Wednesday, July 2, 2008


A few days ago, Claire started demanding that I paint her nails.  I asked her why.  "Hope and Julie have painted nails.  They look pretty."  I sucked in my breath.  Then I said that I would think about it.  Claire wailed.  Thinking about it generally means that I want to say no but feel that perhaps I'm not being fair.  I attempt to sort through my own issues and ask for opinions from my husband, mother, sister, friends, and random strangers before trusting my first instinct.  "NO!  Don't think about it!  DO IT!"  So, of course, I immediately started thinking about it.
Hope and Julie have very similar mothers.  They are both tiny, very pretty women who are always impeccably dressed, coiffed, and made up.  I saw Julie's mother one morning about three weeks after giving birth to her second child.  She was still perfectly dressed, coiffed, and made up.  I suspect that if aliens were attacking the earth, these women would still manage to correctly apply mascara.  I am not surprised that Hope and Julie have painted nails.
I am not a reactionary feminist who believes that a woman should never be concerned about her appearance.  Makeup and fluffy hair have their place in the world.  I use a little blusher when I'm feeling peaked and a little lipstick when I'm feeling sexy.  However, I do not want any woman, especially my daughter, to believe that she needs makeup to be fit for public consumption.  I do not want Claire to feel the need to put on her face before facing the world. 
I know that it's just nail polish.  And I know that I overthink sometimes (or all the time).  But still, there's that shrill, nagging voice in my head that says little girls don't need any form of makeup.  I worry that if I paint her nails, I'm sending a clear message that beauty requires accoutrements - that Claire herself requires accoutrements. 
I ripped my toenail the other day.  In order to protect it from further damage, I painted it with several layers of polish.  Claire saw me and I painted her toenails too.  She was so delighted.  "Now, I''m pretty!" she said.  My heart sank all the way down to my pretty little piggies.  "No, Claire, you're ALWAYS pretty," I protested.  But I feel like I sold her out.


Mary Witzl said...

Oh, how I agree with you. In fact, I could have written this post myself. We've got a lot of Hope and Julie moms here too, who make me feel so odd in my jeans and sweatshirt, my unmade-up face and uncoiffed hair.

I think you are doing all you can do. You are giving your daughter a clear and unambiguous message, both in your own actions and words. She may stray from your philosophy, but eventually she will see your point. My daughters have gone through all sorts of grooming fads, but I see that they have picked up a lot of my ways too.

Some day they too will be fashion slobs, and I can hardly wait.

Christy said...

Oh, I totally remember playing with my appearance in my teen years. I think that's a rite of passage. There was the neon stage, the preppie stage, the punk stage, the slacker stage, all with carefully chosen clothes, frizzed, smooth, or dyed hair, and the right makeup for the look. Thank goodness I grew up before the Goth craze hit! My sallow skin would have made me look a little too undead.