Today I would like to talk about beauty and bada$$ery.
"Pretty" has historically been kind of a tricky term for me. Growing up I wasn't really interested in being pretty in the same way as a lot of the girls I knew. I was more of a tomboy. I pretty much hated wearing dresses and dress shoes, and wasn't interested in spending a lot of time in front of the mirror. I wanted to be presentable (usually...), but not at the expense of the other things I wanted to do, such as pretty much anything other than standing in front of the mirror. I didn't give too much thought about what this meant for my future, but I definitely felt out of place about it all, and wondered if at some point I would undergo some sort of transformation whereby I would suddenly start wanting to wear more feminine things, or stop wanting to be so dang comfortable all the time, or something.
Well, back troubles pretty well permanently destroyed my desire to wear heels, except in rare circumstances, and otherwise over the years my philosophy on dresses ebbs and flows along with my fashion sense motivation. Somewhere along the way I decided that maybe I just didn't care. Except when I did. It wasn't too terribly disturbing, just a little confusing. And I still married a good man, and built a family, and am living what I consider a full life, so it worked out alright.
A friend of mine in grad school said something that brought things into better focus for me, though. One of three sisters in her family, she told me something she thought her dad had done really well. From the time they were wee little sisters, whenever they'd get dressed for an occasion they'd go parade around for their dad and he would ask them if they felt pretty. And over time they developed a saying in their family: "A girl's gotta feel pretty." So when I would compliment her fashion sense she'd respond with "A girl's gotta feel pretty."
I love that because it doesn't define a "pretty box" for all girls to fit into. It leaves the individuality to the girl. If she wants to take the time to be more conscientious about her appearance, and wear accessories, and product in her hair, and heels, and whatnot--bingo. A girl's gotta feel pretty. If she's more like, say, me and prefers to wash, scrunch, throw on a tee and go--bingo. A girl's gotta feel pretty. And of course all the girls on either end and in between--bingo. Gotta feel pretty.
I'm not sure if it's because of my previous hangups with the word, but if I'm being honest I never cared all that much about "pretty." What I really wanted, even if I didn't have the words for a long time, was sassy. Or edgy. Or bada$$. I could say I wanted to be like a rock star, but I'm not quite that punk. Plus I'm part hippie, and I don't know any true hippie rock stars.
Besides, the number one adjective I've heard to describe me is Cute. I'm pretty sure I also have hangups with "cute" as a description of me...but as time goes on I think it's probably more that perhaps I define "cute" differently than a lot of the world. Because pretty much the only thing I'd call cute about me is my adorable petite stature. But whatevs.
After all of this, at the age of 37, my hair has finally grown long enough for braids. I mean, I've braided it before, but the ends were always kind of short and wouldn't really stay up in anything but a single French braid. Now my hair is at its longest ever, and the tails actually hang down properly. So when I'm in the mood I put it in two low side braids. And on the weekends for my long runs, I go all out and do two French braids, and as I'm trotting around the neighborhood with my two braids, and my sock-less feet in my zero-drop running shoes, and I think "Man, I'm bada$$."
I'm pretty sure I also define "bada$$" differently than a lot of the world as well. I mean, my hairstyle is closer to Laura "Half-Pint" Ingalls than Amanda (effing) Palmer, so I really can't explain how that translates to bada$$ instead of cute. But I can tell you that when I have those adorable braids, I feel taller, faster, sassier, and like I'm sticking it to the man in some greater way than my messy bun or boring low ponytail. Maybe it's something inherent about being a grown-up wearing braids, I dunno.
So now, our family has adopted "Do you feel pretty?" for Tiny E, and "Do you feel handsome?" for the boyz. Because regardless I think it's a good thing to encourage the young'uns to go for the look/feel they're hoping for. Most of the time, anyway (we did have to implement an underwear rule). And for the moment, Tiny E's favorite look is to put on a twirly dress so she can be "bood-ful."
Which of course I can totally get behind. After all, everyone knows twirly dresses are bada$$...