Confession: when I started this post, it was going to be funny. Nothing earth-shattering. You wouldn’t have spit out your lunch. You wouldn’t have peed your pants. You might not even have laughed out loud. But it was to be typical the book of alice fare.
As I was getting ready for work Tuesday morning, Alice looked at me and said, “You don’t look very pretty.” I was creating an opening and coming up with the perfect one-liner to close the post when I decided that wasn’t the post I wanted to write today.
You all know that story that has been making the rounds? The one about mothers telling our daughters we are beautiful? It is every bit as amazing as folks are saying. If you haven’t had a chance to read it, then you can check it out here. Amanda King writes poignantly and with truth that lies in the depths of every mother’s soul.
Even in its general amazingness, I can’t subscribe to her thesis wholesale. Why? It is complicated.
For one thing, I don’t want physical beauty to be a priority for Alice. I get that Amanda King wasn’t saying that. I get that she is facing the reality of being female in this world where beauty is prized. And I get that she clearly has her priorities straight with regard to raising strong, thoughtful daughters.
Perhaps Alice’s age has something to do with it. She is young enough that I prefer her to use “beautiful” as an adjective to modify sunset, or song, or flower. A beautiful story. A beautiful painting. But not a face. I don’t want her worrying about that at four years old. Not yet.
Another reason? I am beautiful. Not crazy beautiful. Not model beautiful. Not breathtaking. But pretty enough that I don’t spend time worrying about it. And do you know what? It just isn’t that big of a deal. It is a convenience. A free pass. A smile and a held door once a month or so that might not otherwise be held. It might not be fair, but it is reality. Which is why it doesn’t define me.
The “me” I want Alice to identify when she thinks of me during her childhood is the one who is strong, loving, and smart. Maybe even sort of funny. An occasional pain in the ass and an irrational stickler when it comes to her dinner table behavior. A mother who would never raise a hand to her, and who apologized when she raised her voice (unless, of course, Alice totally deserved a grouchy mama due to her general stinkeriness at that given moment). I want her to recall her mother as fun and passionate, if flawed. And a mother who loved the shit out of her.
But beautiful? My soul, I should hope. My shell, I’m less concerned with. And I hope upon hope that she judges herself by that same standard.