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Cute Is a Four-Letter Word

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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.

little sister jealous of big sister

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.

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3 comments so far | Post a comment now
ame i. August 10, 2009, 10:44 AM

My girls are 9 & 11. The younger one likes to be told she is cute or pretty but the older doesn’t want to be complimented on her looks at ALL. She’s almost 5’2”, athletic, and absolutely beautiful but seems embarrassed if someone compliments her. She seriously frowns when boys call her on the phone and cuts them off the first chance she gets.
Younger child is pushing 5 feet tall, has legs almost as long as mine, and loves to wear dressy clothes. Someone should just kill me now, ha!

Glenn August 10, 2009, 11:27 PM

I don’t know the entire situation at home but from this story it seems that Beth has put a lot of emphasis at home on physical beauty with her two daughters. Even the way she describes her two daughters shows that she may not realize that she is placing a great importance on looks and both her daughters know it. Too late to change your daughters mindsets sorry to say.

My wife and I compliment much more on academics and artistic ability. Our son is well liked by girls and he knows he’s cute but we pick other attributes to compliment. When we are discussing girls that he likes (he’s six) I know he likes them because they’re pretty but I will say, she is nice or smart or athletic and compliment that instead.

People complain about how society puts too much emphasis on physical beauty and appearance yet parents do it with their own children all the time.

Allan January 9, 2010, 6:21 PM

How nice, you abuse javascript to prevent me ever leaving your site without closing the entire browser window, fucktard.

Just added to the corporate blacklists I manage. Not that it will matter to you.

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