Recently, my daughter began applying “makeup.” Not real makeup — she is 3, after all, and couldn’t tell you the difference between foundation and blush even if she tried — but pretend makeup.
Which is to say she refers to her Rubble Paw Patrol badge as a compact, her chapstick as her “lipstick,” and just yesterday, she tried to apply “eyeshadow” with an unsharpened pencil. (Yikes!)
Of course, I find this arrangement absolutely adorable. I think it’s sweet when she carries her stool over to the bathroom mirror so she can primp and prep. And it’s just darling that she offers to do my makeup (especially since I rarely wear anything aside from pimple cream and sunscreen). But I often wonder where she even picked up this habit. With an un-made-up Mommy, where the hell did this desire to wear makeup even come from?
However, regardless of its origins or how cute she is when she applies faux powder to her face, whenever my daughter says, “Mommy, I need my lipstick” I cringe. When my daughter says, “I have to do my makeup,” my stomach turns in knots. And when she is done and utters the words, “See Mommy, I pretty now,” I honestly want to throw up — because no matter how sweet or innocent her desires may seem, I do not want her believe makeup makes her a better person. I do not want her to believe her beauty determines her worth, and I do not want her to invest her time and energy and her entire sense of self in being beautiful, because young girls and women are so much more than just a pretty face and a smile.
That said, it may shock you to discover I tell my daughter she is beautiful all the time. It may surprise you to know that I compliment her appearance and her body each and every day, but I do so not to be sexist or somehow undermine her intelligence or her sense of humor, I do so to make her a well-rounded individual.
I do so because because I compliment every aspect of who she is — and could be — every day, and I do so because one can, and should, be able to appreciate their body, their heart, and their mind.
If you ask me, we’ve become a little too consumed by political correctness these days — and in some cases, to our own detriment. The “Like a Girl” movement has an important and powerful message to send our girls; but somehow in the process, we’ve turned the word “beautiful” into a bad one. Let’s be honest though: Calling a girl, or a woman, “beautiful” isn’t insulting — at least, it shouldn’t be — because there isn’t one damn thing wrong with being beautiful. And if men can be both powerful and handsome, why can’t women be bold and beautiful, too?
Why can’t my daughter be intelligent and compassionate, empathetic, silly, sassy, and self-assured?
Of course, I know the very nature of our society has something to do with the disparity: In a world where women still make less than their male counterparts, where high-profile women are still accused of sleeping their way to the top, or are called b*tches because they are empowered, one’s gender can certainly be viewed as a detriment. But I want my daughter to grow up in a better world. A more empowered and open-minded world. And in this world, I want her to know she is both gentle and strong. Brave and sensitive.
I want her to know she can embrace her womanhood and still be a badass.
I want her to know brains and beauty can coexist, and the presence of one does not — and should not — negate the other.
But I also want my daughter to develop a positive relationship with her body. I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin — and confident with whatever God (or my genes) has given her — and I want her to look in the mirror and see things she loves about herself before the media tells her otherwise. Before all those magazine covers tell her differently. So I tell her she is beautiful today because I know someday she will question her body, and her worth. She will find fault with herself: her arms will be too skinny, her legs will be too fat, her breasts will be too small, and her ass will be too flat. And I want her to have a template to fall back on her.
I want positivity to be etched onto the core of who she is so that maybe, just maybe, when self-doubt and loathing rears their ugly head she will remember the original truth: her truth.
Maybe, just maybe, she will remember she is beautiful, inside and out.
So yes, I will continue to tell my daughter she is beautiful. Because she needs to hear it. And because she should never be ashamed of who she is.