Dear Kid,

So you know about date-rape and assault on women on college campuses, right? I know you’ve heard the “no means no” lecture. And you’ve probably heard the new “yes means yes” affirmative stance (you actually have to hear a “yes” for it to mean “yes.” Silence isn’t consent.).

But have you heard about the nail polish?

My original title for this post was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. The Jury’s Still Out On This One (extra points if you get the reference) because I don’t yet know what I think about it.

Here’s the story.

Four undergrads at North Carolina State University (three cheers for the undergrads) have created a nail polish that changes color to indicate the presence of date rape drugs (Rohypnol, Xanax, and GammaHydroxybutyric Acid). I did not know how to spell any of those before starting this blog. But that’s not the point. The point is, you get a mani with “Undercover Colors” polish, coyly stir your drink with your finger (or your toe if you got a pedi), and voila! you know whether or not your drink contains ingredients you haven’t ordered.

Ingenious? Absolutely. Controversial? You betcha.

On the plus side it’s a mighty fine piece of innovation and engineering which we should applaud 100%. Did I mention they are undergrads? Quite impressive.

Unlike some of the other gimmicky things that are on the market, it’s tough to be without your digits (if you’ve misplaced your fingers, date rape probably isn’t your biggest problem of the evening).

And it’s pretty clear (to me) that ANYTHING that might prevent even one incident is a good thing.

On the “not so much” side, people are pointing out that new-fangled drugs aren’t used all that frequently in date-rape situations. When there are substance issues, the substance in question is generally alcohol.

Mostly, critics seem concerned that nail polish (of any type) doesn’t really address the issue. Some say it doesn’t really make women safer, it just fools them into thinking they are safer. Certainly, it doesn’t teach students about risky behaviors. It doesn’t substitute for taking actions on our campuses to make all our kids safe (from assault and from accusation) and it doesn’t take the place of having difficult conversations.

As you think about this, it might not seem entirely relevant (what with you being a boy and a Most Good Boy at that). But think about this: would you want your sister wearing Undercover Colors nail polish? Your best friend? Your date? Your daughter?

It gets a little tricky, doesn’t it?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (more about that in a week or two). My wish for you today is that you can always think about this in the abstract without ever knowing anyone who has faced domestic or campus violence. The statistics say I’m unlikely to get my wish, but I keep hoping.

Love, Mom