Things People Have Said to Me in Regards to My Appearance: A Poem, of Sorts
Pretty is as pretty does.
It hurts to be beautiful.
Are you anorexic?
You look like an Auschwitz survivor.
You either need a new bikini or a new ass.
If you get your chin fixed, I will buy you a new car.
You’d be prettier if you got your ears pinned.
Stand up straight, your neck looks weird when you slouch.
Why don’t you put on a little blush?
How much do you weigh?
You’re not hot.
I don’t like your outfit.
You dress so cute!
You look better without bangs.
You look better with short hair.
You look better with long hair.
The girl I cheated on you with had firmer boobs than you.
You may be skinny, but you have great boobs!
You don’t have an upper lip.
Do you know you have a huge pimple on your nose?
You have really dark circles under your eyes.
I think you’re pretty, but I can’t date you because you’re too skinny.
Don’t you wish you were blonde?
Don’t you wish you were short?
It must be awful for you that your friends are little and blonde!
You’re so lucky that your kids didn’t get your brown eyes!
You have chicken legs, don’t be offended.
You’re too tall to be hot.
Your teeth are perfect!
Your teeth are too big.
Your teeth are so bad you could eat a peach through a chain link fence.
Do you know you have a birthmark on your back?
Your butt is saggy.
You must be terrible in bed because your ass is so small.
You have a huge ass for your body.
You have birthin’ hips!
You look heavier than last time I saw you.
Ew! Your hands are so wrinkly!
Your feet are beautiful, can I kiss them?
Your pinky toenails are too big. They’re gross.
Your eyes are too close together.
You have a tiny head.
You have too many moles.
You have a mustache.
Your knees turn in a little.
You’re too pretty; I don’t want to stand next to you.
Have you tried lifting weights so you’re not so skinny?
You’ve gotten kind of fat.
You’re interesting looking.
You don’t have the girl next door look.
You look really exotic!
Some people just don’t look good without makeup.
You look tired.
Your sisters are prettier than you.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach my daughter’s appearance. I already know to encourage pursuing her interests, whether they be trucks or princesses. I know to teach her that her worth comes from within. I know that as a parent you’re not supposed to place any value on appearance, but I also know that’s impossible. I know that now, at three years old, people comment incessantly on her curly hair. They tell her it’s beautiful, because it is, and they tell her to tame it even though she needn’t. They view her as wild, because her hair is wild. People tell her she’s pretty. They love her dress. They comment on her big blue eyes. I know these people mean well.
Lisa Bloom wrote an article years ago about the way we talk to our girls. It was a plea to ask them about their interests, and not their clothes. To comment on the cool book they were reading, and not their pretty face. It made so much sense, and it definitely made people think. I like to think it made an impact, and that people are at least aware that this is an issue. But how far is too far? How much should we minimize appearance? If we minimize it to the point that we don’t even mention it, what will that do to our girls’ self-esteem? Shouldn’t we be aiming for a whole identity and not just that of “the smart girl” or “the pretty girl”? Should we be manufacturing compliments, or should we highlight the positive traits we see as we see them?
I later read an article on Jezebel that I think explains the balance a bit better. We shouldn’t emphasize appearance, but we can’t ignore the importance either. Beauty and fashion are fun. You can be beautiful and funny, sexy and smart. We shouldn’t denigrate girls who are into these “frivolous” interests, because you can be interested in more than one thing. I know some brilliant women who are very fashionable. At the same time, we shouldn’t push fashion and beauty onto our girls. It’s ok to not look beautiful all the time. It’s ok to not even care if you do. Confused yet? I am!
I’m still trying to sort everything out. I know that I’ve been given free coffee, and dates with cute boys, and even been hired when I’ve looked good. I know I’m treated much, much differently when I don’t put on makeup and fix my hair. I know I’ve been treated like I’m stupid when I look pretty, or incessantly harassed on the street. I know that sometimes my daughter will look good, and sometimes she’ll look bad, and all the time someone will have an opinion about it. I know that she might be into fashion, and she might give zero shits about makeup. I don’t know if she will grow up to be conventionally beautiful or not. I don’t know if she will be beautiful at some stages of life, and not during others. I guess it doesn’t matter. Everyone else will always care about her appearance. I just hope I can teach her that whether she cares about her looks or not, and no matter what she looks like, she needs to own it because all that matters is that she feels good.
So for now, I don’t know if I’m doing it right or not. I don’t know if I should be encouraging her to fix her hair more often or not. I don’t even know if I will have the most influence over her, or if the kid who picks on her in sixth grade will give her an eating disorder (God, I hope not), but I’ll keep trying. I’ll act like I feel good in my body, and I’ll keep wearing a swimsuit in public, and sometimes I’ll go out without makeup. I’ll keeping trying to keep her grounded in what is important, and I’ll keep letting her pick out her clothes, and the only question I’ll ask of her is “do you feel good in what you’re wearing?” Hopefully I won’t fuck her up too much.