Pretty Girl

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My daughter has recently decided that she does not want to be pretty. She REALLY doesn’t want to be called beautiful and heaven help you if you suggest that she might want to wear a sundress or even a shirt with flowers on it. I generally dress up for work, wearing dresses several days a week, and she has taken to looking at me and saying “ugh, why do you always want to look so beautiful all the time?”

She likes to be told she looks “regular”. She doesn’t object to being called handsome, because I think she associates that word with her brother being called handsome and she worships the ground he walks on. Sometimes she’ll wear a dress if I assure her that it is a very ugly dress. She decided the dress in the picture above was ugly enough to wear because it doesn’t have any flowers on it.

I’m not quite sure what to make of this phase, if I am being honest. A part of me is sort of frustrated about it because last summer she wore dresses almost everyday so I bought a lot of dresses for this summer and there are some VERY cute dress with tags still on them in her closet that I fear she’ll never wear. I’ve never really dealt with a child who has opinions about clothes before. My son will still pretty much wear whatever I buy him and the items he has rejected are few and far between. Theoretically, I’m on board with either of my children wearing what they feel most comfortable with. Actually, and maybe this is A Thing I Need To Work On, I’m bummed that my daughter doesn’t want to wear some of the cute stuff I’ve bought her.

I think the bigger thing I wonder about with this phase is what does it mean to her to “look pretty” and why does she so strongly want to reject it? I don’t think it is a gender identity thing (she doesn’t really express a desire to be a boy)(and we’d be okay if she did) other than that she is aware of it as a word people use for her and not her brother. Maybe it is an outgrowth of her brother worship?

In some ways, I find it is sort of refreshing that she doesn’t think pretty is the most important thing to be. She is happy to tell you that she is a nice friend and smart and strong– these are all things I want her to like about herself. I don’t want her to ever worry about whether she is pretty enough or not. Too many women I know, including myself, know all too well that the pursuit of pretty enough is expensive, damaging, and exhausting.

It occurs to me as I am writing this that perhaps my fear isn’t some much that it is weird that my daughter doesn’t want to be pretty as much as it is that she’ll think of herself as the opposite of pretty. Feeling ugly, being certain that you are ugly…well, welcome to my brain in junior high and high school and college. Feeling unpretty felt pretty crappy to me and whether or not looks should matter, I can tell you that it mattered A LOT when it came to my mental health in those years.

I can’t help but look at my girl and think she is beautiful, inside and out. She is strong and funny and silly and tenderhearted (and willful and sassy and with a streak of stubborn) and, yes, she is pretty too.

Just don’t tell her that.

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