Some New Pink is the Old PinkFebruary 4th, 2010 © by Susan Swartz
Nope, it was a class called play ballet, more about jumping around than grand jete. Will there be boys, my granddaughter had asked. Hopefully, I said, though I anticipated the all girly-girl crowd. It did, however, give me an opportunity to advance my feminist agenda and talk about how both men and women make wonderful ballet dancers.
Lately the granddaughter has been dividing her world into what boys do and what girls do. Boys play dinosaur, girls play dress-up, she recently explained. I could have gotten into a big philosophical discussion on that one because I happen to know that little boys do play dress up. Did she not recall that one of her best friends, a three-year-old boy, dressed up as a dancing construction worker for Halloween, wearing both a tutu and a tool belt?
But I didn’t want to burst her pink bubble on this day. She kept saying, “this is so exciting,” as she pushed her feet into magic slippers the color of seashells and joined the others in a gallop around the room.
For the last few weeks the granddaughter’s go-to-color has been pink.
I know the thrill. When I was a little girl I took ballet class. I dropped out because I was afraid of the teacher who carried a big ruler, but I was in it long enough to twirl and bow on a stage in something pink covered with sequins.
Many mothers of my generation, in an attempt to eradicate restrictive gender stereotypes, continued to offer our little girls ballet but also added soccer. We dressed them in overalls and gave them tool kits and said it was fine to get messy. It’s surprising to now be a grandmother and see how some stereotypes defy eradication.
For the last few weeks the granddaughter’s go-to-color has been pink. When she was born her mother encouraged a rainbow of fashion choices and asked well-wishers to please cool it on the pink. The three-year-old has a varied wardrobe, but now that she’s dressing herself she often looks like a cupcake in sneakers.
Still and all, she knows how to throw a ball, not like a girl or a boy, but like a kid from a family of ball-throwers. She pounds nails and makes things at a kids workshop put on by the neighborhood building supply store. She plays with dolls and she knows what to do with a soccer ball and a wiffle ball. She has a play kitchen for creating play menus. And a softball glove — a pink one. She also has a new baby brother whom I’m thinking might be a great addition to the play ballet troupe in another three years.
Parents and grandparents were asked to wait outside until the last five minutes of dance class. We got to watch the teacher invite each girl to choose a long, billowy scarf for the final fling around the room.
The first little girl said pink. The second little girl said pink. My ballerina thought for a moment and said orange. I gave her a private power salute.