Tag Archives: daughters

Pretty

When I was little, and didn’t want to sit through getting my hair brushed or styled, my nana would say “It hurts to be beautiful”. It’s a statement I’ve known all my life and one I still say to myself. 

And to my own daughter.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged and accepted.  If you’re a woman, it hurts to be beautiful. 

We color our hair, wear make-up, wax our eyebrows, our lips, our bikini lines.  Totter around on stilettos that make our feet bleed and bruise.  Cram ourselves into spanx and forego food for a day to fit in one specific dress.  Inject our faces with botox to eliminate wrinkles.  Undergo surgery to lift our boobs, tighten our necks, smooth our tummies, all to defy the effects of gravity and motherhood.

I’ve done most of those things.  In the end I’ll probably do them all.  If I leave the house without at least a bit of make-up on, you can be pretty sure the only place I’m heading is to the gym.  I’ve got a fair bit of grey in my hair, and I will continue to cover it up with dye for the foreseeable future.  I own — and wear — shoes that bruise my toes so badly that I can only wear sneakers for the next three days after a single night in them, and spanx that squeeze the thickest part of my thighs so hard they leave indentations that last for hours after I’ve taken them off.  I have worn clothes that made deep breaths difficult and eating impossible.  I regularly have hot wax smeared on my face and ripped off to remove the shadow on my upper lip and the caterpillar eyebrows I inherited from my dad.

I participate in my own torture, willingly, because I have been conditioned to believe that I am only beautiful if I do those things.

I hate the concept, but continue to play the game.  And I’m teaching my daughter to play it as well.  I wrestle with the messages and the practices, both as a mother and as a woman.  Am I doing the right thing?  Am I teaching her the right thing?  I’m uncomfortable with it all, but we live in a society that says “this is what it takes to be pretty” and so we follow along. 

Some of it I can paint as pretty harmless: I like make-up, and it’s fun to play with and it certainly doesn’t hurt.  Coloring my hair isn’t painful, just time-consuming, and I like changing my color to suit the season or my mood.  I enjoy getting dressed up and I don’t really mind sucking in my tummy for a while to make the line of a dress lie more smoothly.

But there’s nothing fun about getting the hair ripped off your body with hot wax.  Nothing fun about wearing shoes that bruise and pinch and underwear that squeezes and compresses and clothes that hinder your movement and breath.  I can’t pretend there’s any message but self-torture in there.  And yet I teach my daughter.

Society places a high premium on looks, and the standards to which men and women are held are comically different. 

Why doesn’t daddy look bad without make-up on? Because society hasn’t told him that he does.  His skin isn’t a blemish- and blotch-free poreless canvas, highlighted and contoured in all the right places.  He has circles under his eyes because he didn’t sleep great last night, but he doesn’t need to hide them.  His eyebrows are a bit scraggly.  He has grey in the hair on his temples.  He’s definitely not clean-shaven.  And yet all he has to do is run a warm wash cloth over his face, comb his hair, and he’s done.  Handsome even. 

Can you IMAGINE if men had to undergo the physical modification women regularly submit to in the name of beauty?  Good lord would our standards change quickly.

I have no answers, only questions.  I will still dye my hair and wear make-up.  I will still wear shoes that hurt and underwear that squeezes.  I will continue to have my hair waxed off.  And I will forever ask myself why I do it, what would really happen if I didn’t, and whether I’m teaching my daughter the right lessons.

It hurts to be beautiful.

Do Hard Things (Even When You Don’t Want To)

Bridget running

Of all the things that amaze me about parenting, nothing is quite so awe-inspiring as watching your child do something you had no idea they were capable of doing.  Watching my daughter run fills me with admiration and undeserved pride — I did nothing to make her so fast and so willing to just keep going, and yet my heart fills up so proud and huge I can hardly contain it.  How did this tiny little girl get so strong, so determined, and so self-assured?  It comes from her, all of it.  Especially the speed.

In her new school, all the kids run cross-country every week as part of P.E.  She’s been coming home and reporting her times, and she’s done really well and improved just about every week.  In October they had a school cross-country meet and she came in 10th out of about 100 girls in her grade and the grade above. 

run like Bridget

She’s done so well at school that she was invited to run with the school team in the district meet last week.  She didn’t tell Matt and I at first, because she actually didn’t want to run in the meet.  She doesn’t even really like running.  She’s just good at it.  When she finally did tell us, we insisted, obviously, that she run.  She knew we would.  Reluctantly, she emailed the teacher back and said she could participate in the meet.

“I’m so mad at you for making me do this,” she told me. 

“I know,” I said. 

Despite her opposition to the whole thing, she ran really, really well and came in 10th again, qualifying to move up to the next level and run in the county meet next month.  Her face at the finish line when they handed her the paper saying she’d made it to the next round was a comical mixture of pride and distress.  She really would not have been sad if she hadn’t made the cut-off, but she couldn’t help feeling proud that she had.

B in tracksuit

Now that she has made it, even though she sort of dreads actually doing it, she wants to do well.  She’s little, but she’s strong.  She’s willing to push herself even when it’s uncomfortable.  She feels terrible during the actual event, she says — she doesn’t know how to breathe properly and her legs get so tired — but she pushes through the pain.  She may not love the actual running, but she does like the winning. 

Matt and I talked about whether we’re doing the right thing by basically forcing her to run in the meets.  She may end up resenting that we make her keep going.  Maybe it will backfire and she won’t want to run at all anymore.  I hope not. 

Instead we’re hoping that by making her do something she doesn’t really want to do but she is good at, she’ll learn some important lessons.

She’s getting better every time, proving to herself that hard work pays off.  She’s figuring out a lot about her own strength and ability.  She’s representing her school at something she’s good at, and having her talents reflect back on a place she really loves.  She’s learning that she CAN do hard things, even when she doesn’t want to. 

As always with this parenting gig, it’s a bit of a guessing game.  We’re doing what we think is best, and hoping that in the end she’ll appreciate it.  And we’re standing on the sidelines cheering loudly as she runs by.


Also, there was the time Matt and I ran the Army Ten Miler, and some other lessons I’ve learned about parenting a pre-teen.


 

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