Because there are Princess parties. Because there are "girl colors and boy colors." Because I'll be watching that paean to innocuous television, the Food Network, and suddenly find myself discussing calories and diets and why some people decide to eat chemicals instead of food. And, finally, because we find ourselves weeping over an ad telling us we're "more beautiful than we think" at the same time they are telling us that we should be suffering from some major armpit insecurity.
The thing is that I struggle. I know I want Megan to be confident in herself. I know that I don't want her to spend lots of energy worrying about her looks. I know that focusing on what a body does rather than what it looks like helps and I know that bodies of all shapes and sizes can do some really awesome stuff. I know I need to watch how I talk about myself in front of her. I know I need to focus on "healthy" rather than a magic number.
But, still... It's fun to wear a twirly skirt. Sometimes you do just want to look "pretty." A good hair day really can make you happy. And, it's something of a teenage rite of passage to make it a mission to reduce at least 1 boy to a slavering mess and that's fun, too.
Somewhere deep inside is a little voice saying that if I mess this up Megan will change her name to Mystic Starfall, claim her pole, and starve herself to "beautiful."
I knew that there was something about the ad that bugged me and I couldn't put a finger on it until Suzannah posted about it. The thing is that it's still all about conventional beauty standards. Yes, others might think we're more beautiful than we do but it's still all about the length of your nose and the height of your cheekbones and I'm not sure any of that adds up to "real beauty." I thought about what ad I would have wanted to see and I think I would like to hear how blind children describe their mothers. But, that's not the world most of us live in and it's not what will help me figure out how to raise Megan.
There is a reality that we are visual creatures. We are tactile creatures. Most discouragingly, some of this "beautiful" and "pretty" stuff is hardwired into our genes to help us find mates.
Long ago and far away and once upon a time, I got a Master's degree in Special Education. I spent a great deal of time learning about behavior- how to shape it, change it, the source of it, and, most pertinent to this discussion, what to do about behaviors you can't just make go away because they are fulfilling some sort of vital need. For those behaviors, you have to find a replacement behavior that fills that need in a more appropriate way. I sort of think the beauty thing is one that won't go away.
I need to find some replacement behaviors...
I can change my lexicon.
Megan can learn to create a smoky eye but consider if it frames a kind one. She can decide if she wants pink lips or red ones to form a friendly smile. She can pluck her eyebrows into any shape she wants but I'm likely to still classify them as inquisitive. And, no, I'm not sure that would work for a sketch artist but I do think it will work for her and I'm more worried about raising a little girl than creating a mug shot.
I can pass along an attitude toward the bit and bobs that defines them as the fripperies they are. Just like I enjoy my daffodils in the kitchen and the scent of cookies baking in the oven, I can enjoy a color on my nails or the momentary decadence of swiping on some "pretty" in the school parking lot. We can face, head on, the fact that sometimes everyone needs some protective coloring and stop trying to put lipstick on a pig.
Words are a powerful thing and a mother's words hold a special magic.
Yesterday, I complimented Megan on her cheerful eyes.