Zadie Smith’s daughter Kit is just seven years old. But already, Smith has had to bring in a rule to stop Kit spending too much time in front of the mirror.
The UK author recently noticed that it was taking Kit a lot longer than her brother Harvey to get out of the house in the morning.
“I saw that she had just started spending a lot of time looking in mirrors,” Smith said at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last weekend. “It was infuriating me. I decided to spontaneously decide on a principle: that if it takes longer than 15 minutes, don’t do it.”
She says she didn’t want to give Kit “a big lecture on female beauty”, but she did want to save her time.
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“I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this. Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a sh*t if you waste an hour and a half doing your makeup.”
It’s scary to think of a seven-year-old girl spending more than 15 minutes in front of a mirror trying to make herself look beautiful. In fact, it’s scary to think of a seven-year-old trying to make herself look beautiful at all. Seven year olds should just be doing stuff, not worrying about how they look while they’re doing it. But I guess this is our world now. When teens have perfect hair and perfect pouts in their Instagram photos, that’s what these younger kids are aspiring to.
One of the greatest things my mother ever did for me was to not wear makeup (apart from one pink lipstick that she applied on special occasions). I grew up believing that makeup was optional. By her example, my mum taught me that it was what was inside my head that mattered, not what was on my face.
I never experimented with makeup at high school, which gave me more time for other things. (I probably spent that time reading Flowers In the Attic and all its sequels, but still, it was time.)
When I got to my late teens I started wearing makeup, and I ended up in a TV job where I couldn’t avoid it. But it’s easy to learn how to put on makeup. It’s harder to learn how to feel comfortable without it.