Day 15- Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

16 Jan

Bandar sometimes looks at her own pictures or the mirror and comments – ” I am so cute! ” . This is usually after I have combed her hair or dressed her in a new outfit. At this point, the husbadoo and I are merely amused and even comment to each other in private that we have are raising a little vain monkey.

But I wonder if our reaction should be different at all? Should we be admonishing her for complimenting herself? Is she going to be swollen headed about this? When do we teach her that it is what is inside that matters and not the outside? I know she expresses herself based on what we say around her. We say stuff like – “Oh Bandar, you look adorable in that hat” or “You look so cute like that” fairly often.So obviously she picks it up. But I for one think this normalcy about looks and beauty is just going to make her grow into a confident adult.

When my sister and I were growing up,we never ever heard the terms ” pretty/beautiful /cute”used to describe us. In fact, my two year old sister had once commented that she was beautiful and I distinctly remember my mom immediately saying to her that she was not beautiful and that she was just very ‘sumaar'(“Sumaar” is the Tamil word for normal or average, maybe I am misspelling it.) So my sister with all her toddler innocence used to quip – “Peacocks are beautiful, but I am just Sumaar!” for years after that.The thing is looks, dressing up to look good,beautifying yourself – all these related topics were considered  to be detrimental towards doing well in your studies and being a good human being.So spending undue time in self beautification was frowned upon. Our parents got us really nice clothes but when we tried them on we often heard the dress being complimented but very rarely or rather never us. Read as – ” The dress looks lovely” and not ” You look beautiful in that dress” . So much so, that it was only in our late teens and now twenties that my sister and I even realized that we are fairly decent looking. But we have always seemed to need someone on the outside to tell us that, especially through our adolescence – friends , boys, and off late each other. Maybe we unconsciously seeked praise and compliments on external beauty and looks because we never really heard it being spoken about at home. I think this stems from my grandmother’s time. She raised her daughters on these lines of never focusing on your looks and that studies and doing well in life were the main aim.And this got passed on to us growing up.

I hate to generalize here and say this is maybe a very Tamilian or South Indian upbringing related issue. But really in the Husbadoo’s household, he is complimented by his mom quite often for his looks . No big deal is made of this commentary – it is just very matter of fact. They are proud of him, his academic achievements, his career and in the same vein, his looks and they do mention it to him and others quite openly.It is surely a whole lot more than what I ever heard growing up about my looks at home. The husbadoo is not in the least vain , neither did it ever affect his studies, he of course didn’t  spend hours preening in front of the mirror growing up. Would he have if he was a girl? Is there then a different dictum for raising boys and girls? I don’t really think so. Your family telling you that you are beautiful can only boost your self confidence. My Gujju roommates in grad school always had their parents tell them that they looked lovely and again, looks were never something anyone obsessed over because of these compliments . On the other hand my almost 30 year old Tamilian friend had a conversation with her in which she mentioned she was going to see a dermatologist for her acne, to which her mom was shocked and replied that it was a waste of time and all this focusing on one’s face would not get her anywhere! Again, my sample size is too small to make any generalizations here , but this is just what I have seen and heard and experienced.

Oh the funny thing for me is that now that I am a mom and almost 30, my mother and even grandmother don’t hesitate to tell me that I look good. Maybe then their hesitation in saying this was only during my formative years? Huh! Iis it too little too late though? My husband has been telling me this for ten years now and I no longer need their validation at this point, but it is still nice to hear occasionaly from them. Something to think about.

So I guess the bottom line, like any good thing, praise in small doses to your child for his/ her looks is fine. It will probably not go to their head. Don’t overdo it, of course.  You rather your child come to you for validation and approval , than go outside.Of course,continue preaching when they are old enough to understand, that being a good person is most important.

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6 Responses to “Day 15- Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”

  1. Bhavani January 16, 2015 at 3:55 am #

    Ok I am a Tam-Brahm and as you said I dont remember my parents even saying you are cute etc etc…maybe it is a Tamilian previous generation thingy – haha . Even now when I wear a nice Saree I can see in my Mom’s eyes that she loves it on me..but she never says it….same with hubs parents…maybe the social conditioning not sure….

    But hubs always makes sure to compliment my dress,dressing hair overall looks etc 🙂 And me and hubs always go overboard on complimenting our kids even if they were a new underwear…EG : “you look so cute in your Spiderman Undy”… ha ha

    • popgoesthebiscuit January 16, 2015 at 4:28 am #

      Laughing about the spiderman undie bit…hehe…Ya, I totally get what you are saying. Think it is social conditioning and/or a previous gen thing..

  2. More than words January 16, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    I so completely agree with you… I think that being confident about your good looks does not make someone vain….its true when you say these little things help in overall boosting of confidence…

    • popgoesthebiscuit January 16, 2015 at 11:02 pm #

      Yes, and self confidence is so important for both girls and boys.

  3. Kavs January 17, 2015 at 12:41 am #

    Same here – and I am a maharashtrian Brahmin. We were just told to focus on studies and be “simple”. We too got nice dresses and those dresses got complimented.
    For a long time I thought I was really plain – short boy cut added to my plainness I thought. My mother is very beautiful and I always heard people talk about her fair complexion, long silky hair and sharp features. Since I don’t look anything like her I just assumed I wasn’t good looking. Thankfully I realized in college that I was quite alright. 🙂 Strangely, I was still a very confident kid with all those assumptions.

    • popgoesthebiscuit January 18, 2015 at 2:52 am #

      Firstly your mom sounds gorgeous! Interesting to read how families from other Indian regions are about this. The word ‘simple’ was used a lot around here too! Love the confident kid bit too!

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