My Princess Boy. What a pair of running shoes taught me about tolerance.
Dyson loves the color pink and sparkly things. Sometimes he wears dresses, and sometimes he wears jeans. He likes to wear his princess tiara, even when climbing trees. He’s a Princess Boy, and his family loves him exactly the way he is.
My Princess Boy
A few weeks ago I had the tremendous pleasure of getting to spend time with my two year old niece.
For just a few days I got to glimpse into the life of someone who gets see the world fresh for the very first time. Without any prejudices or preconceptions. What I saw those few days continues to inspire me.
One day my wife and I were watching her, and my wife was going to read one of my niece's books to her. I was nearby and asked what she was going to read. When I heard the title “My Princess Boy”, I thought I misheard. My brain didn't quite make sense of those words together in a title. Then I heard what the book was about.
I'm insanely proud my niece has this book in her collection and loves it.
Even though I was raised to be tolerant, fair, and inclusive, I like many children growing up go through those moments when we aren't. I feel like I've done a pretty good job growing up and being a good person to others, but there are still the moments where I cringe. The moments where I remember some lack of understanding about things I'm unfamiliar with that got the best of me. But moments that I hang onto because they remind me to be a better person.
One of those moments that sticks in my head was when I was a freshman in high school. I remember how awesome it was to finally be able to wear gym shoes to school. We still had a pretty strict dress code, but gym shoes were allowed with our business casual pants :)
I remember how obsessed we all were about what gym shoes everyone had.
And not just gym shoes - BASKETBALL SHOES!
I remember the kid who was a star basketball player already as a freshman and was the first one to own a pair of Charles Barkleys. I envied those shoes.
Then there was Bill.
Bill wore a pair of grey running shoes to class.
Are you kidding me? No one wore grey shoes. And these weren't Nikes. Kids mostly wanted black Nike basketball shoes. Very little else was “cool”.
I remember the criticism my young naive high school brain came up with. I at least knew better than to verbally impose my judgement on the kid, but I still remember the act of judging him.
And I'm pretty sure even with me silently judging him, he still took a bunch of shit out loud from other kids.
I definitely remember telling the adults in my life about what high school was like and for some reason bringing up the kid who wore the weird grey shoes. I got a strong verbal lesson that day about the fact that someones shoes don't make a damn bit of difference to anything in this world.
Seems silly now of course, and My Princess Boy deals with issues much deeper than accepting the shoes someone wears, but that wasn't the easiest lesson to grasp as a kid. The lesson about not judging people who are different or dress differently. Still a lesson that's not so easy for way too many adults to grasp.
That's why I'm so proud my niece has books like these and loves them.
I know I had books and lessons about tolerance myself. But as you and I have witnessed, it takes repeated lessons for this stuff to really get in your head.
And we could use a lot more tolerance. From what shoes someone wears, to everything else they choose to do that makes them happy and doesn't affect us one frigging bit.
Including the color pink a boy might like to wear with his tiara.
There's a bit of irony with this story which is the reason why I remember those shoes so well.
See, the shoes Bill enjoyed wearing so much were a pair of grey New Balances.
Grey New Balances turned out to be the favorite shoe of a certain hero of mine.
What's even more ironic is that I only found out about a year ago that Steve was even a fan of New Balances, and for the last 14 or so years…
I've been wearing a pair of grey New Balances almost every single day.
P.S I'd be incredibly honored if you followed me on Twitter: here.