Coming of Age – What’s the Alternative?

by DeAnna L’am

I recently watched in disbelief a short video taken during an Israeli girl’s 9-year-old birthday celebration. The girl, and a group of her select girlfriends, were driven in a stretched limousine to a Beauty Salon within a Birthday Parlor, where they were primped from head to toe, given facial masks (at 9 years of age!), manicures and pedicures, hair removal and hair styling, surrounded by pink balloons, trays of sushi, cupcakes and drinks in cocktail glasses (I trust they weren’t alcoholic, but I wasn’t there).

The Hostess prompted: “Who wants to be the most beautiful one in the world?” To which a choir of girls screamed: “Me!” Interviews with the girls included gems such as: “I have a personal stylist” and “My name is Rommy, I am 6, and my hobby is eating Sushi.”

The Event Planner said: “Events start at $400 and can go up to $13,000. I get all manners of requests from parents, from hair removal to yachts with a girl lowered into them by a helicopter.”

It is painful to contemplate what this over-the-top celebration reveals about the mother who raises this girl and the mothers who send their daughters to participate in these. How must they feel about themselves as women? What messages are they hoping to convey to their daughters? And what messages do they end up bringing forth?

I was deeply disturbed and saddened when I watched this 3 minute video, not only because it came from Israel, where I grew up in a far more innocent time, but also because of the realization of how globally prevalent are the American exports of Artificial Beauty, Food as Fun, and the over-arching syndrome of We-Are-Not-Good-Enough-As-We-Are.

If we, women, don’t create sacred spaces where we gather with our daughters, granddaughters, nieces, cousins and the girls in our communities — then such gatherings would remain the only option!

If we don’t counter these messages with our own empowering ones — our girls will grow up aspiring to be “the most beautiful one in the world,” valuing their appearance above all else and concluding that their natural appearance must be appalling, since they have to be shaved, styled, masked and creamed, plucked and painted, dressed up and made up in order to amount to anything at all. They will further internalize the messages that More is Always Better, that Artificial Looks trump, that stuffing their faces is Fun, and that immediately after such fun they need to start dieting, since they are not OK as they are, and the circle will go round and round.

What is the alternative, then? As always, the alternatives start from within and naturally radiate out. Let’s start by asking ourselves: Would I want to be the most beautiful woman in the world? What are my values around beauty? How much time and money do I spend on artificially changing the way I look? How much do I love what I see when I look in the mirror? How much do I criticize my looks? What is the first thing I can do in order to accept myself more, exactly the way I am? If I was a Wise Woman, standing behind me while I look in the mirror, what would I tell myself?

Before altering anything, it is essential that we stop and ponder What Is? What IS the way I feel about myself as a woman? What does my relationship to myself, to my body, to the way I look convey to my daughter? To girls in my life? Which of these messages do I consciously want to convey, and which are a reflection of my own insecurities?

Once you have identified what IS, you can begin to explore ways of altering it. It may come as a surprise to you, but you are not alone. Most women and mothers are unwittingly passing on dis-empowering messages to their daughters and to the girls around them, reflecting years of cultural brainwash regarding how women are supposed to look and how far from that ideal we should all consider ourselves.

While the brainwashing was collectively hammered into us, the alternatives should similarly be collectively offered. We need to create spaces where we gather, as women, to dispel the “Beauty Myth” for ourselves, and spaces where we gather with girls in order to offer what we know, what truly matters and what feeds our souls…there ARE alternatives! Yet it is US who need to plant, grow, and nurture them!

In response, the Drum is calling us all, from the depth, to sit in sacred circles with our daughters and with the girls in our lives…

Can you hear the Drum Beat?

Journal, Volume 3 Issue 3