Dear Harriette:

My son likes to wear nail polish. He gets creative with it, just like my daughter used to. I am concerned that this could mean that he is gay, even though his behavior doesn’t seem like it other than the nails. I know I’m not supposed to have thoughts about his sexual identity, but I would be lying if I said it doesn’t bother me. This nail polish thing came out of nowhere — at least as far as I can see — and I just don’t want him to take it too far. Soon he will be applying for college, and I don’t want his nail color to be a distraction. What should I say or do?

— Boy Wearing Nail Polish, Denver

Dear Boy Wearing Nail Polish: First of all, it’s perfectly normal for a parent to have thoughts about a child’s sexual identity. What you want to avoid is having judgment about it. Of all of the things your son could do, wearing fingernail polish is on the benign side. It can be removed easily and is temporary. Your son could be having fun with style and feels comfortable drawing outside of the box, so to speak. But you should find out. Ask him why he started painting his nails and what that means for him. Listen carefully to his answers. In a separate exchange, you can also ask him if he’s gay. It’s OK to be direct in your inquiry. If you ask simply to learn the answer, you may receive a simple answer.

Regarding the nail polish itself, you can have a practical conversation where you recommend that he not wear colored polish to his college interviews.