This "I Am Beautiful, Girls" thing was something I just sat down and wrote on my personal blog, never dreaming that over half a million people would read it, so it's been crazy. I think that different people get different things out of it, and maybe lots of people read it differently than I meant it. Or something.
But, my point wasn't ever about needing my girls to feel beautiful, according to the way we define beauty. It wasn't about how I'm not really beautiful, but that I'll tell my girls that I am, hoping to trick them into feeling beautiful, even when they're not… like when the boob thing happens or if they get fat, or whatever.
It's important to feel beautiful because we are a nuanced species obsessed with beauty. We're obsessed with the boring trick-biological kind that society sells us, the kind that likes youth and breedablility. We're also obsessed with art and music and color and light and photography and I don't know… artifacts and pottery and city sky lines (of which our very own Pittsburgh's is the best, by the way) and literature and interior design and pink radishes, or whatever. Being surrounded by beauty makes us saner and happier. It makes us better people. It is why we build community flower gardens in collapsing neighborhoods. It is why we go out on Earth Day and clean up the Monongahela Trail.
We find beauty all over the place. We surround ourselves with it. Seek it out. Long for it. Some people die for it. It's important. It is important that we understand that we are a part of the tradition of beauty on this planet. That we are marvels, too, as beings, as people, as bodies, as composites of mutated Hydrogen molecules, as little creatures evolved from the stuff in the belly of a dead star.
It is not important, however, that we feel like princesses. It is not important that we feel like we look good in jeans. It is not important that we feel like we have nice butts, or that our skin is smooth enough and our waists are small enough. It isn't important for me to teach my children to feel physically beautiful. I am trying to teach them that, even if they end up a little funny-looking or something, they should still hold their heads high, and believe they are pretty, somehow. (My children aren't funny-looking, just as a disclaimer.)
The whole point of the "I Am Beautiful, Girls" piece is that… by putting myself down in front of children, I was teaching them that the rigid, unfair and totally moronic standard of human beauty that we're being sold (and eating up with a spoon) is valid. That it is what human female beauty really means. In the whole rest of existence, weird and imperfect things can be beautiful and we pay money to look at them in art museums and hear them live in concert, but in being a woman, only this ONE THING equals beauty. And, since I wasn't beautiful because I was too fat and old and lumpy and saggy, and I'm the biggest role model to my children, and we live in a gross society, one day, they will suddenly decide that, unless they are thin and young and pretty, they aren't beautiful. And from then on, they won't exist within the longstanding and heartbreakingly important tradition of loving and revering beautiful things that is pretty much the meat of our existence.
My deal isn't that I'm not beautiful, but that I want to trick my kids into thinking that I am. My deal is that beauty doesn't mean what we think it does, what I think it does, after existing for a lifetime in a world that sells me my insecurities and laughs all the way to the bank.
We are WIRED to love beauty. Meant to love it. We are TAUGHT (and bought and sold) to love pretty, and dresses, and feeling attractive. Feeling beautiful, for me and in the spirit in of my article, doesn't have anything to do with feeling attractive (or even the slightest bit appetizing.) It's the art installation kind of beauty, only in human form. The kind that, when it's done right, is powerful and sexy and religious without being the slightest bit pretty.