They came down with their faces covered in makeup.
Pink blush smeared across their cheeks, gray eyeshadow swiped along their eyelids, and even through their pride, I could see that the gooey pink lipgloss was already annoying them.
They’d never admit it.
The thing about babysitting is that you learn a lot about parenting. You learn a lot about loving the right way – and the wrong way. You learn the art of blocking your ears to whining because if you didn’t, you’d probably flip your lid.
You also learn when – and how – to live out the theories you worked so painstakingly to create for the past however-many-years-you’ve-lived.
[Now that’s some little-girl makeup I can get behind. Photo: Jean-Paul Gaillard]
I knew a boy in college whose earnestness was unsurpassed. He chose his words carefully, he chose his theories with the heart of someone who cared almost too deeply to survive this world. He had all these ideas.
But he didn’t know how to live with them, really.
His desire for equality was constantly bumping up against reality, against young women on campus who didn’t understand. Why doesn’t he hold the door for me? I’d hold it for him!
Once we talked about high heels. He told me I should never wear them, that they were used to make women vulnerable, that it was all about “The Man.” I laughed and said, “Well, I like the way I look in heels. I don’t care what men think!”
“But you should!” he said, sounding concerned. “That’s the problem: everything is defined by what men think.”
And while his theories were right and his heart was right, I did look pretty good in a pair of heels and I continue to throw on a pair when I so feel like it.
Theory vs. Reality.
~ ~ ~
And here these girls stood before me with faces shining (although perhaps less-so due to the powder they’d covered them with). My mind raced to all the implications:
I hate it. Even though I use it. I hate it.
She’s only seven.
What is WITH this culture that makes young girls so obsessed with how they look?
And this will lead to more makeup and tight clothes and endless dieting and weird walks and hilarious but awkward flirting and…and…and…
I took a deep breath.
I looked at their smiling rouged-up faces, and I said,
“Looks like someone’s been playing with Mom’s makeup.”
And they giggled and ran up the stairs.
Maybe someday I’ll talk to her about looks and culture and men and living fully.
Maybe someday I’ll teach her how to put on blush so she doesn’t look like a clown.
Maybe someday I’ll be able to show her that she is as beautiful when she is telling me a story as she is when she’s wearing that fluffy floral dress.
But today she is seven and she has a friend over. Today she is playing at adulthood and laughing.
Today is not the day.