Lucky me! I have been out of the country and off the grid for about three weeks. I was hoping when I got back everyone would have come to their senses, but I discovered it was pretty much same stuff (I would use a different word, but this is the newspaper) different day.
I was happy to see my granddaughters after a three week absence and was remarking on how much they had grown and how much more beautiful they had become.
My little seven year old looked at me and stated she was not beautiful because she was darker than the rest of us. It broke my heart. She has been the most self confident happy-go-lucky child to this point in her life.
We told her her perception of herself was not accurate and it didn't matter if she was darker or lighter than most people, she was beautiful both inside and out.
I had just come back from Vietnam and witnessed much of the same attitude among the women over there. In any area that was not rural, the women covered themselves from head to toe so they would not darken.
In Vietnam the poorest people are the indigenous peoples who work outside raising crops to sell to survive. The town women do not want to be mistaken for the poor and will cover themselves with hoodie sweaters specially made with gloves to cover their hands in extreme heat and humidity so they will not darken at all. They have surgical masks that cover their faces leaving just the eyes showing.
It was so prevalent that I was reminded about the women in the middle east countries that are covered by burkas with only their eyes available to be seen.
In the U.S. and countries like Russia it is the opposite. Many of us who are fair skinned doing everything we can to darken our skin. We think it makes us look healthy and wealthy.
When we try and find a pair of shorts for our girls it is hard to find ones that are modest yet good looking. It seems one needs to show as much skin as possible to be seen as beautiful.
It would be easy to point fingers to the men around us and say it is their fault. But it is not. Women tend to be harsher to each other when it comes to fashion and beauty than most men I know.
School age girls will ostracize others who don't fit in. Beauty magazines, television and ads set the bar so high that no one can even come close.
I have spent years trying to re-invent myself to meet what "friends" would tell me would make me look prettier. I have given up and am now accepting who I am.
But still the sting of criticism never goes away. When I was in Vietnam I tried to buy a pair of shorts because I didn't bring enough. I had teeny little Asian sales clerks grabbing items out of my hands and telling me "Your hips too big, we don't have your size."
By the end of the day I was crushed and ready to crawl into a moo-moo dress and call it good.
As we get ready to send our children back to school we need to pay attention to how they are feeling about going back. Both boys and girls have often experienced the isolation of feeling like they are not good enough.
Make sure your kids are not among those who do that to their peers. You have to start by paying attention to how you talk about others in front of them. It may take looking inward to see what insecurities about beauty and fitting in you have yourself, but give it a try.
I am happy to be back and cherish everything we have that I have taken for granted in the past. Even with the current fighting and bickering, budget woes and credit issues we have a great country and I am proud to be part of it.