Dressed Up

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She gathers and layers, with purses and backpacks. She wears hats and scarves and headbands and shoes inside shoes and wigs over crowns.

Revi's costume belonged to Fable and the shoes belonged to me before she took them over. She takes everything over, like a vine. She pockets earrings that have fallen behind beds and beads pulled off the dried glue of old craft projects. The caps that disappear from the markers reappear under her pillow and after nap she asks for not one bathingsuit, but two.


We're on week three (four?) of BlueBo. After rescuing Fable's dance recital costume from the back of her closet, Bo claimed it as her own and has refused to take it off, even for bed. (I pick my battles. Costumejamas will never be one of them.)
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This is the age of thievery. They collect and exchange and decide which belongs to whom and the rest ends up with the lost socks... somewhere in the black hole of disappearing articles...


When I was nineteen, I got a tattoo around my waist of an Anais Nin quote, except my excitement got the best of me and instead of reading the line verbatim to the artist, I recited what I remembered it saying. I typod. The original: "only the truth disguised as a fairy tale" was permanently misquoted on my hip and reads, now, and in perpetuity, "only the truth dressed up as a fairytale."

Mortified (and I've written about this before, years ago), I kept this as a secret for years. When people asked what my tattoo said, I coughed "Anais Nin quote something something" and moved on. 

And then one day I recognized the significance of putting my own spin on something that I was so completely moved by. My feminist humanist heroine had planted something in me I could then make my own and at the end of the day, isn't that the goal for all women hoping to impart a bit of wisdom?

Here's what I think, now make it your own... 
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Bo tells Revi she's the "cartoon" to Revi's "princess."

"I da cartoon. You da princess."

I don't know what that means but they seem to have had this argument before.

"No, I'm Revi."

"I a cartoon."



Their fights are hysterical. They demand to be identified.

"I am different from you!"

"No, I am different from you!" 

They pull at each others' sleeves, pointing out their differences.

"I'm pink and you're blue."

"I'm blue!"

"I'm pink"



Frozen has been a bit of a phenomenon in our house and it's been fascinating to watch the girls role play. (Bo is Elsa and Revi is Anna which, of course, but also, kind of amazing that they are able to see themselves in these characters.) Bo, with her power she sometimes cannot control and Revi wanting to take care of everyone. The ultimate SISTER who is the first on the scene when anyone falls, cries, needs to be helped up, assisted, loved, supported...

They identify with their sisterhood. The princess stuff just makes it more appealing... because dresses and sparkles and color and crowns are exciting.

I get it even though I don't. We all get it even when we don't. Beauty is a part of this life. Wanting to be beautiful is an inescapable concept. Understanding that is paramount. Empathizing with our daughters (and sons) as they grow up and become more image conscious is everything. We needn't ignore the obvious or deny that is has a place. Dressing up is what humans aspire to do. Even little ones. 

"You my Elsa, Bobo," she says."And I da Anna."
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"I check your heart?"
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"You all better now."

...Meanwhile Bo is singing LET IT GO at the top of her lungs, sliding across the hallway in her tights, fist to the sky.
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Fable was almost the same age as Bo and Revi when I wrote this post about raising a daughter who loves costumes and makeup and all of the things we are told to scoff at and turn away from as feminists and occasionally I do feel twitchy sharing photos and moments where my girls are PINK PRINCESS'ED OUT. As if it makes them less STRONG to want to dress up in wedding dresses and tutus and want to sing Princess movie songs all day girly girltime girlifest.

Which is total bullshit.

It makes them zero less strong.

I want my children to own their beauty, not be ashamed of it. I want them to know how to take compliments and to return them because we are the sum of all of our parts. In order to have healthy bodies we must know how to properly care for them, not ignore that they exist. Our bodies are more than just shells. They bring pleasure and yes, even happiness when treated with respect and love. So ignoring our daughters' physical selves does not protect them so much as it sets them up for potential guilt and insecurity.

This is their world and they own it. They whisper and shout and jump and pretend to be crying. They act out their favorite scenes, hide behind doors with their heads in their hands.
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And yet... there's still a twinge, you know? I did not share their love of all-things-princess when I was a kid so it has been really eye-opening for me to embrace their particular battle cries. How can I not fully back the world of princesses rainbowflowerpinkandpurplethings when it makes my girls so happy?

I can't. I won't.
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I mean, clearly, the need to fight against stereotypes and gender norms is STRONG in me but when I look at my daughters, I see girls who LOVE dolls and dress-up and being fairies and princesses and having tea parties and wearing shoes and being happy. I get the pinkwashing and the eyerolling and the need to demand more. (I demand more, too!) But I also see the joy their baby dolls bring them. Fable's sewing machine.... princess dresses. I see skateboards and soccer balls and couch diving and block stacking, too, and it's all fierce. It's all exceptional. It's all GIRL. And Human. And sometimes pink. And I want to applaud them in their efforts on BOTH SIDES. GIRL POWER is not just about destroying stereotypes and rebelling against gender constraints. It's also about wearing crushed velvet headbands if that's what you're into when you're two. Or five. Or fifteen or fifty. GIRL POWER is just as so for princesses pushing prams. 

I want to dress up with them and kick the ball and bomb hills and do nails and french braid hair and help them turn their volcano projects into flowercano projects if that's what makes them feel awesome.

In the end, I am not here to politicize so much as I'm here to raise confident children -- to introduce them to the world and encourage them to LIVE here. With love and with empathy and with UNADULTERATED joy.
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There is a difference between dressing up and disguising. We can embrace the words of our heroes and rebel against them all at once. Without meaning to, perhaps. And why not? Raising daughters in today's age is a luxury we must recognize first, before we go into battle. So that we remember that BANNING words is not the answer and pink legos aren't the enemy, they're just Legos that are pink. 
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There is so much joy to be had in this life. As a princess. As an athlete. In high heels and bare feet. On skateboards, with hands full of tulle. And all of it is beautiful and interesting and valid and empowering and STRONG. 

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