Whenever someone asks about my children, I tell them I have one of each. No, not a boy and a girl. I have two girls.
Beth Falkenstein: What I have is a leggy, 14-year-old with flowing golden locks, and a pixie-ish 10-year-old with a face that would melt Ebenezer Scrooge's heart. I call them "my beauty and my cutie." Unfortunately, only one of my daughters takes that as a compliment. At almost a foot shorter than her sibling, it is more than just a metaphor to say that my youngest has grown up in her sister's shadow.
I have tried to find new ways to reinforce her self-image, but there is simply no other term that sums up her appeal quite as well. If I say something like, "People are drawn to your sweetness and charm," she just cocks a precious eyebrow at me, as if to say "I know what you really mean." (As luck would have it, she's cute and smart.)
And forget about ever complimenting my older daughter. It's a no-win situation. If one is statuesque, then the other must be stumpy. If one is striking, then the other must be average. If one is "the girl next door," then the other must be "the wacky neighbor."
Obviously, I can't just stop giving compliments altogether, but I have exhausted every adjective in Roget's Thesaurus. You try convincing a ten-year-old that perky is just as desirable a quality as sexy. By the time girls are in sixth grade, they know the way the world works; they know that Hannah Montana is not going to the prom with "Gossip Girl"'s Nate.
One day, my oldest daughter asked if she could cut and bleach her hair platinum blonde.
"Absolutely not!" I insisted. "You have no idea how many people would kill for your hair." I turned and saw the look on her little sister's face. It was a portrait of defeat (with elements of kitten and baby seal thrown in). There is no way I can convince her that she's going to break just as many hearts as her sister one day.
I may have to get out the scissors and peroxide.
|Beth Falkenstein was a sitcom writer and freelance contributor to "Self," "Redbook," and "YM" magazines before taking a full-time job in her kitchen. She loves her new bosses (ages 13 and 10), and is grateful that they approve of inter-office romance, because Beth thinks her co-worker (Jim, age 45) is really hot.|