Please welcome today’s guest writer, Kayla McLean. Kayla finds peace in the rhythms of the sea, children laughing, and cookbooks. While she graduated with her Bachelors of Social Work in 2018, she is pursuing a lifelong dream of working in the culinary arts. She currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan studying under an incredible chef working at the restaurant Mudpenny.
Growing up, I despised pink. After years of battling this aversion, a unicorn and eight-year-old boy ended my color war.
As a child, I was never forced into dressing perfectly pink by my parents but was given the freedom to dress in all shades of the rainbow. It wasn’t until my elementary school years where I began feeling the conflict as a girl who could throw game-saving spirals and delight in Barbies, Bratz, and sleepover sparkly shenanigans. I became more conscious that pink had strict rules. I watched our culture fluff little girls with pink tutus and bolster boys in blue. Seeing our issues with colors, I became angry that our culture doesn’t care if girls wear blue but starts to fall apart if men wear pink. Things have changed in the last 25 years, yes. We now have men wearing pink t-shirts that say, “Only Real Men Wear Pink.” However, I have yet to see women wearing shirts that say, “Only Real Women Wear Blue.” That would just be weird, right?
While living in Honduras in college, I saw these same color rules bleed into the fabric of Honduran society. On a particular day playing outdoor games with cousins of my host family, one of the four-year-old girls played with the most freedom. She fearlessly jumped off high rocks and burst forth laughing as she danced with the dirt. Through the games, we all got dirty. When her mom called us to go inside, she shrieked in horror at the earth tones covering her daughter. Without a second thought, she whipped Marium into the house and implemented a consequence that solidified why I’ve hated pink my entire life. In full defeat, little Marium came out of the house covered in pristine white, fluffy pink, and satin purple, her eyes stained with deep pain.
I stood shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to communicate how unfair it was that she couldn’t play in the dirt like her brother and cousins but had to present herself pretty in pink.
As I grieved Marium’s pretty packaging process, my awareness to all the other little girls around me was heightened as I went back to the United States. I began to notice how the little girls were saturated not just with pink but with unicorns. As a result, I also began rejecting unicorns.
One day in Target, I felt a nudge in me to turn down a certain aisle. In my story, these nudges come when I intentionally accept little invitations to special moments with people or places. As a Christian, God has nudged me to turn down a certain street to show me an entire flock of starlings swirling through the sky or to pass by an old friend I haven’t seen in years. I knew that if I declined this caring invitation in Target, I’d walk away disappointed and miss out on something beautiful. I decided to turn down the aisle. As I looked ahead down the row of children’s bedroom decorations, a white plump unicorn with pink wild hair stared back at me. With our eyes locked, something in my heart shifted. Unlike all the slim and smooth unicorns that followed me those previous months, this unicorn was raw, untamed, and whole. Its eyes didn’t have fanning eyelashes or other feminine flares. It was dorky and smiled with its tongue sticking out. This is the unicorn Agnes receives from Gru in the movie, Despicable Me. Like Agnes, I decided this unicorn would be mine.
This unicorn started to become a fun companion. Adults and children alike began to enter into the magical land of imagination and goofy play with this unicorn. Most times, I was in awe to watch people’s transformation. Even in myself, I felt my inner child wake up from a heavy slumber.
It wasn’t until an eight-year-old boy and his mom moved into the household that the unicorn took on a life of its own. Within days of living in the house, Fulton began creating a personality for the unicorn and inviting me to engage. Within days of living with Fulton, I began to heal. This rough and tough boy, who liked to do pull-ups for fun, didn’t have an aversion towards pink, unicorns, or magical sparkles in his heart the way I did. He was never embarrassed to tell his friends about Uni the unicorn or watch My Little Pony. He never stopped getting dirty nor rejecting pink because of what culture taught him. He delighted in the world around him without fear of rejection. Through hearts full of love, Uni and Fulton helped me see that pink is just another color to enjoy in my color palette.