Abigail & I are facing the sink mirror in the Grape Bubble Yum colored bathroom at San Roc Cay, taking a break from our gumbo and shrimp dinner at Fiddlefish. Her blond pageboy is in disarray from hours in the pool with her daddy and probably too much sand and not enough shampoo. Her freckles, which herald summer as much as the high temperature and humidity, are sprinkled across her nose. Her eyes are reflecting the royal blue shirt she’s wearing. She has the tiny leather purse that she picked out in Rock City earlier this month slung across her left shoulder. It reminds me of those “date purses” that I used to have in the 80s – large enough only for a quarter for a phone call and a house key. She reaches into it and pulls out her tube of barely there sparkly lip gloss. When we bought the gloss, she begged for the bright pink color but there are some things I don’t budge on and lipstick for seven-year-olds is one of them, so the barely there lip gloss won out over the Pink Pigeon. As she pulls the small tube out, she purses her lips in the universal female sign of lip-stick application.
“I’m going to freshen up my lipstick, Mommy!” she says and then wrinkles her brow. “Mommy, do you ever freshen up your lipstick when you’re out and about?” I don’t really have an answer for that – I’m not sure when the last time I was out and about. But, she moves on quickly to her next question, so I’m spared from responding. “Do you know why I love to wear make-up Mommy?” Not really….is it because you’re a twenty-one year old masquerading as a first grader? Because you’re already more interested in fashion and beauty tips and accessories than your tween sister? Because I let you watch too much Disney Channel? Because I haven’t prevented you from buying into beauty stereotypes? Because I have failed and should turn in my modern feminists of America card? Again, she answers before I’m able to form a response from the voices in my head.
“Because, mommy……” she says, sharing her conspiratorial secret with me, “I want to be JUST.LIKE.YOU!” Huh? What? I am not a girly girl. Oh wait, maybe I am. I do love make-up. A new bottle of nail polish, particularly in a brilliant color, can make me smile. The girls joke that my earring collection looks like a jewelry store. And don’t even get me started on my life-long love of shoes….shoes…shoes. I forget that part of myself because I tend to define myself as nerd, focusing more on my computer programming skills and absent-minded professor personality than on my love of all things sparkly (glitter is, and has always, been my friend!) So, here I stand, realizing that the parts of myself that I don’t really consider import are reflected in my precious daughter.
And my stomach drops and I start thinking about that Verizon ad that made the rounds on social media this weekend (link). It illustrates beautifully what happens when you tell a girl repeatedly that she’s pretty and then there’s the bombshell at the end where the teenage girl completely ignores the science fair poster as she checks her reflection in a window and, you guessed it, freshens her lipstick. I think about all the statistics about girls losing interest in math and science as they grow up and start to gravitate toward my “gender appropriate pursuits”. Oh my gosh! I have ruined Abigail for life – she’s never going to be a biochemist or a mathematician or develop the next great programming language and name it after her mother (you’ve got to admit, Daphne is as good a name for a language as ADA or PASCAL or PERL, right?) Because I’ve shown her that I love makeup, I have completely destroyed her future in science or technology.
Abigail finishes with her “makeup” and we head back into the restaurant and finish our dinner. I’m still mulling over our bathroom discussion when we get home and I wonder about the best way to handle it, how to show Abigail that beauty is just one facet of life.
I head out to the back porch and get back to work with my orbital sander on the tables that I’m refinishing. Abigail follows behind me and I see her wandering around the yard, gathering up a bucketful of random things. I don’t pay too much attention but I see, over my dust mask, that she is sitting under her geodesic dome, arranging her things.
“Hmmm….” I hear her say. “I think I need something heavier. I know!!! Some hand weights will be perfect!” She runs back in the house, comes back out with a 5 pound barbell, and heads back to the dome. A few seconds later I hear her call for her sister. “Gracie! I need your help! As soon as the water hits this bucket, I want you lift it up quickly so it doesn’t spill.” I set down the sander.
“What are you doing?” I ask, with genuine curiosity.
“I am building a dog washing machine. See….you use this catapult to get the water quickly from the sand bucket into the big, dog-washing bucket. I was using the kickboards to knock over the little bucket but they weren’t heavy enough so I’m going to try the weights.”
I watch, fascinated, as she shoots a rock from her hand-held catapult made from one of my spare dust masks (and I’m thinking this is more a sling shot than a catapult) and the rock hits the precariously-angled weight which hits the small, water-filled bucket tipping it into the the large dog-washing bucket that Gracie quickly tips up so no water is lost. Abigail shrieks with pure, unadulterated joy. “IT WORKS!!!!! IT WORKS!!!!! IT WORKS!!!! DADDDYYYYYYY!!!! Come outside and watch! MY MACHINE – IT WORKS!!!!” And Steve watches as she repeats her success and we all marvel over the wonder of her machine.
And I sit there, on the porch, surrounded by power tools and sawdust, and smile. My daughter, who I worried only two hours ago was lost forever to the evils of lipstick and high heels, has just built a Rube Goldberg machine. I don’t think I need to have that multi-faceted beauty conversation with her, at least not tonight. Seems she has as many facets as a big sparkly girly girl diamond. A diamond that she would probably wear on her perfectly manicured nail and then slip off to reflect light to ignite a fire to start a bunsen burner. Facets, indeed.