I recently had a conversation with my daughter about beauty. It came up unexpectedly, just before bed, when we were chatting about her new haircut.
She declared that a prodigious head of hair was essential for a girl to be considered pretty -- and that her hair was too short for her to be considered pretty. Once I got over the initial shock of hearing a 7-year-old complain that she wasn't pretty enough, I went into a quick, but emphatic, description of what true beauty really means.
And yes, I mentioned all those platitudes about real beauty being on the inside, that there are so many kinds of beauty, and that while she is beautiful, there's so much more to her and to life than worrying about how she looks.
To which she replied: "No, mom, beauty is about what you look like. That's all."
And that's a direct quote.
I didn't have a reply. I mean, she's right, and I agreed that some people see beauty that way, but that was a limited view. But by that time, she'd fallen asleep.
Sleeping it off
I asked her about her comment the next day, but she'd already forgotten about it -- and letting her hair grow -- which suggested it was something she'd heard some older kids discussing at after-school care, or maybe she'd been talking about what pretty means with some girls in her class. It really doesn't matter, anyway. It's a subject we'll discuss again.
In the meantime, I'm collecting the wisdom of the ages. So far, I've heard that repetition seems to work. I'll keep reminding her that beauty means a lot of different things. How you look is but one way of measuring it.
If that doesn't work, I'll channel my mom, who met any kind of self-indulgent whining about how I looked with silencers like, "You're lucky you have a roof over your head. Who cares what you look like?" and "Do your arms and legs work? Then you have nothing to complain about."
She was right, and while they didn't make me feel better about how I looked, her comments made me feel appropriately ashamed.
Of course, I won't mention the facelift and assorted cosmetic surgeries she eventually had in her later years. I'll save that for when I have to explain irony.