I’ve always been a little uncomfortable around girls focused on their appearance. I was a tomboy growing up, so the idea of spending lots of time doing my hair and nails seemed not only foreign, but also a waste of time. Girls who played the piano, sang in the school shows, or wrote for the school paper, though not athletic, held my respect. Girls focused on their appearance seemed to be wasting their time perfecting their own appearance and pining after boys.
And so when I walked into the local “Sweet and Sassy” store to pick up a specific item for my daughter, I was horrified at what I saw.
I had walked by the store in the past. It drew a lot of attention with a long pink sparkly limousine parked in front, but I had never actually been in there. Girls as young as 3 hummed in and out of the store, and as I walked in the door I instantly smelled some sort of bubblegum perfume mixed with hair spray. I was there only because my girlfriend told me they sold a special brush. According to my friend, the magic knot genie brush would comb curly hair with ease, and I hoped it would prevent daily screaming sessions from my curly haired toddler (for what it’s worth, the brush is amazing!). But I was completely unprepared for the scene I saw at the Sweet and Sassy store.
Grown women sat giving little girls in miniature seats pedicures. Girls giggled as they had their hair put into updos. Pink bling was everywhere. Each console was filled with ruffles and ribbons. Dangly earrings and diamonds adorned tiny little children as they walked in heals with puffy ruffled skirts.
As I slowly took in the entire scene, I felt nauseous and wondered if I should even purchase the hair brush. Was I materially cooperating with evil? Were adults really running this place?
Since I don’t have a smart phone and I wasn’t sure about purchasing the brush online, and I’m lazy about things like material cooperation with evil, I bought the brush and left. But I couldn’t stop thinking about why I didn’t want me or my daughters to go back to that store.
For starters, salons are for grown ups, not little girls. Going with mom to get your hair done on a special occasion is very different from an entire store dedicated to making little girls look fabulous. Little girls are already beautiful, and to make them think they need to be polished and painted to be pretty is robbing them of their innocence. There is a small and precious window of time where a young girl doesn’t worry about her appearance. Encouraging her to stare into a mirror from the time she is 3 years old robs her of this innocence.
But my distaste for the store runs even deeper than this. The Sweet and Sassy store encourages young girls not to become Olympians, but Salon Girls.
A what? I define a Salon Girl as a girl who spends a disproportionate amount of time caring for her appearance, visiting salons or similar establishments with regularity. Salon girls often, though not always, wear heavy makeup and very high healed shoes and have long fake fingernails.
And you may wonder what is so wrong with being a Salon Girl?
Instead of excelling in sports or music or school, a Salon Girl’s focus and determination go directly toward her appearance. Her motivation is either to create beauty in her appearance in service of self or in an attempt to attract the attention of boys. The first motivation is filled with pride, the second is not only demeaning, but completely inappropriate for a young girl.
When we consider that women are VERY prone to feelings of insecurity and have strong tendencies to seek attention and affirmation from men, teaching young girls to spend significant time on their appearances is only encouraging them toward this very natural vice in our gender. Overemphasizing sports or music to a young girl can also be a problem, but sports and music at least do not play on this inherent feminine weakness. Further, female jocks and musicians are at least working towards a creation or accomplishment of real value to others. Young girls should cultivate their natural talents through hard work, and the goal should always be the service of others and development of inner virtue, not the service of self.
So does this mean that I should stop getting pedicures or wearing makeup? No. Does it mean my daughter shouldn’t spend time on her hair before a dance recital or special event? No, of course not. Our appearance is an important part of our apostolate. Girls should be taught how to take care of their bodies, how to dress for different occasions and how to select matching clothing. But they should be taught these things in a manner appropriate for their age, always reminding them of their inner beauty, and always with moderation. The goal of our appearance should never be to fill ourselves with pride, but to serve God and others. Appearance is an important part of our apostolate, but appearance alone is never our apostolate.