Thursday, April 12, 2007

Girls are pretty

Next Wednesday I'm the mom in charge of the girl scouts meeting. Meaning that each family is supposed to volunteer to lend their expertise and help the girls fulfill the requirements to earn a badge. Apparently I was channeling Amy when I offered to do this, as I selected the "Looking Your Best" badge. (Oh, and it looks like Amy and I are mind-melding again, as the question about waxing and Amy's answer will definitely resemble this post a bit.)

I looked over the badge requirements with Susie last night, and the activities look pretty good. One activity is to try on different accessories to see how they change the way your outfit looks, another has each girl write down a "hygiene routine", and there's another one in which girls cut out pictures (from magazines) to create a collage. Girls also have an opportunity to ask adults of different ages about their skin care routines. Susie really wants to do the "circle of friends" activity in which each girl gets compliments from the other girls.

But there's a little piece of me that feels a little creeped out, like we're starting too young. (Disclaimers will here's the first: I 100% support the Girl Scouts and think the activities are well-designed and developmentally-appropriate, so we're only dealing with my women's-studies-minor former-non-leg-shaving-non-makeup-wearing feminist hang-ups, and I know that but it's still bugging me. Run-on sentence much? Gah!)

There are girls in this troop who are already well into the world of puberty. A couple of them have had breast development for over a year. And Susie herself is already showing some signs of hormone increases: poor girl, she seems to have inherited her dad's and my genes, so she's breaking out a bit. Why, then, would I have any objection at all to a discussion of hygiene and skin care?

I think it's because there's a door that, once opened, can't really be closed. These girls, or at least MY girl, have an innocence and freedom right now that is going to be destroyed by middle school. They're not terribly worried about how they look right now. Susie's little breakouts don't bother her at all. She spends very little time getting ready for school and doesn't look in the mirror much. In a couple of years, that won't be the case. She'll agonize about each blemish, she'll fuss over her hair, and she'll cry if I don't let her wear makeup.

But then again, maybe she won't. She might, just might, keep her wits about her as she develops. If I encourage a sensible skin care routine now, before the awful awkwardness of adolescence advances, perhaps she won't have the acne issues her father and I had at the same age. If we discuss society's ideas about beauty now, maybe she won't concern herself with trying to emulate supermodels. If we talk about real beauty, about taking care of and honoring her healthy, strong body, about eating sensibly, about drinking enough water, about exercising and sunscreen and things that EVERYONE should do (and yes, by everyone I'm including boys), maybe she'll keep a sense of perspective and pride in her physical self.

But here's the problem, in a nutshell. Would my husband ever be asked to help a group of boys work on this type of badge? (And yes, I'm kind of looking for an answer, having no experience with boy scouts of any type.) There's an assumption that we need to talk to girls about looking their best, while we cast a blind eye at how horrible and sloppy and stinky the boys are. ("Boys will be boys," right?) Maybe we're doing the boys a disservice. Maybe they'd enjoy, and benefit from, such a discussion.

And then, on yet another hand (I'm using other people's hands at this point), I love this stuff. Makeup? Fun! Skin care? Fascinating. Accessories? Hooray! I can waste a day browsing the Sephora website. My side of the bathroom vanity is, well, a shrine to vanity. I like to look pretty and dress up and put on lipstick. And that's why I offered to lead these activities anyway!

This is why I love having a girl. It's complicated and exciting and exhilarating and hard, but I'm so glad I get to do it. Watch out, world. These girls? Are awesome.


Anonymous said...

I am really shocked about GS having a badge in this particular category. Has no one in the GS hiercarchy read Reviving Ophelia? A badge in "hygeine" would make sense, for every scout but I think you bring up an interesting question about what may be a double standard. (I say may be because we have not heard from any BS people about this.)

There is something creepy about being with a man wo spends more time in the bathroom or in front of a mirror than I do.

alan said...

that's messed up. the girl scouts now officially creep me out.

alan said...

and another thing...

wikipedia is very helpful - they have a list of boy scout merit badges. No, there isn't anything like that for the boys, but there is a basket weaving merit badge.