But an interesting thing happened with just this second outfit I tried to capture quickly amid the chaos of that.
Someone else wanted to play dress-up, too.
Growing up, I don't remember spending a lot of time watching my mom get dressed or do her make-up or anything. Sure, there was some of it -- we were pro shoppers together -- and I do remember liking hanging out in her closet, and one time when she described some make-up techniques to me in my pre-teens ... but I feel like I learned a lot of what I know because I sought it out.
Like most tween girls, I was fairly obsessed with magazines like Seventeen where I caught a lot of "tips" on how to dress (to impress boys) and wear make-up styles (that boys liked) and stories about how to handle unrequited crushes, etc (read, boy fever). I also remember picking up booklets near the teen-marketed make-up in the aisles of superstores that literally spelled out how to use the products. This was before YouTube, children. You needed another female (or in my case, sponsored literature) to teach you the ropes.
The '90s were a tough time to be a young girl, let me tell you. The epitome of femininity was Britney Spears. Add in a great deal of body issues and a lack of self-esteem and LORD. My early teen years were hard. It's really not a wonder at all that the whole pop-emo-punk scene appealed to me. It was an easier sartorial choice to make regularly, plus more accepting of differences and encouraging in trying non-mainstream things. Plus I loved the music, but I'm not going down that memory lane right this second. That whole scene allowed me to experiment with my appearance and how I presented myself in a way I think some women never actually afford themselves, out of fear, maybe, or the deep-seated lessons taught to us as young girls through glossy magazines that our bodies are for male consumption, and therefore we must dress the part.
SEE WHAT I DID THERE.
So in a lot of ways, I feel like I earned the style I have, the DGAF attitude about what I wear and how I wear it. And this is part of why I consider my appearance a feminist one -- I wear what I wear because I like it, because it makes me feel good ... not because someone told me it's going to get some man's attention. Now, because of how I'm built, sure, that happens, but it's not my intent, and as I've gotten older I've become much more vocal about telling dudes who cross the line as much. My body is mine to do with as I please and Imma do just that, thanks.
I identify as kind of hard femme. I like looking pretty, or stylish, or even sexy, with my own edge. And I do it for me.
Yet somehow, I didn't think too much about the little eyes watching me this whole time, as I've embraced my own style and my own body more and more.
I should have seen it coming -- how she always tells me I look pretty or beautiful when I'm on my way out the door to work, finding some detail of my outfit to comment on (usually my jewelry, but sometimes it's the pattern of my skirt or the color of my dress) and her approval sounds genuine. How she likes to sit and watch me put on my make-up in my bedroom, and she asks questions about the colors she sees (often saying "oooohh" as I apply them); her contagious enthusiasm when I ask her opinion on lipstick colors or shoe choices.
Don't even talk to me about the times I've taken her to Sephora or Ulta with me.
I've been inadvertently teaching her to love fashion -- and hopefully herself -- this whole time.
(No, seriously, I stole this pose from her. Child has vision.)
And to watch her feel confident about the clothes she puts on her own body, to watch her think carefully about what she puts together, and then wanting to show it off (she's been calling herself handsome when she looks in a mirror lately and I adore it) and I'm absolutely blown away by her.
I want her to feel in charge of her own body. I want her to feel like she only dresses for herself, not because someone else dictates how she should present herself or for whom she should present herself. I want her to learn to bend and break the rules and try new things and most of all, I want her to look in the mirror and see herself as I do, as beautiful and strong and wonderful and an inextinguishable light in this world.
I also hope she never dyes her hair but you know, I'll deal. People just pay a lot of money to get what grows out of her head naturally and I don't want her to squander that little bit of black (red?) magic. If she does, though, I'll do what my mom did -- help the first few times so it doesn't get jacked up. And then ugly cry about it all later.
It's insane, this parenting gig, when these creatures who were once a physical piece of your body start ... being their own people. And she may only be four and a half, but the roots of the girl child, the teenager, the woman she's going to be are peeking out at me and I'm just hoping that while she still thinks I'm beautiful like a princess, while I still hold magic for her, that I can not just tell her, but show her, what confidence and knowing yourself looks like in real, everyday life.
I think I may be on the right track.