Thursday, January 23, 2014


When I was little I shaved my arm.  I remember nervously taking my mom's pink disposable razor and  putting it directly on my skin.  I slowly moved it up my forearm a few inches.  I was being very careful.  And then suddenly I heard my mom coming down the hall and I threw the razor into the shower and ran to my room.

I shaved my arm because I thought my arm hair was ugly.  I was embarrassed.  I was ashamed.  I was 9.  Shaving my arm didn't make me feel more beautiful. I felt guilty for using the razor without telling/asking my mother.  I felt silly walking around with a two inch bald spot on my oh-so hairy arm.  I felt stupid.

I haven't thought about the arm shaving incident of 1985 in a very long time.  But I did last night after watching an amazing short film about beauty that explores how mothers can pass down insecurities to their daughters.  According to a recent study,  72% of daughters learn about beauty from their mothers.

(If you are an email subscriber, click here to watch.)
The film is 8 minutes loooong, but totally worth watching.

Oh hell.  After watching the movie, I went into Lucy's room where she was still up reading and I asked her if she thought she was beautiful.  She said "yeah" like she wasn't sure.  I was surprised.  I asked her if there was something she didn't like about herself.  She said "my arms are hairier than all the other girls' arms in class."

I have to believe that hairy arms must be a pretty common insecurity among 9-year-old girls.  Right?  I mean I haven't mentioned hating my arm hair.  I haven't given a rat's ass about my arm hair since 1985. She didn't get that one from me.

But the whole thing got me thinking.  What have I mentioned?  Have I talked about my big thighs?  My pretty impressive weight gain over the last six months?  Have I mentioned my crooked teeth from  never wearing my retainer when Dr. Seabold told me to?  Have I mentioned my wrinkles that keep appearing?  What has she heard?

Over the years, I've been very careful about what I say in front of both Lucy and her brothers.  Not just about my physical insecurities, but all the rest too.  I'll admit when I am uncomfortable in social situations and point out that we're all different.  Or I'll apologize for not being so organized and then point out that everyone deserves compassion and forgiveness.

But Lucy is at the age when things start to get crazy for girls.  The other night we talked about a lot.  We talked about beauty.  We talked about changes, yeah all those changes, that girls and women go through. [Think it's too soon to talk about this stuff?  Nope.  Not even if there's 'nothing going on.'  Check out this article my friend wrote for AllParenting- Is Puberty before age 10 the new normal?] I gave Lucy a book to read.  
This book is a good starter.
We are making our way to Are You There God? It's Me Margaret

I actually really enjoyed talking with her about all of it (um, it's a much easier talk than the dreaded sex talk I've had with my older child).  She was witty and funny and thoughtful about all of it.  I fell in love with her even more. I mean come on, a tween girl that can be witty and funny about a period?  She's brilliant.  It gives me hope that she'll be able to handle some of this scary you-aren't-beautiful-unless-you-are-a-certain-weight-height-hair-color girl bullshit that will soon be shoved down her throat from everywhere.

The movie, the book, the talk, my amazing daughter...they all made me think about what I hear about my own beauty.  And what I accept and put out into the world.  I'm taking part, sort of, in the 365 Feminist Selfie project.  Have you heard of it?  The point of this project is to take selfies, yes selfies, to show and see real women.  Veronica Arreola from the blog Viva La Feminista started this project.  She says "the photos are about the real you.  They aren't supposed to be the glam you (although those are welcomed).  The foundation of this challenge is to conquer the fear of seeing yourself  We might look at ourselves to put our contacts in, even makeup on, but taking a selfie and posting it means really looking at yourself.  And hopefully at the end (or much sooner) you will find it less painful and more enjoyable.  I don't want to turn us into Paris Hiltons, but rather individuals who don't cringe when we need to take a photo."

I don't do it everyday.  But the selfies I have taken have been raw, honest moments.  Pictures of my life and me that are beautiful.
Instagram  Caption: Determined to be healthier & more accepting of myself this year. #365FeministSelfie

Instagram Caption: Skating outside w/my kids=happy. #365FeministSelfie 

Instagram Caption: WAHM-Night shift #365FeministSelfie

Instagram Caption: This is what happens when I say I'm going to lie down for a few minutes. #fullhouse #imnotmad #blessed #365FeministSelfie

The movie, the book, our talk, this project and my amazing daughter all have me thinking about what is beautiful.  Beautiful to me is acceptance of ourselves and appreciation for our bodies and NO SHAME.  Beautiful to me is creative self-expression, respect and love and truth.  These values of beauty are what I hope all my children carry with them into adulthood.

What is beautiful to you?  Are you taking part in the 365 Feminist Selfie project?  Do you take selfies? 

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  1. I love this quote by Khalil Gibran (and I quote it to everyone):
    "Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart."

  2. I'm doing a whole year of selfies too, but not really for the same reason. And I'm thrilled with what I've been getting. It's me and my kids having real moments.

    1. Great idea to be in the pics with your kids. What a gift for all of you, remembering the real moments. Love it.

  3. Totally did the arm shave when I was little!!
    We came through the bullshit and we have got to let our kids know and believe for real deal that they are beautiful. And even more beautiful for their differences and the person they are!
    Gawd! I'm def your new biggest fan, woman.
    Right on, sister!


    1. I love reading your comments! I guess the arm shave thing is pretty common. Who knew? I totally agree they must believe in their own beauty and know that they are even more beautiful for their differences. Amen.