In the summer I am way too hot and frazzled to do much with my hair. Up it goes into a lazy ponytail or sloppy bun. We don’t have central air conditioning so, I do not usually have a lovely blow-dried coif from about May to October because it just makes me too darn sweaty. And frizzy.
But on this one morning, I was wearing a lovely dress. I’d washed my long, blonde tresses and it was cool enough that I gave it a good, round-brushed, blow-out.
“Oooohhh, Mama,” she gasped. “Just yeave your hair yong. You yook just yike my Baahbee doll.”
Yes. My daughter has Barbie dolls. And she adores them. And she thinks they are all kinds of beautiful.
“Baahbee even has bwuue eyes yike you, Mama.”
It was her way of telling me she thought I looked beautiful.
And to her, I am beautiful.
She doesn’t know I am 35 pounds overweight.
She doesn’t notice the bags under my eyes. Eyes that are also starting to sag and wrinkle.
She doesn’t realize or care that my face is riddled with adult acne.
She doesn’t mind that my boobs hang down to my arm pits, or that sometimes I forget to shave.
To her, I am silky and creamy, safe and warm, soft and inviting.
To her, “beauty” is a place that is squishy but strong, fun but predictable.
We can sit here and debate about why it is “wrong” for little girls to think Barbie is pretty. We can talk about standards for “beauty” and how Barbie gives women a bad rap. I feel you. I do. If you know me at all, and if you have read any of my posts about self acceptance, you know I do not subscribe to “traditional” ideals of cosmetic loveliness, and how much I despise the diet industry and how it preys on vulnerable women.
I’m not going to lie. I’ve been compared to Barbie before, and I get a little lift from it. One time someone even told me that if I were a food, I would be a Barbie cake. Whatever that means.
Maybe that is wrong and embarrassing and bad. I don’t know. But I’m almost six feet tall, have blond hair and blue eyes, and up until the last decade was skinny with big boobs.
I also struggled with huge issues around my body image and self esteem. But that was not because of Barbie. That was some inner struggle that had way more facets than a simple doll could craft. There are, I am aware, many who would like to blame the ills of society on Barbie, but I think that oversimplifies things.
Barbie was one of my favorite toys. I spent hours dressing and primping her for fancy dinner dates or for a casual walk with her doggie. This didn’t make me a bad person, nor did it force me to believe that anyone who did not look like Barbie was not worthwhile.
But here’s the thing: I was also raised to consider the beauty of classical music, nature, and theater. I was taken to art museums and exposed to all manner of human form and figure. I plan on raising my children in the same way, and showing them that beauty comes in many more shapes and sizes than 36-24-26. Or whatever that formula is. I don’t do numbers.
We have the power to teach our daughters and sons what beauty is.
To raise them with a healthy sense of self, a strong will, and an appreciation for all the things their bodies can do.
To teach them that beauty has to do with acceptance of self and others, openness, and kindness.
So on that day, I left my hair “yong” per Emily’s wishes. I kept it down all day and flew high on the compliment my little girl had bestowed upon me.
It feels good to know my daughter thinks I’m beautiful, despite my many, many flaws inside and out.
And I bet your daughter, or son, thinks you are beautiful too.