One of my nurse practitioner friends pointed out some “sexy” princess reward stickers at work today. And how they were a little ridiculous. I agreed. What happened to their floor length princess dresses? Snow White looks like she may have acquired a couple of STDs, perhaps from the seven dwarfs? Their dresses got traded in for cropped tops and short skirts. These were the “teen princesses.” Scantily clad with pouty lips, and just wrong on many levels. I proceeded to discuss how it somewhat offends me to even give out Barbie dolls. Maybe I’m getting kind of old in my age. No woman looks like them. No girl should try to aspire to be them. They are not real.
I can’t help but wonder if our culture’s obsession with girls being pretty and princesses and perfect has also created women who fear aging, fear having confidence in their imperfections and who strive for the unattainable. I didn’t have any Barbies of my own growing up, but, ironically, I get to clean them every weekend at work. Co-workers tell me, “Stop playing with the Barbies.” I’m typically looking for Ken’s pants. Where do they always go? To be honest, Barbies drive me a little crazy with their perky boobs, little waists and high-heeled tiny feet. I think if they could talk they might say, “Let me out! I don’t wanna make out with Ken anymore. I’m tired of standing on my tippy toes.” I could be wrong… They may just want some fries and a milkshake.
It worries me that girls today are being nudged to grow up too fast. And made to feel like they need to look pretty and perfect. Or look sexy, pseudo-mature, a lot older than their chronological age. I don’t have young girls, but I once was one. A long time ago. I loved playing “heart and soul” on the piano, making up dances, playing house, climbing trees, playing sports, riding bikes, wading in creeks and a ton of other stuff. I hardly ever wore matching clothes. I don’t think it mattered to me. In fact, I had this one pair of flowery jeans as a kid that I wore all the stinking time. My nine-year old niece actually texted me the other night and asked if I would give her permission to wear her favorite shorts several times a week. Her mom had told her about my love and bi-weekly wearing of my flowery jeans. I texted her back, “Of course you can. Send me a picture.” When the hot weather rolled around, I cut those jeans off into new-ish shorts. Made perfect sense to me. I was hardly a fashionista. More like a tomboy. My sisters’ closets typically offered me my best chances at a good outfit.
To this day, I love dressing up for about fifteen minutes or so. Then, I want to put my hair in a ponytail and throw on some jeans and flip-flops. It’s too much pressure to try to walk and talk and wear high heels. All at the same time. It’s hard for me to do my head back, open mouth, ungirly like hard laughing without falling down. Or rolling an ankle. My feet admire women that wear them everyday. I also applaud women who can accessorize and put an outfit together that just looks awesome. Similar to my admiration for musicians, artists and others who have natural gifts that I just do not possess.
I know that I have told little girls, nieces and friend’s kids, even girls in the grocery store, “you look so pretty.” I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing if I am telling them something else empowering also. I try to be more observant, and notice and recognize other characteristics too. I hope if you know a girl, or meet a girl and have the ability to influence that girl that you tell her how smart, creative, funny, brave, amazing, strong or perfectly imperfect she is a lot more times than you tell her that she’s pretty. That way, she doesn’t have to feel like her whole self-worth lies in being “pretty.” Acting pretty. Talking pretty. Or pretending to be pretty. Being pretty to me strictly defines an outward appearance. Flowers are pretty. Women have so much more to offer the world than being pretty. Women often possess limitless grace, indescribable beauty, and a gentle strength that reveals itself when given the opportunity. When encouraged, nurtured, and respected, girls and women possess the power to change the world.