I’ve started to tell my daughters that I’m beautiful. I look in the mirror and with them by my side I say,I look good. Saying so is part of believing so. And when I slip on a bikini to take them to family swim night, I say, I like the print, the shape of the strap and I like how it feels. I still can’t say that I love how I look in a swimsuit, but I’m getting there. Three girls later and the map of lines left on my body speaks to me more than just how I grew to offer them a home inside. I’m far from loving these marks of a changed self. But they trace to my heart and all of what I know is true about worth and confidence.
It all begins with hearing the words and learning from those around us. With three daughters, it hurts to know that even on our tiny island there are second graders on a playground talking about diets and exercise. Mama, how old do I have to be to go on a diet? I heard someone tell someone they should be on a diet, said Betty right before supper.
I could have talked her into drowsy and right past tomorrow with words like society, media, image and cliques. I could have made her head spin. She already knows we do our best to eat local and our food has a story to tell with a somewhat-happy ending. She knows exercise means play, breathing salty air and having a good time.
Beauty is more than clean fingernails, Chap-sticked lips, combed hair and blackened lashes. Beauty isn’t lipstick and a sucked-in tummy. It isn’t a different shirt and it isn’t another way to part the hair. It isn’t a little more blush and a whole lot of eye shadow.
I tell our girls it feels fun to be fancy, but it is just as important to be real.
Beauty is in the heart, and people see it when we smile, I say.
But I do like the routine of getting fancy. I like products, lipstick and lip liner. I like getting my nails done. I like a shower shelf stocked with options. I like night cream as much as I like body glitter and a feathered brush.
I was raised by a woman of a different generation. My mama doesn’t go outside without makeup, and now she texts me from another coast to ask how my hair looks. She wants to know if I’m combing it. It’s taken me almost a lifetime to realize that’s her way of checking in. She wants to know if I’m taking a moment to look in the mirror. Do I like what I see?
These days, some mornings are spent in heels and some in pajama pants. They don’t hear me say words like diet and extra pounds. I don’t stare at my stretch marks, and I don’t name new wrinkles. I do ask them to comb my hair and to pick out my lipstick. And when they tell me I’m beautiful, even in a knit cap and a hoodie, I downright believe it.