Every few months, the pink debate seems to rear it's ugly head on the internet. It's always there to some extent. Should we actively encourage girls to pursue less "girly" things. To avoid wearing pink or purple, or decorating their rooms with unicorns?
My family did this, though without much fuss. My mother just never took my brother or me to the toy store. I honestly don't remember even seeing Barbies or pink Legos, or whatever else is supposedly in that dreaded aisle. To her, that seemed to be the easiest way to avoid all the pink nonsense. So I grew up without Barbies or playhouses, and without regrets about it either. It's not something I feel like I missed out on.
But my family took that anti-pink policy to something of an extreme. No only did I not have "girly" toys, anything associated with appearance was sort of taboo in my house. No makeup. No cute shoes. No good clothes. We did not discuss our looks, ever. My mother wore makeup for work, but I never saw her put it on. It was like this secret, slightly shameful thing she had to do to maintain a professional appearance, but she wasn't comfortable with it. She was a hippie, I can't blame her for feeling that way.
But I received too strong a message: that any vanity was bad.
And so, in the spirit of Throwback Thursday, I present this:
Yes, that's me, probably age 11. Wearing a turtleneck beneath my basketball uniform...
Why? My Dad was the coach for my team - why would he let me walk out of the house looking like that?
Because that's all I had. When you take vanity, or lack of, to such an extreme as we did in my house, you start to look down on basic things like clothes. We never went shopping, not for lack of money, but because we didn't like it. You get exposed to the pink debate if you go shopping. So instead of buying me a basic t-shirt, I had nothing to wear beneath my basketball jersey except the same shirt I wore for my school uniform.
I told this story to my parents the other day and they didn't believe me.
"There's no way we would let you wear a turtleneck while you played basketball," they said.
To their credit, they were sort of horrified when I whipped out this picture.
I'm not mad. It didn't ruin my life. It many ways it helped me, I think. I had to have a tough skin in middle school looking like that with my home-cut bangs, my turtlenecks, and my high-water pants. My parents just didn't see it at the time. They were focused on teaching us new things; making sure we were creators and not just consumers. They were working hard at their careers.
My Mother was the world's best role-model for a little girl. She was smart, well-respected at work. She had interests and friends. She was warm and friendly. She's still all of these things. But she didn't have time for appearances back then, and neither did my Dad.
Eventually, I just had to figure it out for myself. I budgeted some babysitting money to buy t-shirts from the Gap and jeans from American Eagle. I got my hair cut by a professional. I didn't start wearing makeup until grad school, but I taught myself how with youtube videos. Now I like the way I look, but only because I gave myself permission to be a little vain.
So don't thumb your nose completely at the pink debate. It's ok to want to look nice or appropriate. Please don't teach your daughters that they're being frivolous or "girly" (I hate how that's become an insulting word!) if they want to look nice. Balance, people. It's all about balance.
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