When my cousin's four-year-old daughter tells my sister
She should paint my nephew's nails,
My sister's response is that
His nails are not big enough yet, but
When they are, she will let her pick a color.
I see the little girl's eyes light up at the idea.
She won't remember that this promise has been made, but
I know, if it comes up again, my sister will tell her the same thing
And I know if she asks when he is bigger and his nails big enough to be painted,
My sister will let her pick the color.
My mother tells my cousin's four-year-old daughter
That her grandson is a boy.
The words "Boys don't get their nails painted" are implied but left unsaid
And neither my sister or I say anything, but it seems as if
The little girl has not heard her
And I sigh a breath of relief
And I think about my mother, who lives to paint her nails,
Who doesn't let my father carry the groceries in for her because
She can do it just as well on her own, thank you.
And I think about the stories she tells about my other sister
Who loved to wear her hair short and hated to wear dresses.
And I think about my younger sister
Who loves cars and working in the shop with my father.
And I think about my father
Who wears work boots and works with his hands and
Who suppresses his emotions becuase he has a family to take care of
And I think about my brother
Who is the spitting image of my father in every imaginable way
And I think about my nephew
And I wonder what will happen if he wants his nails painted
And I wonder why there is shame in him doing something
My parents think is for women and girls
When they have never had a problem with me and my sisters doing things
My parents think are for men and boys.
And I wonder why these things are for women or men or girls or boys
And I wonder why the shame lies in the things that women and girls do
And I wonder if I will ever paint my nephew's nails.