It appears that last week’s column on beauty ideals for women struck a nerve; in over two years of writing in this space, I’ve never had so much feedback.
There were a few joking comments from men — until I reminded them of their daughters and granddaughters, anyway. The women who commented told me of their own bodily concerns and wondered how we could stop these self-esteem issues with this generation.
The generational issue is weighing heavily on me, as Charlotte’s at the age where she’s starting to catch on to the concept of womanhood. It’s not unusual to see her teetering around in my heels, or trying to swipe a lipstick off my vanity. She’s not much into dolls or dress-up yet, but she does say that she’s pretty when she’s wearing a fancy dress.
And you know what? From her big brown eyes and curly lashes to her crooked smile and round toddler belly, she is so very pretty. I am regularly mesmerized by this little girl Andrew and I created: she is perfect. Yet, I can’t help but hope the best for her physical appearance. Let her inherit Dad’s runner’s legs instead of my sturdy stems. Let her be tall enough that she doesn’t have to hem all her pants. Let her have actual ankles.
Can you tell my bodily issues focus on my lower half? Andrew says that half the battle is in the awareness of my own issues and my determination not to project them on her. After all, I’m somehow leading a fulfilling life. Would I love my girl any less if she walked into adulthood with my supposedly faulty legs? Would I love her any more if she grew up to be one of People magazine’s “most beautiful”?
Maybe I’m hyper aware of all this pressure because I once had a career in the fashion industry, or an education in media studies. Or maybe — much like the women who commented on my column — I live with it, and am subjected to it, on a daily basis. While women (in North America, at least) have never had more political and economic freedom, it seems that culturally, we’re taking a few steps back when it comes to our younger demographic: Toy aisles are increasingly filled with pretty princess items in lurid shades of pink. A poufy dress and a magic wand are all that’s needed to get one’s prince and live happily ever after.
I don’t want Charlotte to feel limited by anything in life. Dressing up and playing with make-up and hairstyles should be a fun expression of one’s personality, not a joyless mission to meet a particular standard of beauty. A healthy diet and plenty of fresh air shouldn’t solely be a means of fitting into skinny jeans, but an ingrained habit to take care of the only body you have, so it supports her in all she does. Her friendships should be nurturing of diversity, not based on constant commiseration of perceived faults and the sharing of diet plans.
Charlotte may call herself pretty, but I tend to call her beautiful more than anything. It happens when her wonderful personality manifests itself on her face. Those moments where she’s made a joke and her eyes sparkle, or she smiles softly when approaching for a hug, are awe-inspiring.
I want her to experience those beautiful moments in herself, so she can feed her own self esteem with accomplishments instead of appearance. Maybe she’ll love dance, or develop a talent for soccer. Perhaps she’ll excel at art, or have a mind for math. Few moments are as beautiful or rewarding as when she realizes that it’s pretty neat to do what she loves best, regardless of what she looks like doing it.
Few foods are as marketed to women as yogurt. There are so many options out there: low-fat, no fat, high fibre, sugar-free… the list goes on. I prefer a short ingredient list and a creamy taste.
Krinos Greek yogurt, made right here in St. Marys by Shepherd Gourmet Dairy, has just two ingredients, a luscious texture and an authentic taste. You can only get it at the factory store off of James Street, and it would be perfect in Greek Tzatziki sauce. It’s great with barbecued pork or chicken, or as a dip for veggies and bread.
1 cup grated, peeled, seeded cucumber
1/8 tsp. salt
2 cups Greek yogurt
2 tbsp. dill
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
pepper to taste
Dry chopped cucumbers on a paper towel, and salt them to absorb water for a few minutes. Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate at least one hour for flavours to intensify.