Poetry Slam by Katie Makkai
"God forbid you be an ugly girl
'course too pretty is also your doom,
'cause everyone harbors a secret hatred
for the prettiest girl in the room. " - Ani DiFranco
If you haven't watched the video clip I started with today, then please do. It's short, and powerful as a jet engine.
It's one of the pitfalls of having a daughter. If I'm not careful, what I praise most during our days together are her looks: Is that my pretty girl? What a cute smile! Hey there, pretty girl! And then sometimes I catch myself, and say: Look how smart you are! Good job figuring it out! But it's not the first thing that springs to mind.
In some ways, that's okay, because Maeve is beautiful, and I don't mind telling her so. There's nothing at all wrong with being beautiful. The danger, I think, comes in what importance we attach to appearance. I mean, if she got the best of both our genes as far as looks go, Maeve will be a real stunner. But that's not my fondest hope for her.
I want Maeve to know that pretty is really just a drop in the bucket of personality. That who she is, how she treats others, and her own little well of creativity and spark, these are what come together to make a person into a real gem. And I'll have to shout it loud to be heard over school and friends and TV, but I can do loud just fine.
What a balancing act it's going to be, raising a daughter! I can't neglect to tell her how beautiful she is, but I can't make it seem like it's all that matters. And what do I tell her, that people don't care how you look? Of course they do. That the world is a superficial popularity contest your whole life? Well, it isn't, not unless you let it be. High school ends, but for some people the high school mentality never does. It's not true that your looks matter nothing in life, but it's also not true that you have to be pretty to succeed.
I guess the best I can do is be myself, be feminine and have my own style, but be known for my love of words and learning. I think, at least I hope, that who I am will speak more loudly to my little girl than anything I can say to her. She is, of course, the most utterly gorgeous little rosebud I have ever seen, but I know she'll find a way to blossom into something stronger, smarter, and more amazing than any bloom I could imagine.