Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Don't Call Little Girls "Pretty"

Today, I think I'll start with a story.

Without going into too much detail, I just found out a week ago that my grandfather is dying.  He has 3 months to live, supposedly, which isn't at all relevant to this post other than that it explains why all of a sudden my long lost relatives are popping up left and right.  I don't remember half these people, considering I have not seen them in over a decade, so we had to spend a little while going through that awkward, "Oh, how you've grown!  Do you have a boyfriend yet?" stage.

So a couple days ago, my great aunt and uncle came to visit.  But when I went to my grandparents house the for the obligatory couple hours of small talk, the first thing my aunt commented on was how "pretty" I was.  I don't know them well, so we couldn't really do the awkward hugging thing.  They don't know me well, so I guess it was just a good conversation starter, whether it was true or not.  So it got me thinking: is commenting on physical appearance doing more harm than good?

Think about it.  How many times have you complimented a friend on new clothes, or a hair cut, or their manicure?  How many times have you heard your relatives point out your appearance before you're even an arm's length away?

It makes sense, obviously.  The first things humans notice is appearance.  We use appearance to judge people's intentions, thoughts, moods.  We notice changes.  So when your friend comes up to you with a new haircut, you notice.  They expect you to, and if you don't, they point it out.  They want you to compliment them, because that is what society considers "polite". 

We say these things so often that they have become instinct.  You say it, even if you don't mean it.  And in my eyes, it's pointless, and maybe even a little detrimental.

This mostly applies to little girls - you know, before puberty.  My grandmother used to call me pretty all the time.  Or I guess I should say, she used to comment on my appearance all the time.  I don't remember her ever congratulating me on anything that actually mattered, though I'm sure she did.  She probably called me after my 2nd grade awards ceremony, after my choir performances.  But guess what?  I don't remember any of that, because for her, it always seemed like my appearance was the most important thing about me.

I suppose it's not her fault, and I don't blame her, but the point is that those thing stick out in a child's mind.  I remember one time specifically, when we were looking at pictures of me as a baby.  I was around 8 at the time, and she was showing me a picture in which I was 18 months.  I remember her giggling and pinching my arm, saying how chubby I was as a child.  It pisses me off that I remember that.  It pisses me off that I can't remember my kindergarten graduation, but I remember this, as well as all the other negative comments. The mole on my neck, my dirty hair (which was dirty because I was too busy doing all the things kids should do to wash it). 

Not that it was always my grandmother, because it wasn't.  My mom did it too - while trying on clothes, or shopping (gosh, I hated that), or by telling me I could never wear a strapless dress.  Looking back, I wasn't overweight AT ALL.  I was a skinny kid, and I still have a somewhat good metabolism.  I am not complaining about my life by any means, because I had a good childhood, and these days I consider myself a very confident person.  I'm just telling you how it was for me.

I know other girls went through this too, and I know they probably had it worse than I did, in most cases.  But I'm getting off topic again.  Obviously, you shouldn't make negative comments, but how can it harm a girl to tell her she's pretty?

Well, first of all, it doesn't mean anything.  People throw around compliments all day long, and kids especially, are used to being admired.  By dwelling on how "cute" they are, all you are doing is showing them that the first thing and most important thing people will notice about them is their physical appearance.  Not their personality.  Not how hardworking they are.  NO.  These things don't matter, as long as you're pretty, right?

On that note, it makes me want to strangle a kitten when I hear people say, "Oh, you're going to be so pretty one day."  When a child hears that, what do you think it does?  Do you think they take it as a compliment.  NO.  You are simply enforcing the idea that they are not good enough.  But hey, they might be some day.

The crappiest thing of all is that those people who make all the little comments are not at fault.  They are just fellow victims of our close minded, brainwashed society.  Our environment is entirely to blame, and it makes me so MAD.  I know it wasn't always like this.  There wasn't always a bathroom scale behind everyone's toilet.  Girls didn't always learn about how to lose weight before learning what sex was.  People used to just eat when they were hungry.  They used to have bacon with breakfast and cook with lard.  They used to live.

What happened?

Society brainwashed us all. That's what happened.  So now here we are, with anorexia, and heart disease, and God knows what else.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so what business do you have telling a girl whether she's beautiful or not?  Let her enjoy the few years of bliss she will ever have.  Don't you dare tell her she needs to lose weight.  And think it through before you tell her she's pretty.