A while back, a family friend had pancreatic cancer, and his daughter was collecting pictures of people in purple shirts (the color of the pancreatic cancer ribbon). So my boys needed purple shirts. They don’t sell purple shirts in the boys department (which is stupid) so we headed over to the girls’ department.
We’re no strangers to the girls’ department. In fact, my boys and I shop in the girls’ department all the damn time.
And why the hell not? Sometimes, the powers that be make girls’ shirts cooler than boys, and my sons are not going to miss out on something awesome because Mr. Corporate America decided to gender it. We buy some shirts from online retailers with slogans like “colors are for everyone,” but that doesn’t mean stuff in Target doesn’t catch their eyes. And we do believe that colors are for everyone. We believe that animals are for everyone. We believe that sparkles and hearts are for everyone. Children get to choose who they want to be, and that includes making their own fashion choices.
My kids picked shirts with traditionally ‘girly’ motifs and colors.
My children are homeschooled, so no one ever shouted them down. No one has ever sneered to them that boys can’t wear pink, can’t like certain animals, or can’t have a thing for rainbows. So when we walk through Target, or wherever, we sometimes visit the girls’ department. There, we find more shirts my sons like. Sure, they love the octopi and the sharks from the boys department. But my 9-year-old plucked a purple unicorn shirt from the rack the other day. “I love unicorns!” he said. (He does. This is his third unicorn tee). Into the cart went the unicorn tee. My 7-year-old discovered a pink-sleeved, 3/4 length shirt with cartoon kitties on the front. He loves cats with a passion usually reserved for those self-proclaimed cat ladies. So we added the kitty shirt. My 5-year-old wanted a shirt if his brothers were getting a shirt, and he fished out a shirt with pink dinos.
On the way out, I spotted a rack of plain purple athletic tees. I asked my oldest if he’d rather get one of those.
“No,” he said. “I like my unicorn shirt.”
People have FEELINGS about my sons shopping in the girls’ department.
My husband didn’t comment about our foray into the girls department. Why the fuck would he? Colors are for everyone. God didn’t descend from the heavens and declare that pink and purple are for girls — some corporations made that decision for us. In fact, little boys used to dress in pink; it was seen as close to red: a strong, masculine color.
I did get some serious side-eye from a woman back-to-school shopping with her daughters. Hey lady: my kids have a right to be wherever they want to be in Target, because it’s a fucking Target. And so do I, so you can quit the passive-aggressive comments about how you’re shopping here and can’t move your cart out of the way for us.
Animals and colors are for everyone.
And dammit, you simply can’t find some of them in the boys’ department. They don’t make unicorn or kitty shirts for boys. Boys are supposed to be rough and tough. Rough and tough boys like sharks and dinosaurs, not unicorns or kitties. Well, fuck that, because my sons, who spend large amounts of time digging holes to nowhere and wrestling each other, like unicorns and kitty cats. They like sharks too. You can like both. It’s not a dichotomy.
And even when it comes to things both boys and girls can like — Harry Potter comes to mind — sometimes the shirts in the girls department are better. My 9-year-old has a Hogwarts crest shirt. It’s rainbow shimmered and super awesome. They don’t wear puffed-sleeve tees, but that shirt didn’t happen to have one, so we bought it in all its rainbow-pinkish glory. There is literally no good reason he shouldn’t wear this shirt.
My son wants to wear glitter? I buy him glitter. He wants to wear pink? I buy him pink. He wants to wear sequined tigers? I buy him sequined tigers. Because as an individual, he has the right to determine what he wears. Sometimes I pick out his clothes, but if he doesn’t like what I pick out, I respect his choices.
That’s what shopping in the girls’ department means to us: respecting our children’s choices. It opens up more choices for them, and we offer those choices. We don’t push them. We don’t force them. I would never make my kid wear a unicorn shirt. But if he wants to? I’m there for it.
And you should be, too.
Because unicorns are for everyone. Regardless of which department you find them in.