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April 2000


The Soap Box

Attention all readers! Here is YOUR page. Step up onto
the SOAP BOX and tell us your thoughts, feelings, or ideas
on any subject of general interest.

I support personal hygiene. In fact, I engage in the practice on a daily basis, as do most people. Before we even learn to walk, we're taught to wash our hands, take a bath every day, brush our teeth, comb our hair and wear clean clothes. This makes it a lot easier for others to be around us. It also prevents certain types of disease. In my opinion, that's a big bonus. Being clean and neat has many advantages which have not gone unnoticed by me.

My daughter, who is 13 years old, is an even bigger fan of grooming than I am. She fusses over her hair, takes two to three showers a day and is constantly spritzing herself with some stuff that smells like raspberries which she got for her last birthday. This is all very lovely and I applaud her efforts where cleanliness and smelling pretty are concerned. However, one routine that she's recently developed has me a bit uneasy. This would be the application of a face full of makeup combined with an inventive utilization of the clothes we buy her. Each morning, she transforms herself from a sweet-faced 13 year old into a very short 25 year old. No. I don’t like this at all. In fact, it's the source of many an argument that my daughter and I have. I always win because I'm bigger, but I've learned a few things and become angry with the world in the process.

Our fights over her wardrobe and face paint have awakened me to the fact that Western Civilization, despite making leaps and bounds in general social consciousness, still teaches our little girls that they only really have value if they look pretty, or better yet, sexy. As much as I've tried to encourage my daughter to rate herself by her accomplishments, she still thinks that her life will be perfect only if people think she's pretty. I asked her where she gets this point of view from, but never get a clear answer. Just a shrug and an “I don’t know”.

However, in watching the world that surrounds her, I've figured out where she gets this notion from. She watches television in the evenings and most of the commercials have women who are more beautiful than anything one would see walking on the street being admired because they use a certain shampoo or drink a certain type of soft drink. But TV isn’t the only place where she's bombarded with this. Oh no. A few weeks back, at the grocery store, I noticed the teen magazines in the rack by the checkout and I started to thumb through them. One of the articles tells our teenage girls how to get the boy they like to notice them by wearing their makeup or hair a certain way. I was flushed with anger after reading the first paragraph of that article and it was all I could do to put the magazine back without first ripping it to shreds. But wait!! There’s more!! I've noticed that OTHER girls are teaching my daughter to compete for male attention at an age where she’s just now starting to understand her own body and sex, but has yet to come to terms with the surge of hormones raging through her body every second. All of these girls are teaching each other that what is in these magazines and on television is just the way this tough world works.

We have a fight on our hands as parents. In fact, to these teens, we aren’t really their parents at all. Not anymore. Julia Roberts and Marilyn Manson are their parents now. We're just those people who feed them and boss them around. That doesn’t mean I have no hope for ourselves as parents. I think that if we keep pestering them, something might sink in. I believe that one day they will start to notice us again and maybe even listen to what we’ve been saying. No supermodel or rock star or actress gives our daughters the unconditional love that we do. One day, they'll be the teachers, fashion designers, magazine editors, doctors and marketing directors and maybe on that day they'll remember what we’ve taught them about their true value. Maybe on that day they'll also teach our granddaughters to value themselves during their crucial formative years. It will be a great day when girls and women recognize that their value lies in their hearts and souls. Until then, I will battle to the death with Shania Twain and Ricky Martin for my daughter’s life.

Kim - Tarqness