Michael doesn’t like when I polish my nails.
He never has. I think the first time I painted them that he noticed he was about 2 years old. He thought something was wrong with my fingers.
I polished my nails yesterday, out of boredom and out of an attempt at some self care.
“I don’t like when you do that,” Michael said.
“I know,” I answered calmly, “But these are mama’s nails, and mama wants to polish them.”
This is where is starts, the lesson that more boys and men need to learn.
Women — and other people in general, but this needs to apply especially to women — make choices about their bodies that other people may not agree with, may not like. We may dye our hair outrageous colors, or polish our nails, or wear clothes that others may find faintly ridiculous or provocative.
But it is our hair, and our nails, or our clothes. On our bodies.
My husband occasionally pats my bum when I am doing stuff in the kitchen, and I occasionally pat his too. We embrace and kiss, even in front of the children; we are, in general, an affectionate family. But I don’t like my children to pat my culo, and I ask them not to.
“But Daddy does it,” they protest.
“That’s because I’ve given Daddy permission,” I say. Tacit permission, it’s true, but permission nonetheless. “I am not giving you permission.”
Just because one person is given permission to physically interact with my body in a certain way, that is not blanket permission for the rest of the world.
If a girl or woman has given one person certain access to her body in a certain way, she hasn’t given permission to others because of that. As a matter of fact, there may come a point where she may not give that person who had access before permission.
And that is okay. That is up to her.
Yes, this goes for boys/men and other people too. The larger point here is my body is mine; your body is yours; his/her body is his/hers. We each get to decide; we each get to give permission or not.
It’s important to start teaching these lessons to our children — boys and girls — NOW. My children are only 5 and 9 and 11. Flora demands privacy when she showers or changes; Kate and Michael are quite the opposite — I’m trying to teach them concepts of privacy and modesty anyway. I ask that everyone give Flora her privacy, even if it’s not what they choose. I ask Kate, my most physically enthusiastic and affectionate child, to give people boundaries and personal space.
And I tell my son that I am allowed to polish my nails. Because they are my nails, and I get to decide.
What important lesson do you think children need to start learning early?