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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 29, 2006

For some, the power of pink can't be denied

By Esme Infante Nii

Editor's note: This week, we welcome the addition of Esme Infante Nii to our Family Matters rotation. While it continues to alternate between mothers and fathers, she will be sharing the mothers' slot.

Pink. The color of ballerina tutus, bubble gum, cotton candy, princesses. Of ultimate girlishness.

I used to swear that if I ever had a daughter, I would never dress her in pink. I didn't want people to assume she was prissy or weak.

Then Alex was born, and for the first three years of her life we were pretty successful at keeping her in mostly unisex colors and styles. My husband thought it was amusing to clothe her in soccer shirts and boxer shorts. Alex, meanwhile, was too busy wreaking havoc in her tomboyish way to even notice what she was wearing.

Then something changed right after she turned 3. She began insisting on one color for everything. But to my relief, it wasn't that icky bubblegum hue. It was green! A unisex color. A strong color. I was delighted. I bought her green shirts and obliged her requests for green foods and beamed proudly as she painted her Halloween pumpkin top-to-bottom in green and crayoned her coloring-book picture of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in deep green, proboscis included.

The bliss was not to last.

One morning after I had laid out a lime-colored school outfit for Alex, I was surprised to find her rummaging through the basket where we keep her playclothes.

"I'm looking for my pink tank top," she muttered.

A new obsession had dawned.

More than six months later, it shows no sign of abating. Our home is littered with pink stuffed animals, pink clothes, pink toothbrushes, pink candies, pink hair ribbons, pink kiddie jewelry. My daughter pleads until we fish out the pink jellybeans for her. She'll take her baby brother down to the mat if he lays a pinkie on her pink stuffed turtle.

What's more, she's become fixated on the girliness that pink symbolizes. She gets giddy talking about the pink tutu she says she'll wear when she grows up to be a ballerina. She also wants to be a pink princess for Halloween (imagine the scene when I told her that her dress is yellow).

This is foreign territory for me. Growing up, I rarely craved wearing frills, and our neighborhood gang of mostly girls was just as likely to play war as play with dolls. Later, as an adult trying to make it in a male-dominated profession, it was natural to try to squelch some of my femininity. But now flash-forward a few years, and here is my daughter not only reveling in hers, but proudly parading herself in its petal-pinkness.

I suppose pink conveys its own power think tough-chick singer Pink, women fighting breast cancer, Andie holding her head high among the rich snobs in "Pretty in Pink."

To be sure, there are pluses to Alex's affection for pink. It makes it simple to match her outfits, fast to find her in a crowd. Also, it's become supremely easy to please her: She likes Jamba Juice all right, but the person who can procure a strawberry-pink one becomes a hero.

There are downsides, though: With so much pink paraphernalia in the house, guess what was the first color her little brother learned to identify by name? Dad was not pleased.

My daughter's love affair with pink worries me a little mostly because I wonder what kind of impression the color makes on others. While the tenderness and sensitivity it implies are important traits, I don't want people to assume this is all there is to her.

Luckily, my Alex has a fiery and fiercely independent spirit, something that eventually upstages any outfit she's wearing. So I just keep trying to remind myself that if I'm concerned about helping her grow up to be a woman of strength, the most powerful thing a woman can have is freedom to make choices with her life. And so if pink is what my daughter chooses at this moment, well, bring on the jellybeans.

Esme Infante Nii is an Advertiser staff writer and copy editor, and a mother of two. Reach her at enii@honoluluadvertiser.com.