Hot Pink Mess

There is a Barbi pink bottle of nail polish sitting on my counter mocking me.

Fucking pink nail polish.
I bought it on a whim while picking up some prescriptions at the drug store. I had this fleeting thought that it would be fun to paint my daughter’s nails. Or for her to paint mine.

Then I got home and my brain kicked in, and putting hot pink nail polish on a 2-year old seemed completely out of the question for about a dozen reasons. First and foremost, last I checked she was 2, not 12. I rail against ear piercing for babies and push-up bras for 2nd graders, and in a moment of insanity I somehow thought nail polish was OK for a toddler.

So now it sits there, on my counter, laughing at me. Another big, fat, black mark on my feminist card. We’ve been sexualizing these little girls for so long that it nearly got me. ME.

I’m so ashamed.

Maybe because it wasn’t as blatant as a t-shirt with a promiscuous saying. It wasn’t a thong for a 3-year old.

It was just some pink nail polish. Is nail polish the gateway make up to fire engine red lipstick? Is pink nail polish a statement on a 2-year old? If anything, I think it says “my mother is a fucking moron who put this on me to whore me up.”

Or am I just over doing it here? Is it just a bit of “play” on a 105 degree, stay in the a/c kind of day? Am I thinking too much? Is this just what little girls do? Or just what little girls do because their mothers think its cute and fun and girlie.
I don’t think so. I think if it were not an issue to use my brain over, that nail polish wouldn’t still be sitting on that counter. Mocking me.

I won’t let my son have a toy gun. I know he’ll figure it out with legos or a stick soon enough. So why would I encourage the whole “grown up” look on my daughter? She’ll figure it out soon enough and be demanding it all on her own. Without my help.

So what do I do with this hot Barbi pink nail polish on my counter? I think I’m going to leave it there. As a reminder. This little girl isn’t going to grow up too fast. Be sexualized too fast. Too soon. No. Not even those little nails. I’ll let the bottle mock me. Maybe we’ll bust it out for her sweet 16. Until then…it stays on the counter.


  1. See, I got this argument taken out of my hands when my daughter painted her own nails and put on her own makeup.

    It is not sexualisation for children, IMO – it is playing dress ups.

    Paint all your childrens nails or none – it is your call – but don’t beat yourself up on the many arguments you could call yourself on.

    I know – me bad feminista – but I like to fight the fights that matter to me. This just happened to not be one of them.

  2. I think you are blowing this up a tad bit – my kid has been happily painting her nails and mine for a year – shes three- she likes it – its part of playing dress up and going through grandma’s jewelery box and wear aunties shoes were right there with it, and putting on clear lip gloss with great granma and everything else… Now ofcourse her dad has a cow, cause well he’s the dad – thats what they do I’m told.
    i personally believe – it is what ever you make it, if you make it a sexualized thing – then it is. If you don’t its not.

  3. Six or so months ago I started to use nail polish as an incentive for Sweet Pea to let me cut her nails on a regular basis. That’s when she stopped napping and I HAD to start cutting her nails while she was awake. When her fingernails get cut, her fingernails get painted. When her toenails get cut, her toenails get painted. Her favorite color is light blue, so her fingernail polish is light blue. When it chips off due to playing hard and digging in the dirt for bugs she doesn’t even notice or think about it – it’s just fun for the moment. She hasn’t noticed that most boys and men don’t wear fingernail polish, and we know enough of them who do that she may never realize it’s a girly-girl thing.

    My one stipulation before I painted Sweet Pea’s nails was that the polish had to be non-toxic – and several companies make it that way. Here are some names and links of companies who make water-based polishes in case you or anyone else is interested (for you if not for Princess Peanut):

    Sante Kosmetics has a great line of phthalate-free nail polishes and cosmetics for $9/bottle.

    Honey Bee Gardens $10/bottle.

    SpaRitual Nail Lacquer – ($9/bottle). ($18.00/bottle)

    Here are links to a couple articles on the subject.

    Who would have thought I would be touting such things online? I hardly ever wear polish myself. However, I bought Acquarella polish for myself and for Sweet Pea, and it truly does not stink one bit. Their remover does have a bit of a smell, but it’s nothing like the regular stuff. And it won’t burn a hole in your carpet, either. I can’t speak for the other brands, but the Acquarella polish seems to wear as long as the nasty-smelling, toxic kind.

  4. Dammit, I lost my first comment and it was long and involved and I didn’t copy it before hitting “submit comment.” DAMN!

    Oh well, I will try to recreate it…

    About 6 months ago Sweet Pea stopped napping and I had to find a way to get her to sit still enough for me to cut her fingernails while she was awake. One of my friends told me that she paints her daughter’s nails as a reward for sitting still during the cutting so I thought I would give that a try. (Actually for us it was less the sitting still problem and more, “Mommy, what are you doing to me?” because she had never seen me cut her nails before and didn’t realize I had been chopping off the things on the ends of her fingers)

    First I had to find non-toxic fingernail polish or I was absolutely not going to put polish on my daughter. The normal stuff is really toxic and nasty – as you can tell from the way it (and the remover) smells.

    I found Acquarella polish and Sweet Pea chose the Mahalo blue color, since light blue is her favorite color. Since then she is more than willing to sit still and let me cut her nails and right after her fingernails get cut I will polish those for her, and when her toenails get cut, I polish those as well.

    For Sweet Pea, getting her nails painted is like a fun art project. It’s a good time right then, and she will sit still long enough for it to dry as well, but after that she goes right back to digging roly poly bugs out of the dirt and doing all the other fun kid stuff she likes to do, and it doesn’t bother her one bit when her polish chips. She has not noticed that most boys and men don’t wear fingernail polish, and we know enough of them who do that she may not grow up to see fingernail polish as a girly-girl thing.

    My parents railed against makeup and pierced ears (so you can imagine how thrilled they were when I pierced my nose and belly button) – but not for feminist reasons; more for Jezebel reasons – so my first instinct when I thought about putting polish on my daughter was that it was not a good thing to do with a 3.5-year-old.

    However, the more I thought about it the more I realized that, like all things, it’s what you teach the child that stays with them. I’m teaching Sweet Pea that it’s a fun thing to paint her nails after they get cut, but that’s it. I don’t expect her to keep it nice or insist that she has to wear it to look pretty. It’s just a little bit of fun and a way to reward her good behavior with something other than food.

    If you are interested for yourself or eventually for Princess Peanut, here are some brand names of water-based, non-toxic nail polishes. The extra cost is completely worth it to me because it’s non-toxic.

    Sante Kosmetics – $9/bottle

    Honey Bee Gardens – $10/bottle

    SpaRitual Nail Lacquer – $9/bottle

    Acquarella – $18/bottle

    I bought Acquarella for me and Sweet Pea because it was the only company that came up when I googled “non-toxic fingernail polish.” Turns out they’re the most expensive, but that’s okay. The polish will last a while. As far as I can tell it wears as long as regular polish, and it truly is odorless. The remover has a bit of a smell to it but NOTHING like the regular stuff, and the Acquarella remover won’t eat a hole in your carpet, either.

    Here are links to a couple articles about non-toxic nail polishes as well:

  5. My three year olds little friend had bright red painted nails so she started asking if she could paint hers. I didn’t want to for the same reasons. My solution was to agree to the actual painting of the nails but she only gets to use clear sparkle polish. You have to look up close to even see it but she knows it’s there and thinks it’s a big treat. She gets to use pink tinted clear sparkle polish on her toes too.

  6. You know we all have different lines in the sand. And if yours is there with nail polish then so be it.

    If she hasn’t asked, I certainly wouldn’t put it on her, not because of any sort of feminist agenda I have, but because it chips really quickly and then looks like crap. And then she will want you to redo it. And then she will do it herself. And she will spill it on your rug. Not that I have any of this knowledge first hand 😉

    In a couple of years she will ask about nail polish and you can revisit your ideals. Maybe they will have changed

  7. I’ve gone back and forth on this, too, as OTHER people, in the past, have thought it a good idea to put polish on MY daughter’s nails.

    I finally caved (she turns seven this week) last year and let her wear some clear polish with glitter because seriously, it made her so thrilled to be alive (she’s all about the sparkly shit) but I’m not a nail polish type of person and I agree that there’s no need to push the polish â€â€? OR the play makeup. She will ask for it soon enough.

  8. I don’t think nail polish on a little girl is bad. I had strawberry shortcake nail polish when I was nearl 3 and I liked having my mom paint my nails. It was fun.

    I don’t think I was being whored up or sexualized.

    You’re not putting mascara and lipstick on her. Or dressing her in a mini-skirt and fishnet stockings.

    I understand the concern about sexualization and little girls growing up too fast, but when are we moms going to reclaim the innocence of a bit of pink nail polish on our little girls finger nails?

    When are we going to say enough of the stereotypical “Britney-ization” of little girls.

    We can let play dress up (in suitable clothing) and wear their mothers pearls and scarves and pink nail polish, without trying to “whore” them up, right?

    Little girls look up to their moms. And if we’re good examples of smart women, than I think we should show them that.

    But what do I know. I don’t have a daughter. I just remember how much I liked dressing up in my moms clothes, wearing her jewelery, paiting my nails, etc…(and my mom didn’t dress like a whore at all.)

  9. Sorry ’bout the double super-long comment; guess I should have waited overnight. Heh.

  10. I guess each one sticks with what they feel is correct for their child. All moms have their own thoughts about that.

    My nieces have always loved to have their nails painted since they were probably around 2 years old. I have 4 nieces from the age of 4 to 6 years old and one of my sister’s sold Mary Kay make-up for several years. So, they got to see lots of make-up in her office and watch everyone be told how to put it on correctly and loved to play dress up like their mommy. Their grandfather(my dad) even bought a set of glitter nail polish, that he kept by his computer, and when the grandkids came over they would bug Grandpa to paint their nails. I knid of liked that as it became something special to remember about their Grandpa and was funny to see as he is a pretty tough guy:o) My sister does make sure they stick with light pinks and young girl colors, but having their nails freshly painted is great fun for them.

  11. Playing with nailpolish, princessclothes etc etc is just a way to get used to getting your own identity.
    Children need to experiment, so they can find a balance by the time they’re bullied when they’re overdoing it.

    It’s fun.

    Nailpolish can be used for many things.
    Buy a sheet of thick flat plastic and make her draw something with different colours. Let it dry and hang it in front of the window, so the sun can play with it and cast colours in your room.

  12. erin, you are awesome.

    here’s my not very informed but full of gut feeling opinion:

    she’s drawn on herself with marker already, right? has she cut her hair yet (badly, and on the day you’d scheduled studio portrait family pictures)? pink toenails at the age of 2 seems more to me like graffiti than objectification. especially if that’s the context you put it into when you sit down to do it with her.

    punk, not pris. go for it.

  13. canoe chick says:

    I am completely with you, on the struggle of what nail polish means on our tiny daughters. I nearly bought some a few months back, with exactly the same mind set: “oh, wouldn’t that be a fun thing to do together”. then i reconsidered, for the same reasons as you. so far, she is content with my line that “little girls” have beautiful pink(read natural nailbed colour) nails”, whenever the subject comes up, which is rarely. It probably helps that I don’t have painted fingernails. And with many other things, I have decided that it can certainly wait until she is really asking, and won’t be dissuaded. She has never coloured on her nails before, as most of her friends have, so clearly it is not such a thing with her. I am just sitting here hoping that she is 12 before she insists!!
    Funny, I never played dress-up, make-up etc. with my mum. she doesn’t wear much, and neither do I. How powerful are these early experiences!

  14. So glad I have boys.

    So very glad.

  15. You know, I went through that too… I have nail polish in all different colors (and in true SF style, it’s earth friendly nail polish!) and when my daughter was 3, or maybe 4, she asked for some.

    She wanted her nails painted.

    And so I did.

    Because I figured that if I didn’t it would make it feel shameful and make her want it more and there is nothing shameful about it… but it did worry my husband and you know what? I used to paint my nails all different colors and couldn’t be more of a feminist and even snatched me a feminist man so I figure that if handled with care, taken slowly, they’ll be ok…

    But there were rules… after a number of days it had to be wiped off… and that we would do the toes instead of the fingers…

    It felt like too much to me but I wasn’t going to tell her that so I said that the nails needed to “breathe” which is why it was best to wipe it off and leave it off for a while and that I preferred to do the toes to the fingers because nail polish chips off the fingers so much faster than the toes and it was a drag to have to fix it up…

    Lame? Maybe but it was enough for her, she got her fix and is pretty much over it. She is 6 now and if she wants to do her toes no problem! We are in SF after all, it’s chilly and shoes and socks are a must everytime we leave the house so “See no evil”… you get the picture! ;-P

    Beautifully written piece amiga mia!

  16. Ay! I used to paint my nail all different colors “when I myself was a little girl”…

    And I never really paint my fingers… just toes, and maybe once in a blue moon at that. My daughter seems to be more fascinated with it all than me though… so I indulge her just enough so she doesn’t feel lacking in that department… I figure it’ll help her get it out of her system come the influential years… I know it helped for me!

    I figure all we can do is proceed with babysteps and handle all these curveballs as they come at us, no?

    Ok, ok, i am off now!

  17. Queen of Spain says:

    I think the key here is that she has NOT asked me. I brought this home and brought it on myself. Had she ASKED me, I probably wouldn’t care at all. We’d do her toes or something. Its the idea that I was ready to PUSH this, without her showing any interest at all that really got me.

  18. My 2 1/2 year old daughter is a big girly girl and loves to play dress up and get her fingers or toes painted. I see no problem with it, except for the hot pink really bright colors on her fingers…it just looks to grown up so we usually save that for her toes. I don’t see anything sexual or grown up about painted toes. Just sweet little girl toes.

  19. I too have gotten tempted with painting tiny Peep’s nails, but I keep holding back. Something doesn’t seem 100% right–and then I realized: I want her to want to do it rather than me foisting something on her. It’s the same way I feel about piercing.

  20. See? You should never make important decisions like nail polish color when you are at the pharmacy picking up your medications (aka, off your meds);) It’s like grocery shopping when you are hungry!

  21. canoe chick says:

    See, it is about when they are ready. I take that view of so many things… my sister was asking if I had taken my kids to the waterslides yet (as we LIVED there when we were young) and I said I would happily take her if she wanted to go, but I certainly wasn’t going to volunteer the idea myself – mostly because after spending a kazillion dollars to get in, if she goes down once and hates it, I will be grumpy. There are so many fun things in life that I am looking forward to doing with my kids, but lots and lots of them, I realize, need to wait until they are ready. And they will ask when they are ready.

  22. I’m sitting here staring at your plastic margarita glass from BlogHer about to lose my mind (packing to move cross country in less than a week.. I could really use an actual drink).

    I love tiny pink nails.. that bottle would be mocking me – but only because I suck at doing nails – and Faith immediately tends to walk on her freaking toes if I spend the time painting them (or picks the polish right off if I get it dry).

    I pretty much *only* flip out about Bratz at the moment. I don’t equate pink to whore.. but then – I have a pink kitchen.. so that would say something about me.

    I just want a pink refrigerator. And I’m pretty sure I will NEVER get it. Unless someone lobotomizes my husband.

  23. I think it’s all about finding the right balance… to me true feminism is all about equality and about having the CHOICE to be exactly who we want to be and if “girly” and “pink” are it then live it up sistahs!

    I wasn’t very much into pink until I had my daughter and now I delight in being a bit more girly.

    I know my daughter is one the right track when, walking around the house with her pink girly toes and her pink clothes and her pink wig (yes, she wants to be Stephanie from Lazytown these days) she tells her dad off for not cleaning enough because “mom cleans all time and you are just lying down right now so maybe you should get up and help a little more because she shouldn’t be the one to do it all just because she is a girl!”

    And no I have never said such things to her and have had to actually tell her that daddy and mommy have an agreement where he cooks and handles the trash because Mum doesn’t like to cook and touh icky things and she will clean because she is OCDish and likes things tidy and daddy hates tidying up so it was all a conscious choice and agreement but, nevertheless, her awareness of such a thing at 6 made my feminist heart glad FO SHO and so yeah…

    Worry not amiga mia!

    Though I agree with you… it should all be about when they ask and not us pushing, whether consciously or no, stereotypes and status quos down their throats…

    Have a good weekend and hey, get a new post up for us to read!

    Yep, I am back to my bossy ways FO SHO! 😉

  24. It’s probably good to avoid the whole painting and polishing thing, but like many others have said — it won’t be the end of the world and don’t beat yourself up too much about it.

    P.S. Thanks for the martini glass at Blogher!

  25. i’m worried that my son won’t want to paint his nails. how sad for him if he doesn’t!!

  26. Nail polish ruins your nails anyway. It’s all for safety yo!

  27. Facial makeup on a girl that young–no, no, no.

    Nailpolish, though – no biggie, IMO.

    I had Bonne Bell peel-off nailpolish when I was a kid in the ’80s. My parents didn’t care, and I turned out fine. If I had wanted to put makeup (other than actual face paint on Halloween) on my face, though – no, my mother wouldn’t have gone for that.

    So I don’t think you need to beat yourself up too much for this.


  1. Girls says:

    […] them painted. She would prefer blue, or purple but all I had was pink in the house. A pink I bought a long time ago then put […]

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