. It shouldn’t matter if they are black, red, orange, green, purple, or brown. It’s just shoes. And if she’s anything like my daughter you will be buying shoes again in just a few short months.
A concerned mom