1. My friend Marci sent me this post “I’ve Started Telling My Daughters That I’m Beautiful,” from the website Offbeat Families. She wanted to hear my thoughts. It’s a bold statement, especially once you’ve hit 40. Or 41. I tell my daughter she is beautiful. Do I tell her I’m beautiful? No, I don’t think I ever have.
2. I feel beautiful. Sometimes. As I told my mother recently, I finally learned to do my hair. (The secret: a fat curling iron.) But as my hair has come together, my face has fallen apart. My the crease between my brows more prominent. The age spots have darkened. The skin is losing its elasticity. Do I feel beautiful? Sure! Not so sure. Not at all. It’s a tornado of emotions, beauty. Sometimes you look in that mirror and rock it, like, Yeah, baby, looking good. Sometimes it’s all, I better shut that light off quickly.
3. I don’t hide makeup from my daughter, and I don’t stop her from putting it on either. Looking pretty or feeling pretty doesn’t have to intertwine with objectification, but it doesn’t have to to get wrapped up in shame either. When my daughter watches me put on makeup, she wants to join the concealer party.
“Little girls don’t need concealer, baby,” I say. “That’s only when your skin gets old and crinkly like Mommy’s. Your skin is beautiful now.”
Oh, I’m a snark fest. (And I love to stir up controversy as well, apparently.) But what’s the message I’m sending in my snarky humor? That only young skin is beautiful? If I’m trying to raise my daughter to accept herself and her body, then what kind of damage am I doing by dismissing my own? I know the answer. I know. I must LOVE MYSELF. I know I’m supposed to feel secure about myself and my body at any age, but sometimes, I don’t. Okay. I just don’t.
4. The blog post that Marci sent me–written by a woman only known as “Amanda”–offers something far more positive than I can conjure on my own.
I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that’s what women do. That’s what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.
“Look at me, girls!” I say to them. “Look at how beautiful I am. I feel really beautiful, today.”
5. True beauty comes with recognizing your faults.
6. True beauty comes with neurotic haranguing.
7. True beauty does not have to sound shallow, like Stewart Smalley. “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.” Or like a trite children’s poem. I love myself because I’m me. There’s no one else I’d rather be.
8. My almost 9-year-old son asked me today what I was writing about.
“It’s complicated,” I said.
I looked down at my work and thought about my message to him about women.
“Have I ever told you that I thought I was beautiful?”
“No,” he said.
“Well, I think I’m beautiful. And I think you’re beautiful too.”
“Boys aren’t beautiful, Mom,” he said. “Boys are handsome.”
“We’re both beautiful,” I said.
And I said it because, yes, this is a message we both needed to hear.
(Image: Andrea Willa/Creative Commons/Flickr)