My Son Wears MakeupJoel Stein
My two-year-old son loves three things: cars, trucks and makeup. Every time Laszlo sees my wife on front of her bathroom mirror he yells “Makeup! Makeup! Makeup! Makeup! Makeup! Makeup!” and demands her lipstick or mascara. Then Laszlo smears it all over his face, laughing wildly. It’s like watching German theater.
I pretend it’s fun and silly: Face painting! Drawing on your body! A design even Mike Tyson wouldn’t trade for!
But inside, I’m not digging it.
And not just because he looks creepy as hell. Don’t picture a disturbing boy pageant contestant. Picture a schizophrenic homeless woman. Of all the things Laszlo sucks at, he might suck worst at putting makeup on. And this is a guy who cannot put on his own shoes.
No, I’m put off because makeup is for girls. Which makes me an idiot.
I know putting makeup on your face when you’re two won’t turn you gay. And I know wanting to put on makeup, or his mom’s high heeled shoes, is no indication of sexuality. Or an indication of which parent he loves more. Though I am a little hurt that he never tries to walk in my Sambas.
And this is the part where I say I don’t care if he is gay. I mean, I care, just like I care about everything about him. And if I had my choice, I’d pick heterosexuality for him not just because I think it’s a lot of fun, but also because it seems easier. But it’s not a huge deal to me. I’d pick gay for him before I picked goth. I’d take gay way before state school.
Besides, I don’t think he’s gay. Even when he’s whored up like a Cher impersonator trying to use up all the rouge before the other Cher impersonators get to the dressing room. He’s too into trucks, hitting things with sticks, not washing his dirty face, taking his toys apart, and vaginas. Seriously, he won’t stop talking about how girls have vaginas. The kid talks about vaginas more than Eve Ensler at a Georgia O’Keeffe show.
Besides, I have only the weakest allegiance to masculinity. As a kid I collected glass animals, had a sticker book, listened only to show tunes, had mostly female friends, and enjoyed making stained glass ornaments. A little mascara would have butched me up. It would still butch me up.
But there’s something programmed deep in me that doesn’t like it when someone even if he’s an adorable two-year-old breaks the conventions of our tribe. I don’t think I’m jealous of his ability to travel between masculinity and femininity. I just feel like he’s turning his back on his people. Though honestly, when he smears the lipstick over his cheeks, I’d much rather see his back.
This is my own problem. So I’ll keep my immature reactions to myself. When Laszlo puts on makeup, I’m going to laugh with him. It is, after all pretty silly to put paint on your face. We’re lucky to be in our tribe.