This post is brought to you by my 12 year old daughter’s actions. She amazes and inspires me each day.
I have a policy in my family that make-up can’t be publicly used until they are 15 years of age and are psychologically ready and strong for the stares and comments people will give them.
I live in a country where stares and comments are so common. You could walk down the street and depending on the color of your skin, a man will whistle at you or, he will mumble something very disturbing.
Growing up in this country, I learned real quickly that I was an ugly little girl. I was not told this by my family members, but by the common people. When I left my house for a bike ride, or for a walk in the park, I was told each time without fail that I was one of the “ugly black haitian kids”. As I grew older, that changed. But growing up I very much wanted to be white because my parents were white and I didn’t understand why I had to be black or why I had to live in a country where being black was worse than being a dirty rat on the street.
When I was around 13 years old, I remember biking in the back streets with a child I had decided to foster at an early age (Read the Book Larimar if you want to know more about that story. It is in paperback and on Kindle). Three older boys were running after me. As I peddled my bike faster and faster down the road, I noticed that in front of me there were 4 other boys coming towards me. Both sides had sticks and rocks in their hands. I was nervous and began to sweat profusely. I suddenly had a strong urge to pee. I was stuck, blocked off. I thought immediately “If only I were pretty, they would not do this to me.” In some way I thought it was my fault.
My parents never let us put any kind of make-up on. We could not paint our toes or nails, wear eye-shadow, lipstick, lip gloss, shoes with a bit of platform….side boob shirts, short shorts…..I was not allowed to wear a bikini until I was 18 years of age and even once I turned 18, my mother fought me. It was not the fact that I could not do those things, it was the fact that I could not do those things until I was “out of the house”, therefore making me feel even less of a growing human.
My parents became my first bullies, not allowing me to be who I was and feel pretty about who I was. All around me I felt ugly and was told I was ugly. But they didn’t help the situation. Because I was not able to “fix myself up” or “look like a girl”, I looked like a black boy-all the time. My hair was often unkempt because they didn’t know how to do it properly. I looked like a male rag doll.
My white sisters on the other hand were beautiful. They were stunning (according to me). They were never chased with rocks and stones, they were never called ugly. Growing up, they never had trouble finding a boyfriend….I felt that God did not like me because I was ugly. They were allowed to wear make-up, high platform shoes, paint their toe nails. My view of God was what I was told of him-dress nicely, smile, look pretty. But how could I look pretty if I could not feel pretty? My mother reinforced the no make-up, no this, no that. No NOTHING. I was to “figure it out” for myself. I felt like a nothing for so long.
When I finally was able to use make-up (once out of the house), I felt a whole new me. I realized that as I grew older, I really was not that ugly person other kids and adults would saying I was. I knew that wearing make-up did not make me look like a whore like my mother would tell me. I knew that painting my nails was something that EVERY child should be able to do because that is how they grow and learn about themselves and their own beauty both inside and out.
I can remember the first day I wore a bikini in front of my mother. That was also the day I got contacts so that I didn’t have to wear the huge glasses my mother would force on me. I looked like a princess…tall, dark, thin, and beautiful. My mother was LIVID. She was starting to lose control of someone she had controlled from the day she brought me home from the orphanage. She could no longer tell me how much or when I should eat. She could no longer tell me what I could and could not wear. She could no longer tell me that I was “dumb” for not knowing how to speak my mother tongue. I was beginning to detach myself from her and it felt so good.
I will NEVER treat my daughter the way I was treated. My policy of make-up at 15 has more to do with them learning and being responsible for beautifying themselves. If they want to add to their already gorgeous looks, they may but they need to be aware of what comes with it and of how to do it in a healthy manner. All girls-(and guys for that matter) want to feel pretty and handsome. It is important that they be given a safe and loving environment to do so.
We have make-up in my house. And when my daughter is given more make-up, I don’t grab it from her hands….we celebrate make-up and the idea of “play” in our house. But that is the key phrase: in our house. Because she is 12, she is not ready yet for the world to see an altered side of her. She is not ready for the reactions-she deals enough with reactions from people without make up….one step at a time I tell her. Everything has their time and place.
So, as soon as she comes home from school, she goes into her room and puts on lipstick. Then she joins us in the living room and we continue with the day as per usual. She is free to express herself at home and in public but in regards to make up, we prefer she does it at home, experiment a bit with it first, figure out what colors work on her and what colors not so much. Use eye shadow-work the shades….use mascara, don’t poke your eye out…be a girl, a boy, a person! Learn to love your body first at home, and then be strong enough to know how to respond to positive, negative and sexual comments when you are in public.
My daughter wears nail polish both at home and in public. For me, that is not a big deal. Her friends have nail polish so why can’t she? She learned awhile ago what colors are appropriate for what occasions. Like Bright RED is not appropriate for school, I like her to explore the colors of the rainbow and mix and match because that is part of the fun of being a preteen and growing into a responsible adult. She also makes sure that if she paints her nails, she keeps them looking clean and un-chipped. Wearing make-up inside or outside comes with responsibilities.
I want her to have the opportunities that I did not have as a child. I don’t want her to feel like she is nothing until she is “out of the house”. She is beautiful, smart, and has a great heart. She is something very important, from birth to death.
So, don’t get your white panties in a twist…create boundaries that help your child embrace being who they are and who they will become…..let them be them with guidance. Because that is what is important and that is what it is all about 🙂