Growing up, my dad always introduced me as the pretty one. Period.
My sisters were pretty, but they had other attributes he chose to point out when introducing them to friends and business colleagues.
Meet my oldest daughter, Cathy. She’s so sharp. She’ll be an architect, an accountant, or a lawyer some day.
Meet Vicki, my middle daughter. She’s a natural born leader and very intelligent. She’ll be a teacher and make a difference in this world when she grows up.
Meet Christy, my baby, she’s so pretty. Period.
That’s all I ever got. Pretty. Period. It stuck with me my whole life and that label, that concept, has probably, in some way, been transferred into the minds of my own girls. Period.
My whole life, I’ve been consumed with “pretty”. I was afforded all of my opportunities because I was pretty. Period. There could be no other answer. In high school, I made the cheerleading squad. I was captain in fact. It was obviously because I was pretty. Period.
I got good grades in high school and college. I’m sure it was because I was pretty. Period. Pretty people always get everything handed to them. Period.
In my 20s, I got jobs, when there were countless applicants, because I was pretty. I wasn’t the smart one. I certainly wasn’t cut out to change the world. I was just pretty. Period. And people admired that and they gave me all of the opportunities I was afforded because of that. Period.
Surely, I never got anything based on my merits. I couldn’t. I was pretty. Period.
I’m pretty, I’m thin, I’m nice, and GOSH DARN IT…people like me. That’s my life’s platform. I’m afraid that’s what I instilled in my girls. Because…pretty. Period. That thin thing often brings up talk of Body Dysmorphic Disorder amongst my pretty (not-so-period) friends. I’m taken aback, but I get it.
My oldest daughter is thin as a rail, and she’s pretty. My second daughter is struggling with her weight since the birth of her daughter, but by God, she’s pretty. My 7-year-old daughter is basically a stick, but she talks about the fat content in her food despite my constant insistence that she allows me to “worry” about her health while she just enjoys her youth. It’s not pretty. Period.
You see, I don’t want her, or any of them, to worry or stress like I did. My dad, my high school boyfriend (4 long years), and my 1st husband (10 long years) reminded me how important it was that I was thin and pretty. Period. That lead me to years of binging and purging, anorexia and bulimia, that not many people know about. But I was pretty! Period.
It’s a life-long lineage that stemmed from the fact that my dad said I was pretty. Period. Constantly.
As I look back on my life now, at all of my accomplishments, at all of the jobs I’ve secured, at the financially-secure place I am at now, I realize that it wasn’t “pretty” that got me here. Period. Sure, I might have gotten my foot in the door when I was 20 because I was “prettier” than another candidate, but it wasn’t because I was pretty. Period. I got those jobs, those opportunities, because I was pretty intelligent, pretty charming, pretty entertaining, pretty convincing, pretty funny, and pretty damned amazing. Period.
I’m 47 now and “pretty” doesn’t get me far in life anymore. I get me far in life. I always have. Period. The inside of me is so much more powerful than “pretty” and that’s what I want to pass on to my daughters. Even though I’m sagging, my abs will never be what they once were, I’m still pretty. Period.
So, a message to my dad, and to all of the dads (and moms) out there, please don’t just continue to tell your daughters they’re pretty. Period. Don’t ever end pretty with that period. Instead, say, hey baby, you’re pretty amazing. You’re pretty intelligent. You’re a pretty good reader. You’re pretty intuitive. You’re a pretty great family member, friend, and an all around great person. In fact, you’re pretty good at EVERYTHING you do. Period.
Serve your daughters well. We struggle with pretty enough. Please don’t make us think that is the be all and end all of life. We won’t stay pretty, young, and thin forever. We just can’t. Period.
And I’ve finally accepted, despite what I’ve heard my whole life, that I’m pretty freaking amazing. Not just pretty. Period.