Prom bomb, un-edited because I’m not sure I can survive re-reading it

Recently, after complaining on Facebook about how a prom-related copywriting project evoked cringe-inducing memories, a friend from across the globe presented something of a dare. He said that if I agreed to write about my prom horror story, he’d share his as well. Kind of like “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours,” but more revealing. Because actual nudity doesn’t compare to this sort of naked emotional ridiculousness. Of course I accepted the dare, then regretted it, much like 90% of my middle and high school experiences.

The 10% I don’t regret include hilarity with two of my best friends/fellow comics from that time: Alison and Tony. We were obsessed with “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” and when I say we watched it 300 times, that’s a conservative estimate. I still know the whole film by heart and quote it often, if only in my head. I usually can’t find my keys or phone, for example. And in the midst of one gut-wrenching search for my stupid-ass phone, the phone I’d held in my hands earlier that same morning, intolerable frustration almost swallowed me whole. But Ace was there to rescue me. And so instead of punching myself in the face, I posted my mental dialogue on Facebook:

“Couldn’t find my phone and found myself quoting Ace Ventura. ‘SO FAR… no signs of aquatic life… but I’m going to find it. If I have to tear this universe another black hole, I’m going to find it. Because I’ve… GOT TO, MISTER!’ Sadly dorky, ay? Still love that movie.”

People (including Alison) replied with other quotes and all I could do was hit the “Like” button but I’d have hugged them if I could.

The other component I don’t regret is my basketball career. I also played softball for about a million years, mainly because my mom played softball so it felt like I was carrying the torch. For unknown reasons, I ran cross country, after quitting soccer despite a call from the varsity soccer coach asking me to reconsider, a gesture I blew off so arrogantly that I still wince when I think about it. Despite being a pitcher, albeit who lacked speed and subsisted mainly on a super slow change-up that blew batters’ minds in that no pitch could possibly be that slow and lame, and tying for first place in my inaugural cross country race against snobby Wellesley thanks to a potent mixture of anxiety and adrenaline, I didn’t give a shit about either sport. And in many ways it absolutely showed. Presumably by default, I was captain of three sports and I still feel guilty about that. Because I only had eyes for basketball. The rest of my athletic career amounted to half-assing, filling time, and fulfilling perceived obligations and so-called potential. BORING!

Come to think of it, my entire high school experience amounted to half-assing it. All of it. Sure, I earned straight A’s my freshman year, but by senior year, I had some C’s and a big fat D in the mix. Most of the homework and 99% of the reading I skipped completely. And trust me, this all relates to prom. I’m getting there!

I was unsettled.

It’s the best word I can find to describe myself at the time. Never in the moment. Never truly engaged–except when watching or quoting Ace Ventura because that shit was HILARIOUS. Okay and there were other times with those two aforementioned friends when I was fully alive and engaged. Other times I was an asshole, and less often friends and acquaintances were assholes to me, but some of that unkindness is par for the high school course and part of growing the hell up, yeah? What’s not standard or expected is the debilitating fear and anxiety I carried around with me. The level of aversion I had for any remotely meaningful or potentially real interaction. I was a turtle who recoiled into her GAP-swaddled shell at the threat of any positive or negative emotional engagement. It was all terrifying to me. But I could hit three-pointers, so at least that was something. Basketball kept me going and better yet, it was something I could practice obsessively on my own, without dealing with any pesky people or feelings. Without my jump shot, and those laugh-out-loud good times with Alison and Tony, I may not have made it through. In short, I was a mess.

When I was writing that prom copy I mentioned, I googled around for prom content online to get into the zone. I found some clips for teen movies about prom romance. What always boggled my mind about such films, even back when I was their target, was the ability for the kids to handle their emotions, whether sadness and embarrassment, or happiness and connection. I thought, “Like, how do they just sit there feeling sad? How are they so calm?” Or, “WHAT?! They actually pursued and then kissed the person they actually LIKED? Whoa. WAAAAAAY too intense for me to fathom! Maybe the Celtics are on. Ah, that’s better.”

So my prom experiences were lame in just about every conceivable way. I attended both my junior and senior proms and in essence, I had a date for neither. I may have superficially lamented this fact, but not having a real date was nice and safe and therefore “totally cool” (did we actually used to say stuff like that non-ironically?).

You know what? I’m just going to combine both proms into one. They were fundamentally similar. I didn’t mature at all from one year to the next. In fact, I am still probably six years behind, maturity-wise, so for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say it was one giant prom fail. Then again, when you consider that I was only 11 and 12 years old mentally and emotionally, it’s not as bad. I got my period at the same age as girls in the 1800’s, around the age when a typical modern-day girl gets her driver’s license. I was playing with the neighborhood boys (whom I babysat and would constantly come to our home’s back door and ask my mom, in unison, “Can the girls come out?”) until age 15 or so, long after my younger sisters had abandoned games like war and laser tag. Okay, that doesn’t help at all. Next!

Let’s start this stroll down prom memory lane with a note about the preparations: Tanning, dress shopping, and then, finally, the day-of hairstyling. All were fucking disasters. My skin doesn’t belong anywhere south of Scotland, so it sure as hell didn’t take kindly to fake baking on an accelerated, procrastination-fueled timeline. It’s sad because part of me really believed I could become perfectly bronzed in a single week. But, I persevered and managed to achieve a lush shade of pink in time for the big night.

Dress shopping was a joke. I didn’t have breasts then, and barely do now, so it was like a ten-year-old playing dress-up in a pageant queen’s closet. I carefully chose dresses with wiring to support ample bosoms, and so basically wound up walking around with two empty boob tents on my chest. I simply was not capable of choosing a dress that actually fit me, because that would mean I accepted myself as I was. Hoo boy! I fooled no one. By now I’ve accepted my body. I truly have. But, and this is actually sad and not so hilarious, I absolutely hated it then. I could never stand in a natural, unselfconscious pose, for fear my flatness would be too obvious. This worsened my unsettled nature, my inability to connect authentically with people. It’s hard to really tune in to someone when half of your brain is devoted to devising the perfect positioning in order to conceal your entire upper torso. I absolutely loathed my lack of cleavage, the way I now loathe the idea of healthy women cutting up their bodies to fit loathsome ideals. If a movie was made of my high school experience, it would be “Loathing in Las Natick.” Or possibly, “Dazed, Confused, and Flat-Chested.” This particular insecurity was crippling and resulted in architecturally inappropriate prom dress choices.

The hair. Oh, the hair. The tale of my prom ‘do is wrought with suffering. I had major issues about my hair. At the time, it probably seemed pathological. But the hair-related agony makes sense to my current self, enlightened by time, therapy, old fashioned soul searching, my husband, childbirth, and motherhood. In that order. Hair was something I could control. In my unsettled mind, I’d lost the body lottery. It was crap. I lost big-time there, clearly. So, where could I win? Where did I have some control? My stick straight blond hair! I put an insane amount of pressure on my hair (and to a lesser degree my clothes, which I also obsessed over unhealthily–and pointlessly, as witnessed by many days of wearing all denim and my mom’s too-small shoes), which resulted in a problematic phenomenon of “trying too hard” and therefore “looking like an ass.” I’m going to gloss over the years involving volumes of aerosol hair spray that would make the EPA gasp and curling iron burns on my face. The years when I appeared to have run into a wall at high speed. I’m going to try to focus on my prom hair, but please note that this is just one example of many frightening anecdotes.

I didn’t do a trial run. I showed up a couple hours before the prom started, at what I considered to be a very fancy salon called Paradiso. The exotic name and soft, flattering lighting evoked Hollywood glamor. It was downright chic compared to the place I’d been going throughout childhood, for hair cuts preceded only by a wetting-down with an old spray bottle: Beautyrama. No, I’m not making that up. That was the actual name, and it was nestled within a tiny, ever-unpopular and depressing mall with horrible, un-Paradiso-like lighting, that also contained a Burlington Coat Factory and some looming storefront that I never could identify but based on appearances was an abandoned and looted Sears.

Anyway, I showed up to Paradiso with complete confidence that they would transform me into a better, more beautiful, curly-haired version of myself. A new “me” that could star in a predictable but irresistible teen movie as the awkward, overlooked and/or ridiculed girl whose last-minute makeover transforms her into every guy’s desire just in time for the dance. I left Paradiso with the mental stability of current-day Charlie Sheen.

I didn’t have any direction for the stylist. No opinion or vision. After some unsuccessful attempts to engage me, the woman went to town. And from the moment she picked up her comb, it was an out-of-body experience. Part of me–the part that clung to a sliver of hope that I was not in fact hideous and disfigured, if only my hair could be styled properly–died that late afternoon. With each twist of the curling iron, and each layer (and there were many) of Aqua Net, my fragile but previously marginally optimistic prom spirit crumbled. I walked out of there with what amounts to a large helmet-like crust of hair, an up-do that was sprayed securely into place after sagging and puffing out away from my head, with a single lonely curl on each side of my face–curls that were in no way different from the long side curls, or peyos, seen on male Chasidic Jews as dictated by the Torah. There were no loose, curly wisps common to Hollywood starlets. There were two tight-ass ringlets dangling from my hair spray helmet, framing my (by the time I reached my car) furious, beet-red face. Oh, but my bangs were straight and practically untouched, adding an odd nod to my everyday look (so as not to disorient people with my breathtaking Paradiso hair makeover?) while enhancing opportunities for prom-night ridicule. It was pure magic.

To my credit, I paid in silence, and didn’t unleash my rage until I was in my car. Not until I had driven half a block away did I scream at the top of my lungs while tearing the helmet apart ruthlessly. Like a caged animal. For several minutes I roared, leaving me hoarse. Some portions of the helmet remained intact. Others were left looking like vertical eruptions of frizz, the hair spray not allowing my hair to behave under the normal laws of physics.

Long story short, after a frantic phone call and deep breaths at home, I headed over to Beautyrama to eat crow and endure the spray bottle. I walked out with a style that was eerily similar, but less encrusted. It was awful, but less so, and I only messed with it for an hour before deeming it acceptable. My hopes crushed, I proceeded to don my boob tent dress and Payless shoes.

My date. In both cases, there was someone I should’ve gone with. Okay, I’ll seperate the two years of prom for a moment. The first year, I really liked and wanted to ask a sophomore kid who’d taken me waterskiing. But I actually liked and was very much attracted to him, and he’d told a friend that he’d say “yes” if I asked him, so that meant he was out of the question. I asked and attended prom with another sophomore guy, one that I pretty much regarded as a douchebag. Someone I didn’t even know. Someone who’d casually insulted my hair not long before. He was perfect! I spent very little time with him at the event, which is exactly what my unsettled self wanted. BUT I had a moment of prom-movie inspired weakness. Toward the end of the night, during the one slow dance we indulged in, I put my head on his shoulder. Because why not? It was prom! I didn’t want anything more than that moment with this douchebag. While my head rested there on that rented shoulderpad, I saw him look over to his recent ex-girlfriend, who was dancing with her older date as well, and shrug. They were both clearly horrified. I found out later that evening that they’d gotten back together right before prom. My humiliation in that moment was intense, but private. I don’t think I ever told anyone about it. After all, what did I expect? That kind of emotional distance and awkwardness is exactly what I sought out and secured for myself. Phew!

The following year, Tony asked me to go to the prom and I was an enormous bitch and flat-out turned down his earnest prom proposal. Even though I wanted to say, “Yes! That would be fun!” You see, we were close! In a “We’re such good friends and could very easily be more” kind of way. So, again, he was out of the question. Honestly, in addition to my many other regrets, I’m so sorry for how I treated Tony. I was a scared jerk, and he was very funny and impressively resilient. Functionally, in how the night played out, we were prom dates, anyway. Along with Alison and co., we hung out and laughed and danced together at some point. I actually had fun that year. Boob tents, unsettled mind, and all.

I don’t remember any post-prom activities except one, and I’m not sure whether it took place after my junior or senior prom: Shooting baskets at the gym alone. It’s the only place I felt really comfortable at that time. It sounds sad, but to my 12-year-old (mentally) self at the time, it was where I belonged.

So, there you go, Aadhaar. I’ve risen to your challenge! I did it in one shot. Yes, I lied about having started it earlier, just to reassure you because I felt bad. I’m sorry. But what you see here is the truth. Or at least the highlights of a fuller more boring truth. And if I survive this level of sharing, I will be an emotional rock. So thanks for that.

And now, a not-so-special message from Elecare

Two words: Marketing fail! I recently received the following (clearly heartfelt) email from a representative of Elecare.

Dear Amber,

I’ve been following your blog and have enjoyed keeping up with your notes about Stella.  I’m glad to see that EleCare®* has been helpful, and I’d love to hear more of your story.

What was your journey with Stella? Share your experiences and success story at https://elecare.com/share-your-story or email me. Your story could help other families enjoy more and worry less. You can read some of their stories on the EleCare site at http://elecare.com/ever-after.

I’d also like to offer you a 1-time discount code for 20% off an EleCare purchase.** Just enter Q23LXDFPT when checking out at http://AbbottStore.com to save. And if you have a friend who received a doctor recommendation for EleCare, they can use discount code15NEW to get 15% off their 1st order: http://AbbottStore.com/first-order-savings/page/save15percentoff/

Finally, I wanted to let you know that we’ve recently added delicious recipes and ways for your child to enjoy EleCare to the site http://abbottnutrition.com/elecare-recipes  I’d love to hear which is Stella’s favorite.

Best,

Anna @EleCare

http://elecare.com

http://www.AbbottStore.com/therapeutic-nutrition/elecare+reg/icat/elecare

*EleCare should be used under medical supervision.  **Discount only redeemable at AbbottStore.com, not redeemable for cash or equivalent, good only in U.S.A., cannot be combined with other offers/ promotions, no adjustments to prior purchases, not applicable to employees of Abbott Laboratories.”

So let me get this straight, “Anna @Elecare.” You say you’ve been following my blog, but judging by your vacuous email and its questions, you clearly have not read any of it, except maybe the part where your keyword search highlighted the word “Elecare.” You want me to share our painful and eventually triumphant feeding journey–all that hard-earned wisdom–with you so as to provide free content, another “success story,” for your website. And in exchange for my time and energy and sharing, you’ll give me a “1-time discount code for 20% off an EleCare purchase” for my almost-three-year-old who, as my blog states in several entries, was weaned off of Elecare about two years ago.

This email is insulting because it lies in order to feign connection with me, and because it seriously devalues my time and experiences.

You’d love to hear more of my story? Our feeding saga is laid out here in its entirety. If you followed this blog, as you say you do, you’d know that. You’d also know that my hobbies include ripping apart stupid copy. So, please don’t be shocked at my delight in telling you how much your message and approach sucked.

Of course, Elecare was an important part of my daughter’s recovery. Its hypoallergenic calories allowed her gut to heal, after major damage caused by my breast milk (I’ll take this opportunity to say RIP to my 500 ounces of pumped, frozen milk that became landfill). By taking away Stella’s pain, Elecare helped end her feeding aversion. While I support breastfeeding and wished to have done it for much longer, I have nothing against formula. To be honest, my journey made me realize that what is truly unhealthy are the over-the-top delusions and divisive piousness about breastfeeding, because if I had listened to certain voices and adhered to the “breastfeed at all costs” message that is so prevalent in circles like mine, Stella would’ve been in much, much, much bigger trouble. So, dude! I was in your corner! I could’ve been a good ally to you, Anna/Elecare. But instead, you just pissed me off with your manufactured email marketing bullshit, and the lame attempt to pass it off as a genuine, individualized communication. The moms you call customers deserve more respect.

How’s this “note” working for you? Honestly, who calls blog posts “notes?” No one with a pulse. Do robots (or Vice Presidents of Marketing who think they are creative) write your boring-ass copy?

From a former online marketing manager turned advertising copywriter/mother of a baby who had a feeding issue requiring your product, in a breathless, indignant, old-timey voice: For shame!

Another copy qualm (little girls as decor)

That anxiety-inducing daily deal site I recently mentioned has done it again.

Being a copywriter myself, you’d think I’d avoid tearing apart some other copywriter’s work. But apparently that is not the case. I’ve written for many fabulous clients but I’ve also written passionate, emotive copy about cat-themed chip clips and Cinnabon. So I’m not above this. Besides, my copy has been crapped on, too. In fact, it’s probably happening right now. Some Godforsaken banner ad on the outer edge of the internet is offending someone due to its excessive enthusiasm about small business phone systems and it’s all my fault! Plus, the writer of the copy I’m about to share is just following the messaging points dictated in a creative brief, and using the tone mandated in a company’s style guide. All of that is out of the writer’s control. So this is really a critique of the company, and advertising in general, as opposed to an attack on a lone copywriter. I’ve been where this person is but have still managed to enjoy this line of work, overall. And I honestly hope that this person can say the same. Despite having to write about magical dresses that attract butterflies, ice cream cones (perhaps) and cupcake-excreting unicorns (definitely).

So. The copy below, promoting yet another must-have summer dress that has supposedly been “marked down” to the jaw-dropping low price of $19.99, induced an eye roll so huge and swift, I strained my corneas and ruptured an eye brow.

“She is the embodiment of summer and all the joys warm weather brings when she dons this cheerful dress. With its tiers of ruffles she’s sure to be the centerpiece of every family picnic this summer. The soft material with a bit of stretch lets her move about freely as she reaches for another slice of watermelon. Dress features a keyhole button closure in the back.”

Okay. It starts off with a bit of overly dramatic flair pushing the “summer” message. Fair enough. I’m sure some parents really do expect their daughters to carry an entire season on their backs and, with it, the responsibility to deliver its fleeting joys. Fine. But here’s the kicker–joy and summer are only evoked “when she dons” this pile of ruffles. Otherwise, she’s not summer-y at all. Wearing, say, un-frilly shorts and a tank top, she evokes a cold, joyless and androgynous wasteland, therefore letting everyone down. EVERYONE!

“The centerpiece of every family picnic this summer?” What? I’m picturing a blond pony-tailed four-year-old stationed in the middle of a picnic blanket, family fun and chaos unfolding around her while she remains motionless with palms up. A human napkin holder. It’s this little girl’s job to look good, and give visual cues to help set the tone of the gathering. “What are we celebrating? Oh wait–Susie’s wearing puffy pastels. Happy Easter!” It’s all about what the kid wears. “Susie! Tone down the personality, put on this dress and be a star!”

And the crown jewel in this toddler tiara: “The soft material with a bit of stretch lets her move about freely as she reaches for another slice of watermelon.” Really? Really? We have to point out that this sleeveless summer dress, as opposed to the restrictive petticoats, corsets and straight jackets normally worn by little girls in 2011, allows her to move about freely? And they’re not talking about the extra movement required for soccer or even tag, they’re talking about grabbing a piece of fruit. Because that’s as active as little girls get. Judging from this copy, I’m guessing that normally, little Ella would be wearing fabric with no stretch whatsoever, like upholstery or a fine blend of steel wool and platinum. She typically asks her mobile, cotton-clad brother to fetch the watermelon and place it directly into her mouth. But what a treat! In this frock, she can go get it herself. A sweet little taste of freedom! Assuming she has energy left over, you know, after centerpiece duty.

Stella’s Easter Basket, with a side of drug-addicted squirrel

Easter preparations, simple fun, squirrel frustration

Easter preparations, simple fun, squirrel frustration

Easter has already been a source of fun! We hung eggs on the magnolia tree out back. Stella really got into the activity, but that was just the start. Each day, we’ve watched squirrels do battle with our cheap Easter ornaments. Comedy gold! Picture a determined, acrobatic squirrel, with that signature manic energy, suspended from a branch by one paw and whacking at a neon orange plastic egg with the other. (Reminded me of outlandish Japanese game shows or American reality shows wherein contestants eagerly undertake ridiculously humiliating and futile physical challenges for some dumb prize.) You’d think he was a weird little monkey on crack! The egg swings back, smacks him in the face causing a loss of balance and total freak-out, jostling the tree like crazy. All the eggs are dancing and flying but that little guy won’t give up and ends up hanging by a toe while frantically nibbling on the egg (no squirrel has succeeded in eating any delicious plastic, of course). During a visit, Stella’s grandmother–my mother-in-law, who has a mischievous side that I find very endearing–put peanut butter on the eggs and that sent the squirrels into overdrive because they actually got something out of it! Stella has laughed so fully and joyfully at these performances, giving my 99-cent purchase a better return than any other investment I’ve ever made–especially Boeing stock. I trust you won’t tell PETA about our enjoyment of squirrel humiliation, but will instead focus on our festive spirit.

For Stella’s first Easter basket and backyard egg hunt, here is what I’m thinking. And I’d LOVE to hear your ideas! Especially if they allow me to somehow mess with squirrels’ heads.

Art supplies like rubber stamps and and ink pad (!).. she would go crazy for this–you should see how patiently she waits for her gymnastics instructor to stamp her feet and hands at the end of class… or paints (we are running low), or those crayons that are shaped like animals and other things.

Candy, carefully selected for quality and whimsy (with no artificial colors or ingredients–sorry, I just won’t have it!)… probably a lollipop, a chocolate bunny, a couple fruit leathers (cut up into shapes and put into a little bag with a bow, maybe?), a limited quantity of jelly beans.

Sheets of stickers… can go right in her basket, and I will probably cut some special individual stickers out from the sheets and put them in the eggs.

Flower seeds… she might really love the idea, and seeing them grow, though I am not sure I can nurture them past a couple inches tall (failed last year!)

A fun new toothbrush… she needs one and seems to really enjoy them so why not?

One or two classic books involving rabbits and whatnot.

Bubbles!

Humanity’s Awakening: Pink toenails on boys and media tantrums are all good

As someone who owns a gorgeous multi-hued J.Crew scarf and wears it every single day as evidence that she has, in fact, not “given up” and abandoned herself, I am a fan of the company. Once in a while, the kids catalog features uber stylish children in glasses, and they even sell kids’ frames. So J.Crew has won points with me, and frankly, too many of my dollars.

But I didn’t know about The Shocking Pink Toenail Incident of mid-April until, belatedly, I watched The Daily Show’s brilliant take, “Toemageddon 2011.” Cody and I appreciated how Jon Stewart highlighted the lunacy and sensationalism of the coverage surrounding a five-year-old boy’s pink toenails, and we loved his point that weekends with kids are looooong and that parents will do anything to fill the time. Let’s just say that this resonated with us. Cody laughed so hard, he cried. Hopefully it was a feel-good, hilarity-induced cry and not a “oh my god what has my life become” cry. Side note: He just left for the playground with Stella and a pink, Glenn-Beck-approved potty.

Yay for smart people like Nerdy Apple Bottom and Joseph Alexiou who have brought reason into the discussion, pointing out that it’s perfectly okay for a boy to like pink and for his mom to paint his toenails (though the picture just shows smiling and pink toenails, not any actual painting), and that the negative reactions were offensive, not based on fact, and rooted in prejudice and even hate. What I want to add to the discussion is that the disproportionately outraged reactions are a good sign. Baffling and ignorant on one hand, but on the other, somewhat encouraging! Yes, people like “Dr.” Keith Ablow have made outrageously judgmental and close-minded remarks about a photograph of a mother (J.Crew’s Jenna Lyons) smiling at her happy, healthy son. Sad. But in a way, it just proves that Ablow and Co.’s world view is on the way out. And they know it. And they don’t like it. They’re scared and angry. So they’re throwing a tantrum while smart, open-minded folks use it as motivation to rally together to refute those attitudes and send the opposite message.

Duh! An awakening is, like, unfolding in humanity! Sounds cheesy and dramatic, but it’s actually an “everyday” sort of thing. I know many people who’ve transitioned to more meaningful (to them) careers–rejecting what they were expected or “supposed” to do in order to pursue exciting alternative paths. Here in Seattle, I know countless openly gay men and women (to even have to say “openly” seems oddly insulting) who are living beautiful lives surrounded by endless support and love. In fact, I’m jealous of most of them. Like thousands of other women who are now mothers and managers and whatnot, I played middle school, high school and college basketball. Acupuncture is covered by our insurance plan. (Stella’s tremendously helpful vision therapy? Not yet. But I know that will change.) All of these day-to-day things are actually the product of huge shifts, and downright amazing when you look back even just a couple decades.

Individual freedom and acceptance is on the rise, folks, and it’s nothing but fantastic for humankind as a whole. Happy people feeling good about themselves as they are, doing what they love? They’re naturally comfortable with (or better yet, completely indifferent to) pink toenails on boys, and human differences in gender identity, sexuality, race or whatever. Because why would a happy, fulfilled person be bothered by others’ happy, fulfilling choices? It takes courage to step out and be yourself but an increasing number of people are that courageous, and they are going to save the planet. (I can’t believe I figured that out. You’re welcome.) They care about people and issues, and have energy and compassion. Perhaps somewhat ironically, they don’t “need” as many things from J.Crew (though a scarf like mine is really is a must for every woman over 30) and they are way more likely to, say, choose foods that are good for them and the earth. Let’s face it. People who lack self esteem, resent others, or feel trapped in lives they hate aren’t pushing for better recycling programs at the office. How can we create more empowered and, as a major bonus, eco-friendly humans? Let’s try addressing poverty and accepting differences. (The aforementioned people who are being called to more meaningful lives–they already do stuff like that.) You don’t help anyone by going on national TV and shaming five-year-old boys who like pink. Not a very “manly” thing to do, really. Touché!

Clearly, the movement has been happening for, to use a precise measurement, “quite a while.” In many countries, women are no longer housebound pieces of property threatening to faint at any moment. Yes, we’ve miles (and miles) to go, but we’re gaining speed. Rigid boundaries are in flux as more and more people pursue authenticity, a way of living and being that is right for them. Maybe parents won’t so much raise boys and girls as they will nurture individual human beings. Jenna Lyons’ son loves the color pink, and he was obviously very happy in the moment shared in that ad. His mom wasn’t “doing” anything “to” him. Just smiling at him and enjoying the moment. Okay, and executing some spot-on brand marketing. But still.

Yes, there are troubling counter-forces at work that are in fact “doing” things to–namely warping or manipulating–our children’s perceptions. For instance, early sexualization of girls is a major and serious issue. The obnoxious and highly strategic marketing messages that carefully target children are hyper-inflating the gender divide in order to sell more crap. But parents are pushing back against inappropriate clothing, toys and messages. Gender-neutral baby clothes are growing in popularity as people grow weary of pink/blue apartheid, which is a recent phenomenon and not evidence of “hardwired” preferences. I hope that one day, advertising to children will be banned so they can more freely decide for themselves what is acceptable, what feels right. Because right now? Billions upon billions are being spent to teach them what to want and like. To convince them of very specific ideas about what’s acceptable and desirable for boys and girls. Not cool, Disney.

The anger and fear, seen in the overblown media reaction to a smiling five-year-old’s pink toenails, is telling. As a mother of a toddler, I know a lot about overblown reactions. So I know what this latest media frenzy truly is: An extinction burst. When you stop responding to and inadvertently rewarding a toddler’s tantrums (and this decision is based on your infinite wisdom and unflinching good reason), they pitch more fits, more intensely, for a while. They sense the paradigm shift, want to retain an old dynamic that gave them control, and so they kick things up a notch. They kick and scream ten times harder than before. Then, taking sideways peeks at you in between shrieks, they wait for you to give in.

Luckily, in the case of humanity, there will be no giving in. No going back.

P.S. Also? That boy’s mother, Jenna Lyons, is President, Creative Director and likely soon-to-be CEO, of J.Crew. So stop “worrying” about him, media! He’s going to be fine. Unlike, say, the kids living on the streets of L.A.’s skid row, whom you never talk or worry about. Lucky for this kid, his mother could buy and sell Keith Ablow ten times over.

P.P.S. The offending polish, featured in and linked to from the pink toenail ad, has sold out. Per the J.Crew website: “We’re sorry. This item has been so popular, it has sold out. We’ve got other great ideas–just call us… we’re here to help.”