That Young Man Wearing Nail Polish? He’s My Son.

purple photo

I picked up my 20-something son, David, at the metro a few weeks ago.  After he got into the car, he put out his hands towards me, and asked:

“Do you like this color? Kind of a deep purple. I get a lot of compliments on it.”

Yes, David wears nail polish;  bright, glossy, frequently changing colors, nail polish. And it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I like the deep purple shade.

When David first told us he was gay in his junior year in high school, my husband and I were somewhat surprised but when we thought about it, it began to make sense. At first I worried about the increased chances that he would develop AIDS and I was concerned about problems he would likely face being accepted as a gay man in the less tolerant world we lived in a decade ago. But the gay part? We had an inkling. O.K., more than an inkling. (and what parent doesn’t?).

As an avid reader and news-watcher, I did have some knowledge of the evolving gay community. I was aware of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s,  I remember when Barney Frank became the first U.S. congressman to come out as gay in 1987 and when in 1989 a New York Court ruled that it was legally possible for a same-sex couple to constitute a family.

But when our teenage son told us he was gay, my  personal knowledge of what it meant to be a gay man was, unfortunately, tainted by popular media stereotypes which told us that most gay men:

  • dressed impeccably
  • were extremely neat and well organized
  • often chose interior design or hair styling as their professions
  • had high pitched, effeminate voices
  • liked to gossip
  • had many women friends

From time to time, in my son’s late teen years, I honestly wondered if maybe he had been mistaken as to his sexual identity. After all, he was incredibly sloppy, his bed room was knee-deep in dirty clothing and he was completely disorganized. He planned to major in chemistry and disliked idle chatter.

But the years passed, as he grew into his 20’s, he stayed just as disorganized and messy, with a fervent dislike for doing laundry  – and he remained gay.

He is comfortable with his own identity. And because he is so comfortable, we are too. He has patiently explained that what I first thought I knew about gay men was all wrong. And finally the media has caught up a bit.  We hear about gay football players and (sometimes) see gay men who don’t wear stylish clothing.

Unfortunately, it still makes the news when a gay man is the first in his field or profession.

Earlier this year, when our synagogue, Temple Sinai in Washington, DC, hired a new rabbi who happened to be gay, it became a news story in the Washington Post.

“Rabbi Adam Rosenwasser recently became the first rabbi hired to fill a major pulpit in Washington who is married to someone of his own gender. But he doesn’t like to focus on that. ‘I’m gay, but I also like to scuba dive and play guitar.’ “(August 8, 2014)

So now we all know that some men who are football players, some who are messy and some who are rabbis, can all be gay. And that the fact that they have sexual partners of the same gender is not what defines them.

And there are some men who wear nail polish. And change colors frequently, and with great pleasure.

But I draw the line at mint green. A days ago David showed me his latest color, his nails were mint green. Reminded me of medical scrubs, bad memories. Better to go back to the purple or maybe try a new shade, I suggested, how about deep pink?

David looked up at me as if I was crazy, “Mom, I am not that gay”.

O.K., so I don’t totally get the gay male thing yet. But I accept it, and I accept him, purple nail polish yes, mint green no, his color choices don’t define him either.






Filed under Adult Kids, Family, Gay Sons, LGBT, Moms, Parenting, Raising Kids

26 responses to “That Young Man Wearing Nail Polish? He’s My Son.

  1. I love this post! You had me in stitches when you said you wondered if he could be wrong about his sexuality because he kept his room so messy!! Lol! I’m so glad your son is doing well and is happy with who he is. I went to acting school in NYC so i had a lot of friends who were gay. It always broke my heart when one of my friends would talk about not being accepted by their parents or family because of who they were and who they loved Really, whatever our children’s sexual orientation is, don’t they all just want to be accepted for how they are?. Thanks!!


  2. awesome mom and son. btw, I kind of love mint green nail polish.


  3. “Mom, I’m not THAT gay” Love it! Great story!



    I really like this.


  5. Liz Rolle

    What a fabulous post! And we’re all finding our way in worlds unknown to us.


  6. Love this post! And sounds like your son has very good taste!


  7. Maybe you can compromise – purple on one hand – mint green on the other. When my eldest was 4 he wore silver nail polish because he wanted to be an astronaut.


  8. What a lovely story. I have seen so many stories where families don’t accept their gay children’s choices. I am so happy to know that your husband and you can except your kids no matter what. I love blue myself!


  9. You are an incredible mom and he is an incredible son. My wish is for all parents of gay children to be exactly like you. Because we all love our children, no matter what their sexual preference is. I loved this post for so many reasons, but mainly because of the obvious love between mother and son. Marvelous.


  10. Wow. Your son is a very lucky young man.


  11. David

    David here. Just spoke to my mom about this. The polish was actually neon green, not mint green, I would never wear mint green :). And if you are curious the purple shade mentioned is the purple gel polish by Essie.
    Thanks for taking the time to read this article!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mdaniels4

    You don’t have to be gay to like the fun of a bit of color on your body. Straight guy, married, 3 adult kids, i color my toes, and I know a lot of other straight guys who color their nails too. In fact, I have many gay friends and none of them wear polish, clear or colored. Not my fingernails because I’m way too hard on them and they’d look trashy really quick. The young girls though don’t seem to get that point.

    It’s merely a form of artistic expression. The joy of seeing a bit of cool color and yes a desire to be a bit different, and different is just different, not bad, and certainly just means that, that i don’t mind being different, is all it is. So save the judgments and if you’re curious about why I wear then please just ask. I’m happy to have a nice conversation about it with you. I’ve yet to hear one logical reason why a man can’t or shouldn’t wear polish if he likes it.

    Lots of celebrities wear color, and they get a pass? I don’t think so. I like that you’re supporting and loving your son for being himself. But a color, mint green or pink is just a color. Pink was the boy’s colors for most of history until someone got a bug up them to change it to blue. Maybe they were just playing a mind game to see if they could and it stuck. But historically nail color was originally for royal men to show status, and Roman generals painted their lips and nails blood red to signify their plans for the enemy’s blood on their hands. In fact it was the start of regimental colors.

    So color away, David, knowing it has nothing to do with whom you’re attracted to, but just a plain old part of fun which unfortunately is soooo misunderstood by this rather archaic culture.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. “I don’t get it,” but “I accept it.” You’re courageous to write this post, Nancy, knowing that your son and family and followers will read it. And, of course, this is how tolerance — no, true understanding — begins, when people dare to speak the truth and open the closed door (and closed mind) just a crack. My heterosexual sons’ “no big deal,” “my friends are my friends” approach to gay rights could teach us Boomers a thing or two.


  14. Great story. Thank you for sharing. I wear nail polish all the time. I am 47 years old. I have been wearing nail polish for about 10 years now. I myself is not gay. I fell in love with nail polish and thought it was cool, look nice and why not. I have so much now. My problem is keeping my sweetheart (girlfriend) from stealing it. Oh and my daughter. haha But I love this story. Just do you young man. Live your life.

    P.S. Daniel Roberts 1968 by OPI is a real nice mint green. 🙂 Just sayin. lol xxoo


  15. Jeremy

    Wow, what a wonderful mom. I’m so thankful to read your words, and thankful for your child that he has such a lovely starting point in the world. I have a wonderful mom, too-and her understanding of my sexuality gave me so much confidence and self assuredness as I grew up. It’s amazing that a mother’s love can change the focus from “gay gay gay” to “it’s only a part of me, let’s talk about real issues.”


  16. Rose

    I too have a nail polish wearing, gay son. When it comes to him, I make an exception for the kvelling 🙂


  17. This sums up so many things, so well. This piece clearly comes from a place of complete love and acceptance. It makes me really happy to see. 🙂


  18. Have a Disabled 19 year old male son – who loves wearing Neon Green or Neon Pink clothing. He also wears Neon Pink nailpolish. He started dating a girl before Grade 12 & they began sleeping together a few months ago. He also talks about being transgender….. I am just doing alot of listening & observing & telling him I love him everyday. As he is developmentally disabled I know that he may be living with us until the day I die. He does not realize yet that he is Disabled at all.
    This has been a huge Learning Curve for my husband & I since August, 2014. Very difficult complicated birth. Extreme pain as newborn daily for weeks (with severe colic). I was 37 when he was born. With my nursing background I suspect there were many factors in all of this.
    Would love to hear from anyone who has dealt with Transgender child. Tells me he feels attracted to both genders – but he has never acted on that. Very happy dating same girl for past 18 months.
    Am very happy that she is giving time & companionship. Testing put him at comprehension of 10-12 year old child. His 2 female friends do not realize yet that he is Disabled. Am not going to let him or them know at this young age. He is happy, I spend time with him everyday, and he works part-time in a simple job. Things have been very stable since we helped him through the torture of finishing off Grade 12. Took every ounce of willpower my husband & I had everyday to help make that happen. We knew his High School Diploma would be required to get a part-time job.
    He is soooo relieved to be out of classes that were overwhelming him. I now worry about what will happen when we die (as we are in mid fifties now). I cherish him more everyday & just pray to God for guidance each day. Can tell unconditional love, encouragement, positive feedback daily are all sooo important in dealing with a very Artistic, Disabled, Sensitive young person here. All the Best!


  19. Mrsscary

    My son is 15, and autistic. He likes girls and right now his nails are fire engine RED, because he liked the color. And if anyone says anything to him about it they’re going to get punched him the throat. 😆


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