Sunday, August 13, 2006

From as far back as I can remember, my mother tried to teach me that it didn't matter what you looked like or what you wore. As noble as that was, and as glad I am that she taught me to depend on intellect instead of lipstick, there are some flaws.

For a lot of careers, it does matter. There is a certain socialital expectation of grooming and appearance. The studies are out that heavy people earn less than thin. An attitude of, "if they don't care enough to take care of themselves, then how much will they care about the job they do?"

I am guilty of this attitude. It isn't just weight though, it is how well put together someone is and how much thought it appears went into their physical preparation for the day. Ridiculous? Probably.

I have been in a job though where I am in front of people constantly asking for money or promoting the school. Do I think I get a better response when I'm down 10 pounds, freshly highlighted, brows waxed, and suit crisply pressed? You bet I do. Do I choose skirts that hit above the knee instead of below to show a little more leg? Absolutely. Am I ashamed of this? Not in the least.

There was a good reason my mother worked very hard to teach me that you shouldn't judge or be judged by the way you look. Her mother entered her in beauty pageants and found her own self-worth in other people's opinions that her daughter was beautiful. Momma resented it. My mother swung the opposite direction and I spent junior high and high school miserable because my peers ridiculed the way I looked and dressed.

Now, I find myself wanting to provide a happy medium for my stepdaughter. She is 10 and is already asking questions about clothes and zits. She is conscious of her weight and wants to wear clothes that are loose and baggy. She has told me that she is "the biggest girl in her class," and she doesn't mean tall. That part breaks my heart. She is a beautiful girl.

How do you teach a young girl that you will never be happy if you base your opinion of yourself on how others treat you when in order to be successful, you need to learn how to have others treat you with respect and even admiration?

Middle school will be cruel, and I want her to know that she is beautiful, smart, funny, and caring. I also want her to learn to eat right, take care of her body, and choose clothes that she likes and look good on her.

I think the bottom line is that I want for her to have every opportunity. I want for her to take the AG classes, be smart, and at the same time, I want for her to be attractive. Is that wrong? I want for her to be thought of as pretty. Not because I'm that shallow, but because I want her to have the respect that goes along with attractiveness.