A father struggles to help his daughter make sense of an unkind world.
She crept onto the bed, curling into the smallest ball. And whimpered.
“What’s the matter?” He asked.
“Daddy, am I pretty?”
He paused, wondering both where this question came from but also carefully weighing his answer.
“Why do ask that, sweetheart?”
“Some boy today was talking to us, asking us about something and when I answered, he looked right past me at my friend and said, “What does the pretty one think?”
His heart sank. His daughter is the most beautiful girl in the world. Ridiculously intelligent, hysterical, crazy creative and despite the few bad habits she stubbornly clung to, she was an absolute pleasure to know. Her beauty was the early morning dew, the foal tottering around the field, the cubs practicing for the hunt, the softened sea glass awaiting the next tide. He fumbled through ill rehearsed but heartfelt convictions, “Beauty comes in many forms and sometimes people can be insensitive. Yes. You are beautiful. And not just to me.”
She sobbed quietly. Grateful to share this burden that crushed her spirit like none she’d yet felt. She had been guarded with her heart. With boys. Keeping her affections at a safe distance. Now, as she was firmly on the other side of womanhood, she dared reach out and risk herself only to be stung by the bitterness of the pretty quotient. To be told by exclusion that she was not “the pretty one.” She didn’t care to be THAT, but she didn’t want to be NOT that either. “Not pretty” leaves girls in limbo, in a land of nothingness. A place off the edge of the world. The words of a boy, who probably heard that line somewhere and thought it clever, made her feel like everything else about her was worthless. When one is pretty people care what you think. They want to hear you.
Daddy put his arms around her and kissed her head. He had always encouraged her strengths and nurtured her sense of independence but in this he felt helpless to guide her. True beauty is in the poetry of the soul, the compassionate heart, the transcendent mind and yet all he could articulate at this precariously charged moment was, “Beauty comes from within.” This is the beauty of titanium, that becomes stronger and more stunning in the face of ignorance and the storms of doubt. In some way, he hoped this was the beginning of her journey out to the edges of the world, so she would discover, without any doubt, the precious steel of her soul. He whispered into her tousled hair, “Never let the opinions of others shackle your glorious shine.”
PRETTY by KATIE MAKKAI“This is about my own someday daughter. When you approach me, already stung stained with insecurity begging, ‘Mom, will I be pretty?’ ‘Will I be pretty?’ I will wipe that question from your mouth like cheap lipstick and answer, ‘No! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be! And no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent. You will be pretty creative. Pretty amazing. But you…will never be merely pretty.”
Parents—let’s not lose our girls to the cancer of PRETTY. What can we do to help our sons and daughters learn to see and appreciate all forms of beauty in others? Volunteer for differently abled? Travel to countries where you have to dig through industrial refuse to find the sparkle in the eyes? Read works of beauty buried in caverns of folly? The cancer of Pretty haunts girls for a lifetime spinning wheels with makeup, fashion and body alterations, striving for an ideal that is far too narrow and superficial. And it limits the experience of boys who strive for one dimensional partners. How do we realign our girls and our society with values that uplift and celebrate real beauty? The beauty that shines from within?
—first appeared at Lisalabon.com
photo: megan_alys / flickr
by Emily Heist Moss