Growing up, I had a thing for colorful clothing. I always wanted shirts with flowers on them, or there were even articles of clothing for girls that I wanted to wear. Heck, there are still some gorgeous patterns on women's clothing that I wish came in a men's cut.
I was pretty much always ridiculed by my older brother and cousins and my father for liking "girly things" and quickly learned that I needed to pretend to be someone I was not in order to avoid being made fun of or getting in trouble. Couple that with the fact that I was constantly being made fun of for my name and immigrant family, and school wasn't really all that fun for me.
I know my experience isn't unique and there are plenty of children who felt like I did, and I'm not blaming anyone for the way they treated me, but it would've been really, really nice to have someone I identified with when I was younger who wouldn't judge me for the harmless things I liked. I had that with some family members (Uncle Gaf, and Aunt Didi, here's looking at you), but it would've been pretty great to have more of that in my life.
Which is why David Pendragon's seemingly small gesture of bringing a kitty lunchbox to work is hitting so many people in the feels, me included.
In his post, he's dishing out on how his little cousin, 10-year-old Ryker, was bullied for liking this cat lunch box.
I mean it's a cosmic cat lunchbox. It's fun, it's festive. It's very much a part of hip meme culture. What could be so wrong with a 10-year-old wanting to bring his pb&j and juice boxes to school in one of these?
Well, because there are kittens on it, and God forbid, hues of pink and purple, the other kids in his class roasted him for it because as we all know, children are cruel and school can be the absolute worst sometimes.
But David, being the awesome older cousin that he was, decided to share the photo of him, business suit and all, rocking the cool lunchbox in a public post so Ryker could see that not only can a man proudly rep whatever accessory he wants, but that there were plenty of other people out there who supported him too.
My cousin, Emily, has a 10 year old son named Ryker. Ryker, who loves cats, was very excited to get his new lunchbox. Unfortunately because of its colors, or because it has cats, or both he was teased about it by other boys in his class. He even wanted to stop taking his lunch so he wouldn't be teased about it any longer.
I have decided, however, to stand with my little cousin and show him that a man can love whatever he wants and not be afraid to express that love.
So I have ordered the same lunchbox for myself and proudly carried it to work today at my large, conservative, corporate workplace. I've told anyone who asked the story behind my lunchbox and to a person, they all stand with Ryker too.
There's no one way to be a man. Men can be colorful. Men can be expressive. Men can be emotional and silly and gleeful.
I love my new lunchbox and I hope Ryker and all the other boys out there can see that their passion and self-expression is never something to be ashamed of.
People loved David's post and had some words of encouragement of their own for little Ryker.
People wanted the kid to know that he wasn't alone in his choice of lunch box.
Others applauded Pendragon for his post.
ScaryMommy penned a post about David's kind gesture and broke down how it helps to address "toxic masculinity."
Here’s the thing about gender stereotypes — genitalia doesn’t dictate what kids (or adults) find interesting, valuable, or worthwhile. When we deter children from engaging in activities or behaviors that don’t align with the outdated notion of “blue is for boys, pink is for girls,” we’re breaking their spirit. We’re making them feel like they should feel shame about who they are and what makes them happy. Sure, in Ryker’s case, it was other kids who were doing this — but where do we think they learn it? All you have to do is scroll through daily headlines in the news, and there are countless examples of how toxic masculinity harms us all.
When I was growing up, I thought "man's men" were the best, and I mean, they are. Arnold Schwarzenegger was awesome and I loved watching his super guy-tacular films. There's nothing wrong with a dude wanting to embrace their masculinity. But that isn't an excuse to bully others.
Even the manliest of men knows that there are many ways to be a man.