I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the color pink. I’m talking about cotton candy pink, bubble gum pink, Barbie pink. The shades of pink that have been known to signify the sort of bouncy brainlessness that society often celebrates in a good-looking woman. As a child, I loved the color. It is what many little girls come to understand as feminine: a color that is ours alone, unconcerned with any cultural assumptions that may come with it. Soft and diaphanous, playful, frivolous pink.
My dad taught his daughters that we had so much to offer the world, when the world often demonstrated that the most important thing a woman can offer is her beauty. It was important that we were educated, well-traveled, progressive thinkers, and that we stood up for those who were weaker than us. That’s the American way. And nothing should stand in our way because we’re girls, born and immediately swathed in pink. As obsessed as I was with the pink world of boobtastic blond Barbie, it was his guidance that shaped my values and sense of self.
When my father was diagnosed with breast cancer, the family home was inundated with pink. The broomstick and every piece of literature scattered around the house was pink. A volunteer at the local cancer services made him a blue polka-dotted post-surgery pillow though. Before he went into surgery, medical staff consistently asked him questions about his condition: all of which he answered thoroughly since he’d been reading “that big pink book” they gave him. He often poked fun at himself for having an affliction so associated with the color pink. Humor served as his way of coping, but he felt so deeply for the women he met going through it too. Pink became a sign of struggle and hope for both sexes.
As I’ve grown older and more comfortable in my skin, pink is no longer the beacon of weakness that it was when I was in my teens and twenties trying to understand the plight of being female. Honestly, the older I get, the less I care about what anybody thinks is not feminine about me. I didn’t take my husband’s last name. I have a potty mouth. And if someone has a problem with my VPL, it’s their problem, not mine. My last name has no bearing on how much I love my husband, and I happen to like pink because I just like it.
When my father died of a sudden illness last month, his final ensemble had to be chosen. As vague as he was about many details, he was always clear about being at rest in a navy suit. Beyond his best navy suit, my mother chose a crisp white button down to set off what we unanimously understood was his favorite tie: a confident, heavyweight silk, pink.