Home > Uncategorized > Just for showing up

Just for showing up

On the walk home the other day, The Child chose to rest for a moment of the back step of a local florist. She likes to rest, I think, not because she’s tired but because she likes sitting on different steps and curbs and rocks.

She sat singing quietly to herself and I stared at traffic for a moment. Then the door opened up and a middle aged mad with very little hair smiled down at us. I started to pull The Child to her feet and the man said, “No, no. Don’t get up. I just thought she might like this.”

And he presented her with one perfect white rose.

The Child thanked him very prettily and I smiled and thanked him and there was some very minor chit chat and then off we went, discussing how rose petals feel, why we needed to put the rose in water when we got home, how the rose smelled, that sort of thing.

But while we were talking, I kept thinking about the implications of that rose.

The Child is beautiful. I say this not as bragging but as fact. She’s nearly the embodiment of the current ideal of child beauty — long blonde hair that curls becomingly around her heart-shaped face. Big and very blue eyes. Fair fair skin. Hell, she’s tall and thin for her age, and has a big smile without any of the usual toddler gaps between her teeth. Someone once said, “They make dolls that aren’t as pretty as she is.” She is truly lovely.

And I worry about that. I worry a lot.

Of course, people like to be kind to all kids, all the time. I know other kids get gifts, hear “oh, how adorable!”, are allowed to cut in line. I don’t have another child, so I don’t know if The Child gets them more often than most. But I have to think she does.

Because beautiful people get things just for showing up. People treat them differently than they treat normal people. They get special treatment, little gifts, bigger smiles. They get preferential treatment consistently across the board. Survival of the Prettiest was an interesting book when I read it five years ago. Now, it’s a catalog of social land mines I have to negotiate for my daughter.

Because it’s really easy to get by on being adorable or pretty or beautiful and not develop any other skills. And I want more than that for The Child. First of all, because I think that she’s capable of more. But mostly because it’s not really healthy to be beautiful in our culture right now.

I’ve raved about this before, so I won’t belabor the point but the culture we live in is so incredibly toxic — particularly to girls, even more so (I imagine) to beautiful girls — that I have think being beautiful may really be the source of unhappiness for her. The way that modern Americans tangle perceptions of sex, sexuality, beauty, worth, and intelligence has turned into something poisonous.

All of which makes me very glad that I’m not one of the beautiful people. By which I don’t mean looks, I mean… attitude. I don’t wear make up, I don’t spend a lot of time or money on my clothes or hair, I don’t read the fashion rags, I don’t spend any time in the culture of beauty. In a world where even little girls’ shoes have high heels, I’m discovering that that’s a pretty radical stance.

I can only hope that I can lay a healthy foundation for The Child by bringing her up in a home where there’s only one mirror, no make up, no TV, and many many books.

But I’m not sure that it will be enough.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 4, 2009 at 4:11 am

    while i don’t subscribe to the cult of pretty [i was called ‘big nose’ ‘four eyes’ ‘short stuff’ ‘shrimp’ ALL THE TIME] when i was young, i appreciate that my girls are considered beauties. i like to look at them, make them lovely clothes, costumes, take photos. and i like it that people look at their photos over my desk and go “WOW! your girls are BEAUTIFUL. ummm… they don’t look like you at all, except around the eyes”

    they know they’re pretty. they also know they’re smart and talented. most important, they know that it’s what they DO with what they have and HOW they do it [their attitude to life, whether they practice tzedakah] that matters.

    it’s possible to be pretty and be grounded.

    i let tehm get hurt, encourage them to be rough and tumble, to push the envelope, take chances, see what’s around the corner.

    so, i was a funny looking kid. i grew into an attractive woman [yeah NOW, at age 50, i turn heads. go figure] and i’m a radical feminsit so much so that i feel free to be a writer, tax accountant, long distance bicyclist AND bake my own bread and cookies and make soup from scratch.

    i also never leave the house without mascara and lipgloss beczuse it makes me feel good. i like looking at who i grew into and i like how i look in mascara. it also shocks people when i get to the end of a HARD bike ride and i look spiffy. makes me laugh.

    but i don’t own a blowdryer, NEVER wear fingernail polish [my hands WORK] and could care about fashion. my favorite jeans are 12 years old from Kmart and my favorite shorts were a hand me up from my daughter. my 3 evening gowns are 30, 27 and 23 years old. [they’re black and they fit, that’s all that matters]

    she’ll be fine. really. just exchange the $200 grandma dresses for $30 dresses and the laura ingalls wilder books.

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