Pretty daughters

It took me years to like the way I looked. Growing up I was a teenager with thick glasses, out-of-control hair (thick hair is wonderful but only if you know what to do with it; as a teen I most certainly had no clue how to manage it), zero fashion sense, and worst of all absolutely no self-confidence in the way I looked. Any time I imagined myself in some situation, the first thing I would think is to pretend I was pretty. I pretended to be pretty, I never felt pretty.

My parents told me I was but parents are supposed to do that. Parents aren’t supposed to say, “yes dear, you’re ugly but you have many other charming qualities” so I didn’t buy it when they said that.

Sad as it is to admit, it took something physical to change my perceptions of myself. I wish I could say that I transcended the need to be pretty, a need that is ingrained into not only our society but society around the world; what is deemed attractive depends on culture and history but whether you’re talking about the 18th century or today you’ll always find a woman who wanted to look good. But it was indeed something physical that finally made me like what looked back out of the mirror. It was my first pair of contact lenses at the age of 17.

Over the years I guess that I’ve found a combination of acceptance and approval within myself. I don’t stare in the mirror all day long sighing with joy but I don’t avert my eyes either. It’s a balance. But even at the age of 36, even with a year’s worth of yoga under my belt – where acceptance of who and what and where you are is a strong theme – the word “pretty” still echoes over and over from time to time. It’s amazing how deep a neurosis over physical appearance can run.

I hadn’t planned on writing all of that, I guess it’s like the typing version of vomiting all over the internet (which is a pretty good description of blogging in general). All I really meant to do was share this amazing video that Caitlin from Operation Beautiful posted on Twitter this morning. I don’t put my feminist hat on too often but this video speaks volumes and it brought me to tears. Not only is it important to watch for yourself, if you have daughters or ever might have them then I think you need to see this.

(There is one moment of swearing so you might want to view it first before watching it WITH your daughters.)

Every once in awhile I post something deeply personal and I get ready to cringe in hindsight so I reserve the right to edit this post later if I suddenly get all embarrassed. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the clip.

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10 thoughts on “Pretty daughters

  1. It’s one of my faves. Of course I sent it to the mother of my granddaughter.

    Who will not be merely pretty. ;)

    • Well if she’s anything like her grandmother we all know she’s going to be effin’ AMAZING!

  2. I love that clip. I think it should be required viewing for all moms of little girls. My neighbor’s daughter in the first grade had other girls in her grade telling her she shouldn’t go down the playground slide because she was too fat and might break it. Same girls were going on about how they needed to start running to lose weight and how they only drink Diet Coke. They’re 6 and 7 year olds! But I know who their moms are, and I know they’re repeating what they hear at home.

    I’m constantly reminding my six year old that she is smart and funny and creative—-strangers come up to her in public to tell her how beautiful she is, and while of course I agree (heh), part of me wants to put my hands over her ears because I’m afraid she’ll grow up thinking that’s all she is. I was never one of the ‘pretty’ girls, so another tiny part of me wants her to sort of embrace her good looks and use them in conjunction with all her other fabulous qualities, but I’m thinking that’s probably something she’ll pick up on herself when she’s a teenager ; )

  3. I LOVE THIS! If I ever have a daughter, this is going to be a frequently viewed clip, just to remind myself not to fall in the “pretty” trap.

  4. OMG that was the most important message I have ever hear in my life and everyone should see/hear this in order to relearn how we attribute meaning and bring life and attention to all the wrong words sometimes. the word pretty should be used an accompagnying word just as Katie Makkai said. Thanks a million for posting Sherry

  5. I adore this; I liked your story too – we were all a little goofy looking when we were younger. Now I’m just like “This is as good as it gets; I’m not wearing something dumb or pinchy shoes to try and fit in, and I’m still worth listening to.”

  6. One of my oldest friends sent this to me awhile ago, saying (rightly, as it turned out), “I’m sure you hate slam poetry as much as I do, but I think you’ll find this inspiring. I know I did.”

    I watched it about fifty times. And marveled at how lucky I am to have a friend like him, because seriously? A straight man sent me this video. :)

  7. You are not alone, most teenagers have a hard time being teenagers. It’s important to try to do something about this, so eventually you’ll be the person you want to be. Now, i’m ok with my hair, but still struggle to gain a sense of fashion. No one is perfect, and this makes us all specials.

    Stay positive!
    p.s. contact lenses are the best thing that happened to me!

  8. Although what she says is basically true, it ignores the absolute fact that pretty means different things to different people. Different guys like their women in a variety of ways: tall, short, medium, skinnier, not so skinny, blond, brunette, redhead, long hair, short hair … you get the idea. Some guys are shallow and want the sports car model who works 24/7 on her looks. Other guys want the jeep model who actually has interests in her life besides herself … and yes, that includes the intelligent and assertive gals.
    We should definitely and proactively teach our daughters (and sons) about what should be important to them including how they perceive themselves. We should support our kids to help develop pride in themselves. That should result in kids with their priorities in order.
    Yeah, I married a jeep model … just a concept … not the actual vehicle.