Please Don’t Tell My Daughter She’s Beautiful
I have two beautiful children.
I might be biased, yes, but neutral third parties seem to agree. In fact, when we all walk around in public, strangers quite often stop to tell us that we have a “beautiful family.” Correction: They quite often stop to tell my partner that we have a “beautiful family,” as though his sperm deserve more credit than my eggs.
I imagine part of the reason our family turn heads is that we’re multiracial — I’m white, my partner is Black, and my children, in their words, are peanut butter. Not only is there an “exotic” factor, but studies have shown that mixed-race people, like my children, are generally perceived as more attractive.
Still, these studies don’t explain why far more people comment on my daughter’s beauty than my son’s. Sure, some people said he was a beautiful baby — that is, after he shed the grumpy grandpa look he was born with — and throughout his ensuing seven years, people here and there have told him he’s a “handsome young man.”
But people tell my 10-year-old daughter, or tell me in front of my 10-year-old daughter, that she’s beautiful all the friggin’ time. I know these people mean well. With one notable exception, they are not creepy older men with sinister intentions — in fact, many of them are women. It’s possible that most of them are women.
If I’m being honest, my gut reaction to these comments is pride — as though birthing and raising a beautiful daughter is an accomplishment in its own right. If the comment is directed at me, I sometimes say, “Thank you,” because I am used to thanking people when they pay me a compliment.
Then I feel disgusted with myself and disgusted with a society in which the value of female beauty is so deeply ingrained that even feminists, like me, still experience a Pavlovian reaction of pride when someone tells them that their daughter is beautiful.
I try to recover by quickly interjecting, “She loves drawing, especially portraits,” or, “You should see how fast she runs.”
Now, as my daughter enters the stormy waters of adolescence, I frequently feel at a loss. She wants to wear makeup, she has cut a number of her…