Have been watchful since Isabella was born about people greeting her with, “Hey there. I love your hair!” or “Hi, I love your dress!” “Good to see you. Love those shoes!” I’ve tried to subtly encourage women in her life to not emphasize appearance when they greet her.
Since women, especially, do it so reflexively due to how they were conditioned, I have had to let go and not be militant about fending it off. Instead, I’ve spoken to her about her beauty in broader way. Fortunately, the parents I am around for play dates are of like mind, so they try not to go there, and I try to do the same with their daughters.
Several weeks ago, though, she came back from a short trip away from home with a whole make-up kit. I wasn’t thrilled, and I told her, “You don’t need that stuff (besides the fact that it’s made up of some nasty chemicals) to look beautiful. You’re four years old. You already are beautiful. You were born beautiful. For a little fun dress up now and then, go for it.” She protested, however. “I am not. Yes, I do need make up.”
While I knew that notion of needing to ‘fix herself up’ to be beautiful was only skin deep, I jumped on it. “You are beautiful.” “I’m not.” “Come here, Bellina.” Not sure if I showed her a picture, but what I said was, “Think of a baby that has just come from God (speaking in simple terms) into the world. Is a baby beautiful and precious and amazing?” She said yes. “Does a baby need make up to be more beautiful?” No, she responded. “No. That would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? That baby is perfect, and so are you. You’re just as beautiful now as when you were born.” She got it and walked off. For a day or two she played with the make-up, but then she forgot about it and rarely gave it much thought.
Yesterday, now several weeks later, I happened to open up the picture of a friend’s newborn baby boy- one month old. She saw it and said, “Awww…” I said, “He’s beautiful…sacred, isn’t he?” She nodded and then added, “He doesn’t make up to be beautiful.” Nice. I guess that conversation really made sense to her and embedded itself in her psyche. Babies don’t need make-up to look beautiful.
Of course, she will face a torrent of messages as she gets older – from friends, at schools, through media. And, she, like all of us, will be drawn to physical beauty. But if she can have the foundation in place now to feel beautiful and to feel valued for deeper qualities than the shape of her nose and the shimmer of her hair, it will serve her well.