I never knew that humans are drawn to beauty from the very beginning, until I had children. It makes sense; adults are. I had just never thought of this impulse as living in tiny people fresh on the earth.
Most little girls probably love the beauty of their mothers. I remember sitting on my parents' bed watching my mom free her hair from the turtleneck she'd just pulled on, remember watching her curl her eyelashes and carefully, face close to the mirror, put on lipstick. And, of course, there is nothing like the comfort of a mother's body. As that weird, awesome old song goes that I know none of the words to but these, : "everyone wants a bosom for a pillow."
I have a daughter who loves watching her mother. She stands with her little mouth open, staring as I put on mascara and brush blush on my cheeks. She wants to know the name of every product I use, wants me to paint nail polish on her nails, too, regardless of the color ("I LOVE black!"). She loves dress-up and constantly is "getting may-weed" (something that involves high heels and has nothing to do with a male). More often than not, she chooses her taffeta Christmas dress to wear and adores tights.
Recently she found her bikini top, put it on, and said, with batting eyes, "I'm a baaa-bie" (barbie), then asked if I didn't wear one of these under my shirt, then refused to take it off for the rest of the day. She even wants to wear a bra. I should add here that ever since I was a girl, I have revolted against barbies and we've never had one in or near our house -- the great irony.
Later that same week, waiting for her dance class at the studio, a beautiful 8 year year old girl with blond blond straight hair to her shoulders, a little girl's body (thankfully), and bright spandex shorts much too short walked by. Eden sat on the bench staring at her and without turning her head toward me whispered, "is she a barbie?"
Last night Ben and I had to dress for dinner before we left for church. It was the classic run-around trying to herd children into clothes and shoes while simultaneously dressing for a date, all in a matter of minutes. I was almost ready but turned around to find Eden clomping down the hall in my heels and a t-shirt, "I'm going to my wedding!" After much back and forth, and her stiff-as-a-board screaming, it became clear that her refusal to put her clothes on was rooted in the fact that she could not wear my high heels for the night, and I could. (Fortunately, my plan was to wear boots to church and changed into heels in the car after. This seemed a great relief to her).
As a mother, putting on make-up and straightening my hair in front of my transfixed daughter, I wonder what messages I am sending, if I agree with all of the values I must be communicating. Driving down the streets past huge bus stop ads, walking through the Target, standing in the check-out aisle at the grocery store, strolling through Disneyland, I am more aware than ever of images, so many surfaces plastered with false beauty, false youth, false tans, false body shapes, and perhaps most importantly, false expectations. I am wondering how to affirm this little buttery girl of her own beauty, within and without, especially as she, at age 2 1/2, is already pining to be older. What can I do but try to communicate, as I look at my own face, or stomach or outfit in the mirror, acceptance, and continue to kiss her tiny nose. Oh Lordy, have mercy as we raise our daughters.