Monday, April 25, 2005

On The Subject Of J

When J was just a few months old, I would wait for her to fall asleep before I made a comment about her perfect eye lashes to my mother. She is the only person I would make such a comment to. I have always been circumspect of anything I may have to say on the topic of J fearing I will not be objective being blinded by a mother's love. It is only when an outsider reaches an independent conclusion that I feel vindicated.

That said, I have a problem with a surfeit of positive affirmation that is all over J. She has been told to her face that she is "exquisite", "beautiful", "doll-like" and possessed of "perfect features" among a lot else. While she may still be ignorant of most of those adjectives (thank God for that), she sure gets the drift.

One morning I actually requested Ms K and Ms W at her day care to refrain from gushing over her appearance constantly. They seem to be in perfect agreement with me that J is posed with the risk of turning into a one-dimensional bimbette. I figure I have put the fear of God in them and go to work a very smug and complacent person indeed.

When I arrive to pick her up in the evening, Ms W tells me with a conspiratorial smile "You mark my words, your little J will grow up to be a heart-breaker. She is so beautiful already!" At the time of speaking J is playing hide and seek with two cute little boys entirely oblivious of the future that is being predicted for her.

I am almost about to remind Ms W about the conversation we had not so many hours ago but decide against it. I may in the end get Ms W to desist but I have no control over strangers in grocery stores, my friends, my would-be drinking buddy S (would-be because we have been talking about hitting the neighborhood ale-house "one of these Fridays" for weeks trending months without acting on it. But that is a whole another story), the librarian, my co-worker who upon meeting J and could not stop rhapsodizing over her "perfect beauty" for a good ten minutes. Give me a break, people. The child is only three years and something !

She got back to work and made haste to spread the word on my poor little J like the proverbial wildfire. Before I knew it I was flooded by demands to either bring her into work or show them pictures of her. Thankfully J did not have to weather the maelstrom of praise, "oohs", "aahs" and "wows" that accompanied the viewing of J's online album. Not once did anyone see it fit to compliment the photographer on a job well done. I have to admit that I was a tad hurt by that.

J puts me in a terrible quandary when she looks in the mirror and asks innocently "Mommy am I looking pretty ?" In other circumstances I would have said "Of course you are, child" and left it at that. With so much public brouhaha on the topic to contend with I have to append that. "Remember to be thankful to God for making you the way he did. Being beautiful is not an accomplishment, so never take pride in it. You have to be a good human being first. Physical beauty can fade very quickly if you don't have a beautiful heart" J is busy playing with my makeup and has completely tuned out my disclaimer/addendum. It is like I had never even said it. Talk of wasted words. That was quite a few wasted.

In my head I replay what I just said to a three year old and pity myself for having completely taken leave of my senses. Did I really think she would understand ? An over-zealous single-mother trying to build positive self-image in a girl-child is a tough act in the best case scenario. Mine is the case straight from hell. I know the road ahead will be long and arduous.


Chay said...

Photographers are never given any complains my hubby and so complains Chay as well!!

Enjoy the moments Crossings....Coz you are so right. The difficult task of instilling the right self image is one that you will work at for the rest of your years. possibly even when she has little Js of her own...:-)) But she will be fine. Just trust that she is learning much even as she watches you and your confidence.

SSM...spoken like a truly proud papa!! :-)))

Priyamvada_K said...

Hi Crossings,
"Photographer" may not get credit, but mom may get credit (for passing on some genes - for beauty and/or brains :).

I too dislike this beauty culture, and discourage Kamala from collecting Barbies. But people end up giving those to her as gifts anyway :(.

I guess we just need to keep reinforcing that ultimately, character and accomplishments matter more than beauty.