Why Can't We Say We Want Our Daughters to Be Pretty?

Jeanne Sager

high schoolI want my daughter to be pretty when she grows up.

Yes, I said it. 

Why not? You thought it?

In a society that has become focused on celebrating the individual and shunning the Photoshopped models, beauty should be going out of style.

But let's face it -- the pretty girl is still getting the drinks at the bar. And the smiles from the teachers. AND more money from their employers.

Rodney Dangerfield, it seems, would have gotten a lot more respect if he'd been pretty.

So I'll say it again -- I want my daughter to grow up pretty.

Not for me. For her.

It won't make me love her more -- or less if she doesn't turn out gorgeous for that matter. It won't make me buy her more things or show her off more.

But it will make me more confident that she can better navigate the pitfalls of high school where I blundered.

I wasn't a teen knockout. I was overweight -- until bulimia -- with a boyish figure and a big nose. It wasn't until a rebellious shaving incident in my senior year that I found a hairstyle that both suited my face and my tomboy tendencies.

And I was miserable. 

Despite friends. Despite a high grade point average. Despite everything the "experts" tell you will ensure a positive teenage experience for your kids.

Let's face it -- our society sucks. And I can't pretend it away.

I can face facts. Pretty wouldn't have solved my problems. High school is just plain brutal any way you look at it. And the decades have taught me pretty doesn't equal happy.

But it would have been one less strike against me. Very simply: It makes life easier to be pretty.

It's dangerous, sure, to push beauty on your kids, to put your children on restrictive diets, and to harp on their looks at every turn. There's a risk in focusing on their face as though it guarantees a good future, on encouraging plastic surgeries, or even suggesting in their presence that image is everything.

But private wishes exist.

While it's wrong to over-hype your dreams of their law career by forcing them into over-scheduled after-school programs and locking them in their rooms to study, it's acceptable for parents to "wish" their kids that sort of success.

Why? Because it plays into acceptable societal norms, even as "pretty" remains the reason reality stars make $10,000 a Tweet? Because it voices only what others are willing to voice?

In truth, I have two wishes for my daughter, really: pretty and comfort in her skin. To protect her from taunting and teasing. To protect her from eating disorders and depression. 

To protect her so she can focus on the other good things in life. Her brain. Her joy of kicking a soccer ball and building with blocks.

And I don't think it's so bad to admit that. Because let's face it: No one rolls over to their spouse after giving birth and says, "Oh Gawd, I hope this baby grows up to be ugly."

Do you ever think this about your daughter?


Image: high school me

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