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The Self-consciousness Begins

An unpleasant reality has made itself known in our house: The girl is seeing herself through the eyes of others.

It has me ill.

"Mami, the kids say I look like I have food around my mouth because I have hair on my face.''

"They made fun of my Pooh towel today and they said that using goggles is a baby thing.''

"I don't want to wear this dress. They won't think I look beautiful.''

Insert my silent screams and flashbacks to my own hairy, dorkish years. But, I had to have been at least 12. Not 4. Not to mention I grew up among Cubans. Hairy is normal!

Not that I didn't feel awkward or different earlier, but there is no memory in my head about this specific kind of "different" at 4. Four, people. My daughter is 4. This insanity has come too soon.

Maria's brows are thick, nearly stitched together, over her dark hazel eyes. Her body is strong and full. Her brown hair is wavy and long. I look at her and I see art. A marvel of perfection in beauty and health. Is she going to look at herself and wish for little brows, blue eyes, waifish build, and straight, blonde hair? Is she going to give up things she loves, like the Pooh towel, because it has been marked as uncool?

I would wonder if she had gotten this self-consciousness from me. But, I live my life in the same jeans and pony tail. Staring in the mirror, or worrying about what others may think of my outsides is very 1987 for me. Age has offered a shedding of most insecurities and granted acceptance that if I am not wearing lipstick on my pale mouth, it really is OK.

Because I am a New Century mother, I validate Maria's feelings, tell her we are all different -- and that, my girl, is the beauty and thrill of life. Lots of girls and women have a little hair on their face, I say, and then quietly curse small children with keen eyesight and brutal honesty.

When I was a features writer I did a story on 6-year-olds getting spa days, and tweens getting regular mani-pedis and waxings. Maria was less than a year old then. I wondered then just what the hell these mothers were thinking.

Well, because the constant lesson in my life is to learn not to judge: Now I know what they were thinking.



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