"I'm preparing her for the real world."
"That hair looks so ugly, no? Let's get it removed for you."
"You people don't take care of her. She has become so tanned in the sun."
All of this is pretty normal if you're the mother of a girl. Concerns about appearance override pretty much everything, even health. As though that is the passport to a good life. So you have seven-year-olds getting their eyebrows threaded; 10-year-olds getting waxed; four-year-olds wearing lipstick and nail paint and 13-year-olds getting the works - everything from bleach downwards.
Parents obsess about their children's weight - not because it's a health issue, but because they "don't look good." When exactly did "well-groomed" translate into hair-less, wrinkle-free, shiny, plucked, powdered and painted, botoxed, fair, size 0 bodies? Kids not going out to play in the sun - not because of heatstroke - but because they will tan?
I would have tanned too - or rather my hide would have been tanned for me, had my parents even suspected I thought about my appearance to this degree when I was a kid. I would come back from sailing camps, tanned and skin peeling - till where my shorts and tee covered me.
(I was mortified when I went to the swimming pool after that - anyone would be - wearing that kind of skin contrast :D ) hair bleached and roughened by constant exposure to sun and salt. Or when I was on this camping trip in the mountains and despite the shades and sunscreen we were ordered to wear, I looked a bit like a raccoon in the reverse by the end of it.
The point is, looks weren't really a big deal back then. Being well turned out was. Which basically meant that you had to be clean, with your hair combed neatly, and not wear torn or stained clothes. And precious little of that ever happened, because one was too busy romping around. And I don't once recall my mother clucking over the impressive collection of scars that I acquired, other than to say that it would make a nice break for me to have a scrape-free knee once in a while.
My first experimentation with make-up (kohl and lip gloss) came on the sly, when I was 15-16. Despite never really having bothered with make-up beyond kohl, I do understand wanting to look good or wanting a change (I just bought, of all things a RED lipstick - my first lipstick purchase in a decade or some such - hush - more on that later... But please be judicious in using the stuff since most lipstick brands, including the reputed ones, contain vast quantities of lead).
I certainly can't claim to be immune to wanting to look good. Far from it. Yet I do feel a sense of responsibility, especially now that I have a daughter who is likely to (hopefully, later rather than sooner) want to subject herself to the trauma of hot wax, threads, the instrument of torture called blackhead remover, harsh chemicals and whatnot, all in the name of looking good.
Then there is that entire other obsession with body shape - wanting to aspire to photo-shopped bodies which nature never made or intended. Wanting to "fix" parts of your body so that it fits in with a media-hyped image of what the body beautiful should be like.
And of course, being Indians, we have an entire industry dedicated to make you "fair". With ads promising you everything from a good marriage, to a better job to social stardom and a whole new self-confident persona, it's a wonder that we bother with working at anything... why not just buy a bleach or a fairness cream and turn your life around?
Of course the media is to blame. But as adults, don't we recognise it? Why then, should we perpetuate these myths and ideas of beauty amongst our children? Just because our generation fell prey to these, does not mean that we should lose the next one to them.
And if undermining your child's natural confidence isn't reason enough for you to stop: think about this. Most of the commercial skin and hair-care and cosmetic products on the market are pretty toxic. It might be idea to turn to your kitchen to see what you can rustle up. There are also really safe products like those promoted by Krya which I, for one, use regularly.
And please, I am not advocating turning into a slob. But there surely exists a happy mean between what we've become and what we can comfortably be.