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We Need to Talk About Makeup

This past Friday, we had friends over for a campfire. In the twilight, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, traded stories, and got soaked by rain.

It wasn’t the most successful campfire, but it was a good visit.

Our friends have 3 kids: Elizabeth is 8, Jackson is 5, and Gretchen is 2. Our families make perfect playmates; our kids have known each other for almost as long as they can remember.

This past Friday, something was different.

Remember when I was worried about Grace’s little girl confidence? Allie said that a Barbie looked like Grace, and Grace responded. I wasn’t sure whether Grace’s response meant she believed it or that she didn’t believe. I wrote:

If she does believe she’s so beautiful, I know that it’s fleeting. All too soon, she will understand that she isn’t pretty enough, that she doesn’t measure up, that she should be thinner, taller, better.

That’s what we all believe, isn’t it?

This past Friday, Grace breezed into the bathroom with her play makeup. 

I asked what she was doing.

“I’m putting on my makeup.”

“Oh you are? Why are you putting on your makeup?” I asked.

“Because I want to look pretty so that Jackson will want to play with me more.”

So that Jackson will want to play with me more.

An elephant sat down on my chest.

I am so not ready for this.

When I looked up, my five-year-old was wearing a rainbow of eyeshadow between her hairline and her eyebrows. Blues, greens, purples, and grays streaked across her forehead.

As the day progressed, she washed and blow dried her hair, washed the initial makeup off, and then applied new makeup, browns and blues and more subtle this time.

And the elephant stayed right in the middle of my chest, settling in a little more every time she appeared from the bathroom.

I projected. The message has gotten in there that she’s not good enough, that she needs makeup to be pretty, to be worthy, to be liked, I thought. Her confidence is broken.

I had a moment of what I hope is clarity at the salon today. Mary, my new hairdresser, said “Do you suppose she’s seen you put makeup on for special occasions?”

Why yes, yes she has.

Grace has seen me putting on makeup for dates with Joe or for church or for my moms’ group. She has asked why I wear it, and I’ve told her honestly that it’s to make my eyes and lips look prettier, that I like the way I look with it, that it makes me feel good about myself.

I need to talk to her about makeup. I also need to stop projecting my insecurities on my daughter.

She was doing exactly what she’s seen me do a couple of times a week for most of her life. Why wouldn’t she emulate what she’s seen?

I’m still not ready for my five-year-old to wear makeup.

How old were your daughters when you let them wear makeup (including play makeup)? Share in a comment.

© 2012 – 2018, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About Makeup”

  1. We weren’t allowed to wear make-up until we were teenagers in my house. Not even lip gloss! Looking back it wasn’t a horrible thing and probably did me good… People didn’t hate me because I didn’t look artificially beautiful, I still had friends.

    I do think the world puts too much emphasis on how we look and I stumbled across this blog post a while ago and it really hit me. (I currently only have 2 boys not girls, but still.) – I think the line “I’m raising you in a world that thinks you’re only as good as you look. And you’re being raised by a woman who is still overcoming these lies herself.” really hit me the most. It is hard to raise someone to not believe what the world teaches us when we are still overcoming it ourselves!

    If I do have a daughter there are a lot of things that scare me to have to deal with… body image being a major one.

  2. My 3 year old is very interested in it when I put on makeup. She asked me why I put on some just this morning. I told her “Because I like the way it makes me look, and it covers up some of the things that aren’t perfect.”
    “When can I wear it?”
    “When you’re old enough. No war-paint until you’re old enough to go to war.”
    I figure about 15 years old is good for lip gloss. Older for the other stuff. As long as you have fresh, childish looks, why muck it up with that stuff?

    • Okay, Cindy. I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or serious. Which is it?

      Incidentally, I was getting ready to go to the Allume conference yesterday, and she asked me if she could help. I hesitantly said yes, and I’m so glad I did. She put blue eyeshadow on my cheeks and blush on my eyelids, and she was so very proud. I waited until I was in the car to wipe it off.

      • Tara, sometimes even I don’t know if I’m being sarcastic or not. She’s three, so I haven’t really put a lot of thought into the makeup thing. I hope to have a good idea what I really think of the subject by the time I really have to deal with it. 😉

        Bravo on the eyeshadow. I probably wouldn’t have thought to be so tactful and would have washed it off right in front of her. I should be more like you.

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