I’m obviously biased, but my daughter is beautiful. Gorgeous really. She has bright blue eyes hidden behind dark lashes, a fabulous smile, and light brown hair which shines golden in the sunlight. Friends, family, and even strangers compliment her and me (since I helped make her) on how pretty she is, and I am thankful for every comment and compliment she receives.
Except for those that come with a caveat.
You’ve heard them. You’ve probably said them. I know I have, and I still struggle to keep the words from coming out of my mouth when talking to my daughter.
“You’re so pretty with your hair down.”
“You’re so pretty now that you’re all clean from your bath.”
“Oh, that dress makes you look so pretty.”
I know these comments are not meant with any sort of malice, and most people don’t even think twice about what they’re saying, but the fact is that these compliments are coming with a condition attached to them. She is only pretty if her hair is down, not if it’s in a ponytail. Before bath time she isn’t pretty. Her clothes are what make her pretty. It sounds like her beauty, inside and out, is conditional and that is not a message I want sent to my daughter.
It wouldn’t bother me so much if not for the fact that she, at the tender age of 4, has already begun picking up on these subliminal messages. She’ll come waltzing out of her room after getting dressed and say, “Mommy, am I pretty now?” Or she’ll brush her teeth and smile at me and say, “Mom, I’m pretty now! I brushed my teeth!”
She is innocent and unable to understand how much words like these coming from her mouth breaks my heart. I calmly and kindly respond to her, saying, “Baby girl, you are always pretty. You are pretty all the time. It’s your heart that’s pretty. There’s nothing you can do or not do, say or not say, wear or not wear, to be any more or less pretty than you are right now. You were, are, and always will be pretty.”
She doesn’t understand. Not yet. She just says thank you and twirls off to get into some mischief. But I make it a point to tell her this any and every time she asks if she’s pretty based on something she’s done or said or worn because it is vitally important these words are ingrained into her heart.
It’s an angry and scary age our daughters are growing up in. Every day they are being sent messages directly or indirectly that it is their fault for being attacked, that they are only beautiful if they are a size 2. A picture on the internet can ruin them for life or a hateful anonymous comment can send them over a suicidal ledge.
It is hard being a woman today, and the last thing my daughter needs is someone saying that her beauty is dependent on some outside factor. She needs to know and hear from everyone who feels it necessary to comment on her looks that she is pretty because she just is. It’s her heart — her soul — that is pretty. It doesn’t matter if she’s wearing a dress or has peanut butter smeared across her face, my daughter is pretty all the damn time.
So please don’t call my daughter pretty if there’s a caveat attached to it. She doesn’t need to learn at 4 that beauty is conditional, because it shouldn’t be. It’s not. And I want to shield her from that lie of society for as long as I possibly can.