My daughter recently started experimenting with lipstick. And this has brought up all sorts of emotions for me. She will be 14 in June.
When I was in 8th grade, my mom started selling cosmetics. I would watch her using all the products, wondering how the makeup would look on my skin. There were several girls in my class who were already wearing makeup, but my mom had made it clear to me that makeup was off limits. I was “too young” and my focus was to be on school, not my appearance. (I realized later in life that her insistence on my NOT wearing makeup was a reflection of her need to be seen as a “good mother”. In her mind, young girls who wore makeup came from homes that were too permissive and reflected badly on the parents. Ironically, the summer before I started college, my mom took me to a department store for a makeup consultation and I walked away with an entire collection, based on the consultants recommendations.) So, one morning, after my mom had left for work, I applied her makeup before school – foundation, mascara, eye liner, and even lipstick. When I got in the car of the woman who drove us to and from school, she noticed immediately and commented on the difference. I honestly don’t remember if her reaction was positive or negative.
I remember the thrill of wearing makeup all day at school. But, I must have applied the eye liner incorrectly, because I had a terrible reaction that caused one eye to turn red. It was so noticeable that one of my classmates offered a prayer of healing during our prayer time. (It was a Catholic school.) But, as the day wore on, and the irritation decreased, I fully enjoyed the experience. I also remember coming home and washing it off immediately so that my mother wouldn’t discover what I had done.
I grew up in an authoritarian home, where obedience was demanded, and conformity expected. Mistakes were not tolerated. And, from a very young age, I learned that my behavior was a reflection of my parents, and my family. If my behavior reflected poorly, then I would be punished and shamed.
So, back to the lipstick. As I observe my daughter starting to explore the world of makeup, I notice certain emotions rising within me. Fear. Shame. Anger. Sadness. And, as I sit with this dis-ease, I begin to recognize that these emotions have nothing to do with her actions. They are the remnants of my own experience as a young girl, and the manner in which my natural curiosities and steps towards independence were met with a wall of disapproval and a doubling down of authoritarian rigidity.
And, this awareness, this understanding, allows me to remain open to my daughter’s newly developing curiosity and experimentation, without judgment and without imposing my own emotional baggage onto her. And, by sharing in the delight of my daughter’s new discoveries and experiences, I begin to heal the wounds of that little girl within me.