Friday, December 11, 2009


My daughter has an interesting idea of pretty. She adorns the house with toys, jewelry, scarves... even the bright green plastic tweezers from her Animal Hospital kit. I find little items strewn along the windowsill, draped from doorknobs and closet doors, and sprinkled across the floor.

Genuinely giggle-inducing is the fact that these actions are accompanied by a sort of hopping, skip-like, bouncy dance set to a repetitive chant of "Christmas is coming!" Bright eyes, big smile, and an air of importance and urgency. She must get the house ready, after all.

I have not decorated this year. Our apartment is tiny and we are out of town very soon, and so we opted not to do a Christmas tree or to unpack the "holiday" boxes currently stuffed into our tiny storage locker in the shared garage. I say "we" meaning me and my husband; clearly, our daughter has other intentions.

What interests me most is seeing how she connects the season with the act of adornment - as if festooning the house with some form of celebratory chachki ensures Santa will come and merriment ensue. "Isn't it pretty?" she asks, beaming because she already has the answer firm in her mind. Yes. It's beautiful!

Today I began thinking about how "pretty" will change as she gets older. She will begin to decorate herself, rather than the house. Adorn her skin with makeup, her ears with jewelry... carefully consider the clothes she wears, the hairstyle she sports.

Just as her concept of "Christmas pretty" and its attendant display across the house was shaped, in large part, by my decorating sensibilities and that of her relatives... so too will her concept of her own prettiness and what it means to be beautiful be shaped by all manner of outside influences. Movies, television, magazines, friends, significant others, and the multiple contexts within which she will travel: school, extracurriculars, work, etc.

And so it was in all this contemplation of my daughter I smacked right into my own concept of beauty and all my attachments to pretty. I think nearly all of us struggle with some form of insecurity about our physical appearance. We all yearn to be pretty. Desirable. Collectively labeled and culturally agreed-upon as beautiful.

I think my daughter is beautiful. Cute and magnetic; charming and powerful. She knocks my socks off daily, and I marvel at the way her insides transform her outsides so that she is lovely - through and through.

I'm not sure she'll be a conventional beauty though. I think her prettiness will be unique, distinct, unusual. And probably something only noticed by some people - not universally agreed upon or heralded the way some folks may be.

And that's ok with me. It took me a long time to accept that about myself, but I finally got to it. No matter the size of my body, the shape of my hair, the smoothness or lack thereof in my skin. I am who I am. Most days now, I can honestly accept that - some days I even wholeheartedly embrace it. (And in the last year or so I have realized the great secret of life is: Everyone is beautiful. Truly.)

But as I watch my daughter and ponder the future, I mentally cross my fingers and hope like mad she will figure all of it out sooner than I. It would save her a lot of heartache. Head off a lot of bad decisions, misguided loyalties, and deeply hurt feelings. And it would fill my heart with joy to have her come to me, adorned with all manner of outward decoration, and ask, "Don't I look pretty?" "Yes," I will say happily. "You are beautiful."

May you feel attractive today - inside and out. May the beauty of others surprise and delight you.


  1. Speaking as someone who said, at age nine, "Mommy, I'm fat," and received the answer: "Yes, you're getting a little bit big" -- thank you for being conscientious with your own daughter. It makes ALL the difference.

    And I think Ari's a stunner. Inside and out. Everyone will notice... except those too narrow-minded to notice. And why would she want to associate with those ignoramuses? :)

    P.S. my verification word was "PRO EAT." Haaaa! Indeed.

  2. There are people in the world who simply make you feel good the moment you see them. They are full of joy and the entire room begins to vibrate with it the moment they enter. I long to be one of those people and my new year's resolution is that I am going to try. I think my model will be Ari. She can teach me this because she has it in spades. She is full of happiness and compliments and they are totally sincere. She loves my vacuum! She gives me the spontaneous "Noelle, i love you so much!" She spreads joy wherever she goes. What a gift.
    Also, I think she's adorable and I think she'll turn heads. My hope is that she won't even notice that type of superficial attention.

  3. Rachel: I hear ya. I was teased at home constantly and grew up with quite a complex about my weight. I really really really don't want to create the same dynamic in my own family. Hopefully, Andy and I will always communicate to Ari she is beautiful in all ways... just as she is!

    Noey: Thank you so much. I know exactly what you're talking about and I aspire to emulate it too. There's such a sincere joy sometimes about the world around her... and the smallest little things. It's really wonderful. I told Andy about the vacuum - one of the strangest things she has said she liked so far! Took me totally by surprise. Not the "I love you" part though. She tells me she loves you, Lily, and Jack even when you guys aren't around. ;)