Thursday in the New York Times, there was an article in the style section about tween girls getting facials, waxings, blow-outs, and professional make-up applications. And just in case you didn’t know, tweens – in marketing parlance anyway – are 7-12 year olds.
True, the article only talked about twelve year old girls getting driven into Manhattan from Greenwich, Connecticut, to have make-up lessons on the Upper East Side – not 7 or 8 year olds. But twelve is young enough. Young enough for what, you ask? Young enough that it’s just plain awful.
I get that tween girls are growing up faster than they were when I was that age. I mean, when I was that age, the word Tween didn’t even exist. Now, it doesn’t even set off the spell-check. (Which also didn’t exist when I was that age, just so you know.) But I also know that twelve year old girls are just as insecure as ever. That they are figuring out who they are. And as their bodies change – who they will be.
Do we really want them to be so singularly focused on their looks?
What does it say to a twelve year old girl that having great hair and makeup for a Bat Mitzvah party is worth two hours in the car (one there, one back), hundreds of dollars in fees, and the physical pain of an eyebrow wax? What does it mean to a twelve year old girl when a staff of grown women fawn over and serve her for the sake of her looks?
It says that no matter the cost, the time, the classist nature of entitlement it all implies – looks are the most important thing. Beauty above all else. And worse, that even at twelve, their own natural beauty isn’t enough. They need professional make up artists and facialists.
I don’t blame the girls. I don’t even blame the pop culture machine that presents them with impossibly beautiful and perfect role models who are all primped and primed ad nauseum. I blame the parents. I blame the mother in this NY Times story who thinks it’s so perfectly OK to treat a twelve-year-old like a 20 year-old that she put her picture, and her first and last name in The New York Times! I blame the mother, who said that if her daughter was going to put on make up, she could at least learn how.
How about this? Tell your twelve year old daughter she doesn’t need make up at all because she’s beautiful the way she is.
Because she is. And because to be willing to imply otherwise by spending exorbitant time and money artificially altering that natural beauty. Well, you might as well sign her up for a lifetime of feeling insecure. A lifetime of body image issues. And a whole world of misery.