A recent J. Crew ad depicted president and creative director Jenna Lyons laughing and painting the toe nails of her son Beckett. “Oh, wow, true love!” I thought when I took to the world wide web to check it out. Not everyone agreed…
“See that couple over there? They’re on a date. And he likes her way more than she likes him.”
“Yeah. He can’t wait to see her again, she can’t wait to never see him again.”
I’m not good at a lot of things. Most things, in fact. But I’ve got three solid things going for me: I can make people with terrible senses of humor laugh, I can parallel park like oh my god, and I can read people’s feelings. Even people I don’t know. I pick up on subtleties in their body language, their facial expressions, even the tones of their voices.
Why am I telling you this? Because I like to brag. Also, I saw an advertisement, recently, that immediately struck me as genuine. Now, normally, people in advertisements are being paid to look like they feel a certain way about each other. And, also normally, they get it wrong, because it’s really not something you can fake, convincingly, for money (unless you’re one of Charlie Sheen’s goddesses). But it’s not something we’ve come to expect, because ads (television, movies, music, and entertainment, in general) are not real life. We know that Eminem and Rihanna are not a real, troubled couple, and she certainly doesn’t love the way he lies; we know that Mike and Carol weren’t actually married (Brady, not Seaver. gross!) with a gaggle of children and two suspiciously missing ex-spouses; and we know that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were only PLAYING lovers in Mr. and Mrs. Smith because, obviously, he was married to Jennifer Aniston at the time and those vows are pretty darn important to everyone in Hollywood.
But, back to the ad. Apparently, some conservative people were making a big deal about a recent J. Crew email advertisement, showing president and creative director Jenna Lyons laughing with and painting the toe nails of her son Beckett in a feature called “Saturday with Jenna.” The copy reads: “Lucky for me I ended up with a boy whose favorite color is pink. Toenail painting is way more fun in neon.” “Oh, wow, true love!” I thought when I took to the world wide web to check it out.
What I didn’t think was “J. Crew, known for its tasteful and modest clothing, apparently does not mind exploiting Beckett behind the facade of liberal, transgendered identity politics” or that the advertisement was “blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children”, which is what Erin Brown of the Media Research Center, wrote.
What I also didn’t think was “If you have no problem with the J. Crew ad, how about one in which a little boy models a sundress? What could possibly be the problem with that? Well, how about the fact that encouraging the choosing of gender identity, rather than suggesting our children become comfortable with the ones that they got at birth, can throw our species into real psychological turmoil—not to mention crowding operating rooms with procedures to grotesquely amputate body parts?”, as Dr. Keith Ablow wrote on the Fox News website.
I gotta tell you, I have an 18 year old boy whose favorite color was pink, as well — pink shirts, pink Nintendo DS, pink camera, pink cell phone. “I dunno. I just like it,” he’d say, when asked, unconcerned with anyone else approving. Also, when he was wee, he used to beg for lip gloss when I was applying it to myself, and would wear it around the house, proudly. Could it have been the fact that he grew up in a one parent household and that parent, who was his whole world, wore lip gloss? Perhaps. Could it have been the fact that I’m a big fan of Lip Smackers, which come in delicious flavors and scents? Maybe. What I do know is this, regardless of all the pink and the makeup (and the single mom!), I don’t see a hint of gender confusion.
I grew up with a mom who never wore makeup or dresses and who did things like mow the lawn, paint the house, and fix the car. My dad was handicapped and she had to step in and step up on some things. But she also just likes doing the hands-on stuff and is really good at it. My dad gets around much better these days, but she still works on cars for fun. Thing is, you’ll hardly see me out of the house without a face full of Tammy Faye’s finest and a dress and I have to call in a team of experts just to get my oil changed (but call them using voice dial because, you know, my manicure).
For that matter, I have a brother whose favorite outfit when he was a toddler was a pair of boots and some tighty whities. Guess what? At 22, there’s no sign of the gay cowboy he was supposed to be.
In a week that included New York mother killing herself and her three children by driving them all into the Hudson River, are we really, now, criticizing the way a loving mom connects with her young child? Do we really want to define appropriate ways that parents should bond with their kids?
I don’t think that tiny drops of pink nail polish necessarily mean that a child is transgendered. Even if it did, I think it would be okay to celebrate him. I can’t wait until Beckett gets old enough to read and understand what a ruckus his ten little indians caused. As for me, I’m more likely to buy things from a company that uses real people with real connections in their advertisements (and doesn’t photoshop them until they look like something from that creepy Tom Hanks Christmas movie). Oh, and FYI, your voice goes higher when you lie. Might want to work on that.