What We Tell Little Girls vs. What They Should Know

I believe it was Second Grade when I got my first pair of glasses. They were little plastic frames, almost translucent, but with a hint of purple. I used to be so embarrassed about needing glasses.

The 1990s provided me and my fellow little girls with campaigns about “Inner Beauty” mattering most. So, I began masking my insecurities by pretending that all I cared about were my smarts and my heart.

That only worked until college, when I met someone whose opinion I began to value highly. I remember sitting in the car with him one day and asking him, “Why did you choose me?” — hopefully expecting one of those romantic answers I’d heard in the movies.

After thinking a while, he turned to me and said, “Because I saw your potential.”

I don’t know if it was winter then, but I remember feeling like the whole world had frozen in that moment.

His wasn’t the, “because you’re you!” response that all those Inner Beauty campaigns had led me to believe he’d say.

Yet, I swallowed his words like a bitter pill. Those Inner Beauty campaigners, I thought, didn’t live in my real world, where smart boyfriends with my religion and a good job are hard to come by. He told me I’d be prettier if I wore contacts, so I got them. One birthday, he took me to the mall and bought me makeup. Me; a girl who only sometimes wore chapstick.

There’s more ugliness to this story, but you’re smart; you know what happened to him.

Time passed. I met, and dated, and became engaged to my now-husband. Several times, he encouraged me to wear my glasses at our wedding, and I would laugh. I’d chalk it up to his a.) not thinking about nightmarish glasses glare in wedding photos, and b.) his characteristic “dare to be different” spirit — an admirable quality, but not appropriate in this situation.

I mean, hello: I had to be pretty on our wedding day.

Three years under his influence, though, has been a grace.

This week, I got a pair of glasses that feel like “me”, and I finally understand what Dan wanted me to see three years ago:

It’s not right to cut ourselves in half — an “Inner Core” and an “Outer Shell”.
It’s not right to tell ourselves that one matters, while the other is just a sad coincidence.

I am a person, and my whole being is me.
When I am happy to be myself, I am prettiest.

How many girls need to know that?

 

I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. – Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn 1954, sailing on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland
Audrey Hepburn 1954, sailing on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland
Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire on the set of Funny Face
Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire on the set of Funny Face
AudreyHepburnLaughing
Billy Wilder, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden on the set of Sabrina
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